Friday, March 18, 2011

Wheat fields (1947-1948)

Late in the summer when the wheat was ripe and its stems all dried up, the farmers would go and cut it down, form bundles like a bouquet of flowers, leave them on the ground and then come and pick them all up with their cart pulled by oxen. Actually, the ‘wealthy’ farmers used oxen and the poor farmers had to use their cows. Cows were not supposed to work so hard in order to give lots of milk and be fit to bear the next generation. After the war when bread and many other foods were rationed, people searched for fields where the farmers had finished gathering their wheat. One would go, walk the fields and pick up each wheat head that had fallen off and had been left there. Sometimes someone else had been there and nothing could be found, other times enough was found to take to the flour mill. There it was weighed and the miller would give a bit of flower to take home.

One day my friend Maria heard of a ‘finished’ field and decided to go leftover picking. Of course I wanted to go with her. Bread and flour was still rationed but for whatever reason our family would get bread through some outfit called UNRRA. We always had more bread than anyone else but still could not eat as much of it as we wanted. So, I asked Tic-Tac Oma, my grandmother, to make me a special sandwich because I was going out to pick wheat heads and bring some flour back. She did and Maria and I took off. Well, it was a field that someone else had gotten to already. We stumbled around in high heat, pricked our bare feet on the dried up stumps of the wheat plants and returned empty handed. I felt sooooo guilty for having been given  a special sandwich - for nothing.

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