Part 39: The Old Forester

While picking cherries, I unexpectedly met my new teacher. He was standing under the cherry tree with his hunter’s hat and chamois beard. Bright blue eyes flashed under his hat. A full gray beard covered his face. The worn green hunter’s outfit had seen better days.

I noticed that when he ate cherries, he never spit out the pits. I greeted politely. He nodded, eyed me dumbly, then silently left. From then on, he came every day and always found me in my new location. Silently he stood under the tree, ate cherries, and waited for me to get off the ladder. After a few days he approached me and invited me to his home. The visit to his attic apartment was overwhelming.

I had not expected anything like that. There were stuffed hamsters, mice, foxes, martens, squirrels and many other animals, stuffed birds in their typical posture, from the wren to the red-backed shrike, swarms of butterflies, separated into day and night moths, all kinds of beetles such as ladybirds, rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles. All this he collected and prepared himself, neatly labeled with names. My interest and inquisitiveness seemed to please the old gentleman, whom I only called the ‘Old Forester.’

I never found out where he came from. Maybe from the Bohemian Forest or from the Giant Mountains. He never spoke of his homeland or family, and I did not dare to ask about it. He opened my eyes to the diversity of nature and the flora and fauna of our homeland. He made me familiar with the flight patterns of birds of prey from hawks to kites and the night calls of owls.

The bright guitt-guitt call of the screech owl in spring was interpreted by the villagers as ‘Come along, come along!’ – from whose roof the nocturnal owl call sounded, someone was soon to die. Nonsense, my old friend taught me. The Little Owl, which nests in the belfry of the church tower, calls only for a female willing to mate! I have never again experienced such an intensive and instructive natural history lesson in my entire life. I remember my ‘old forester’ with great respect.

Time did not stand still. In the last school year, I sat alone on the back bench in the classroom, because my friend Hans was apprenticed to the village carpenter. We met every evening and had our heads full of ideas, but we lacked a place where we could realize our plans undisturbed. At some point we noticed the large, almost new toilet house at the top of the village hill. It had served to improve hygienic conditions when the abandoned military barracks were still a reception center for refugees. Now the barracks were empty, and the house remained unused. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

💡 Do you have a Linkedin account? Then you can subscribe to my newsletter „The Bright Side of the Doom“ ✔︎