This is a free excerpt from the book, Threads of Music, Cords of War, by Martha Brabant Pritchard
Meet Eva and Hans. They lived in Germany during WWII. This story takes place in September 1939. Germany had invaded Poland, and France and Great Britain declared war on Germany because Poland was their ally. Eva and Hans are too young to worry about war. They just want to figure out an easy way to do their chores.
Here are some German words you might want to know: Mutti (rhymes with “look-ee”) and means Mommy. Hans (the vowel sounds like “hot”). It’s the German name for John. Dörte (sounds like dirt-a). It’s a nickname for Dorothy. Herr (sounds like hair) and means Mr. and Frau (fr-ouch ch) means Mrs.
Most families in our village raise a pig in the backyard every year. We feed scraps from our table and we kids go out into the fields every day, even when it rains, and pick large armfuls of grass and carry it to the pigpen. It’s a lot of work! One day when my brother is about nine and I’m ten, we get it into our heads to take the pig to the grass, rather than going to all the trouble of taking the grass to the pig. Let him do the work for a change!
We should ask Mutti but we want to surprise her. Dörte is a baby and our mother is so tired. We know better than to ask our grouchy grandmother. She always says no.
We tie a long rope to the pig’s head, right behind his ears. It’s hard to tie anything to a pig’s neck because the head goes right into shoulders – it’s almost impossible to find his neck.
My brother and I are pretty strong and our pig is smaller than Hans. This should be easy – and it is – at first. As soon as the gate opens, the pig gets his snout down and really smells the earth. He makes a long, deep, happy grunt and that sweet gentle nose immediately turns into an earthmoving machine. Who would guess that he can gouge a trench all the way from our yard to the neighbor’s yard without lifting his head for air?
Hans and I dig in our heels. We’re sure we can stop him. We can’t. He’s like a plow with an engine. From his path through the neighbor’s yard he heads to the street. Now, the street is pretty solid, but it doesn’t mean anything to our super-pig! His trench keeps growing as his nose digs right under the street surface. It’s lucky that he runs into the foundation of the house across the road or I think he would have dragged us to Braunschweig, four miles away!
By this time, our neighbors notice – how could they not. Everyone is concerned about our mother and the new baby. Herr Fischer grabs hold of the rope in front of us and wraps it around his strong hands. “Let go, kids. I’ve got him. You go find another rope so we can get him home.”
This neighbor used to be a prizefighter and he looks a little like our pig – he doesn’t have a neck either and he’s really strong. Frau Dampf knows what pigs like better than dirt and she comes out with a pan of slop she was just getting ready to feed to her own pig. Our pig snorts, sticks his nose in her dishpan, and happily burbles his way through the new flavor. By the time Hans and I find another rope, Herr Fischer is gently holding on as Frau Dampf walks swiftly ahead, leading our pig with his head in the food. Like magic she steps aside and the pig walks right into his pen. Herr Fischer tells Hans to get the rope off. This is a gentle pig and it isn’t his fault we didn’t know that his snout is really a digging machine.
Papa has to be told because he has to pay for the road repair. The neighbors don’t want Mutti to know and I don’t think she ever does. But Herr Fischer tells us to check with him next time we come up with a great idea for our pig.