Life as a child in Langendorf by Karsten Rist

Miami, March 30, 1993

Dear Andy:

Your birthday is approaching quickly and I thought about what I might do to mark this special day. The problem is, as we both know, that you are now taking care of yourself quite nicely and that you hardly need any of those things which might be bought and sent to you. Then I remembered that you had suggested, not too long ago, that I prepare some record of the stories I had told you about my life as a child in Langendorf. Great idea!
Here we go:

The name of my best friend in Langendorf was Erich Grundei. His father owned and operated a sawmill not far from our house. In the expansive sawmill yard freshly cut boards would be dried in stacks which were six to ten feet high. Layers of boards were separated by square one by one sticks to allow air circulation and favorable drying conditions. When boards were sold the sticks ended up in big piles waiting to be reused. Erich and I found that the sticks made great building material for castles and houses, The short six foot variety could be used to construct watchtowers, as high as ten feet. From such a height we could keep track of the mill workers and we could make sure that we would not be surprised. Actually, an actual or imagined attack on our fortress was probably the best thing that ever happened to us, giving us opportunity to noisily defend the structure,
The Grundeis lived on the sawmill property and there was an old barn which was quite dark inside and full of old farming equipment. One fine day, when Erich and I were looking around for some worthy enterprise, we discovered a set of wheels designed to hold up the beam of a plow. Actually there were two sets of wheels: one older variety made of wood and a more recent vintage made of iron. We managed with some scavenged wood and wire to connect these two plow wheels to make a simple wagon. The iron wheel set could pivot around a vertical axis and allowed us to steer our vehicle.

Langendorf was located in the foothills of the Sudeten mountains. It consisted of an unpaved road about five miles long, which followed a valley which stretched north from the mountains. On both sides of the road were farms behind white picket fences. A half mile to the east of the village, just above the valley floor was a paved two-lane highway which connected the County seat (Kreisstadt) Neisse with Ziegenhals, The highway was known as the Chaussee. The Sawmill property stretched all the way up to the Chaussee.

Erich and I pushed our car up to the Chaussee and pushed each other running and jumping on and off. A very strong east wind blew that day and it occurred to us that it might be strong enough to actually move us along on our wagon. With sticks and cardboard we rigged a sail. It almost worked. We needed some oil on the axles. Erich knew where to find it. That worked.

“Kaplunk—–kaplunk—–kaplunk” the wind pushed our horseless carriage, We picked up some speed :” Kaplunk—–kaplunk—–kaplunk- klunk-klunk-klunk”, What an adventure! The cherry trees which bordered both sides of the Chaussee whooshed by. Wheatfields, potato fields, barley fields passed. We probably sailed as far as a mile. Then we began to worry about how we might get back. We managed to get our sail down and came to a halt. To our great amazement the wind actually also pushed us back. We knew nothing about sailing and the concept of a broad reach was totally alien to us. So we thanked our good luck and got back before anybody missed us.

We were never able to repeat the trick. Never again was the wind steady enough and strong enough and blowing from just the right angle, Then fall came and the plowwheels were used again for their designed purpose – to hold up the beam of a plow.

To be continued.

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