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Tuesday
Mar042014

"Goodbye, Papa!"

The German troops were leaving Etobon, but they were not leaving empty-handed. They planned to take all of the cattle with them as they retreated towards Germany. For Jules Perret, the acting mayor, it was one more blow.

Friday, November 17

Last night, just as I had gone to sleep, the sound of voices.  They were calling the two – Evalt and Elmout – who sleep above our cellar.  We hear the sound of ambulance engines being put in our barn.  I get up and go into the house.  In the kitchen, Karl was fastening his pants.  “Leaving, Karl?  I can hide you.”  “Can’t.  Too many kamarades.  Me leave with them.  Bad luck.  So much bad luck.”  He started to cry and so did I.  He embraced me.  “Oh, Papa, goodbye, Papa!  Me come back when war over.”

Doctor Rudy Rauch, during this bombardment like the one at Verdun, came back to look for his Dulcinea.

A little while later, a storm of shells.  Nonstop, one after the other, twenty on the village.  For once, Philippe is seriously scared.  We run for the cellar.

At Jules Nardin’s, two shells traversed their living room without exploding.  One on my sister’s roof, one on Charles Surleau’s.  The water line was broken at Bichon’s.  One on Manuel’s abandoned house.  The barn doors were torn off at uncle Jules’, at la Cornée.  All in all, more fear than damage.  Our luck is holding.

Someone’s asking for the mayor.  I present myself to an officer accompanied by two men.  “In one half hour from now, all horned livestock are to be assembled in front of the school.”  I tell him I’m sick, I can’t walk.  Mama intervenes.  She yells at him something awful.  What a hero!

So, limping along, I go with them.  Tears and moans all around.  And no one to go with the herd, and no rope.  Order to release the animals, to drive them to the front of the school, where they arrive from all around.  What a zoo!  What a mess!

The worst, when Albert brings his poorly castrated bull that jumps on everything.  He starts up, here and there, and clears out the place.  The cows save themselves.  You had to laugh.  I was holding our Friquette.  The others went to pasture at the Pré de la Valle.

The officer went crazy with anger.  He throws his cudgel, which brushes men, then takes out his revolver, which he brandishes, orders several men who are there to follow him to attack the herd.  No one moves.  From the window of the town hall I see the valiant officer and his two men chasing the cows all the way to Le Chat’s orchard.  They gather up a few including Jacque’s two and la Friquette – I didn’t take Lisette out of her stall – and they take them away.

A while later, a cow has appeared at our front door.  La Friquette has come back, along with Jacques’ big cow.  As for the colt, I hid him in one of Albert’s sheds, behind the barrels and the rabbit cages.

In all, they couldn’t have gotten more than five cows.  But they’ll be back tomorrow.

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