Interview with Ronald Brost (RB)
Conducted by Allen L. Spiker (AS)
14 July 1979, Jamestown, North Dakota
Transcription, translation, editing and
proofing by Rev. Martin L. Hartmann, June 2006. Some transcriptiong
by Matthew Miller.
AS: (Note to the reader: When I transcribed the
German dialect in this interview I spelled the words phonetically.
By that I mean I often ignored the standard German spelling. Because
I could not insert the umlauts I substituted dipthtongs, combinations
of letters, vowels and often other double letters to achieve the
approximate sound. These interviews by Allen Spiker were intended
to demonstrate subtile similarities and differences in inflection
and pronunciation in a dialect. Interviewees often mixed English
with the German they spoke and often misspoke the articles and
word endings. I sought to transcribe it as accurately as I could
hear it. In this interview there are no word lists. Here there
are mostly stories by Ronald Brost. To read word lists, the reader
is referred to an interview conducted July 14, 1979 with Brost
together with Alma Hermann and William Hermann. Further, because
I already departed from the acceptable German spelling I also
did not capitalize the nouns. I make no claims to consistency
nor accuracy. MLH)
STORIES BY RONALD BROST IN THE "SCHWAEBISH"
AS: My name’s Allen Spiker. Today’s
date is July 14th, 1979, I’m in Jamestown, North Dakota,
at the Historical Society Convention. I’m speaking with
Ron Brost from Kulm, North Dakota. And…go ahead. Okay.
RB: Okay. I just want to tell a few German stories
from when I was just a little kid and the threshers used to come
to our house. And my uncles…and they would sometimes pick
me up, and they would tell me stories that were brought over from
Russia. They had things like…some of those stories, I never
could quite get the punch-line, but I’ll just tell them,
the way they were told me. Maybe somebody else can. And they had
this one story about this....Es war ein bauer... es war in Russland.
Un noh, ein dahk ish der kerl hei komma nu sagt er, "Pa,
desh en schtork im veitzah." Nu sagt er, "En schtork
im veitzah? Ya, desh ish doch kei virtschafft." Sagt er,
"Den hohn muss doch raus yahga aus den vietzah." Nah
sagt er, "Venn du dort nei gehsht mit deine grosse fuess,
du dapcht maener veitza um vie ein faenschtork." Nah sagt
er, "Vell, dann muesst mer vas ausrechna dass ich kein veitza
umdappa dusht." Nu hat er gnah ehlig un hat er g'vist vas
er due. Nah hat er sich a langer plank g'nomma. Nah ish er mittle
uff dem plank nuff g'hokkt un an yeden end war ah mann der hahb'n
en durch dah veitzah traga. Nah hat er kei veitzah umtappa braucha
un hat der schtork raus g'yagt.
(Translation: There was a farmer back in Russia.
One day his kid came and told him, "Pa, a stork in the wheatfield."
His father said, "A stork is in the wheatfield? He's got
no business there." So he said, "That rooster has to
be driven out of the wheatfield." He says to his son, "If
you go in with your big feet you'll trample down more wheat than
a peacock." So he said, "Well, you figure out how you
can do that without trampling down a lot of wheat." He (his
son) went quickly and decided what to do. He took a large plank,
sat himself on the middle and at each end was a man who then carried
him through the wheatfield. That way he didn't have to trample
down any wheat and yet chased out the stork.)
AS: I hope that’s not true.
RB: Well, I hope so too; because that wouldn’t
say too much, would it? And then they had this one about, hin
sie mohl a kirich baut. Dess war neber a grosser bukkel drah.
Haen sie die kirich g'baut aber sie haen kai finshter nei g'macht.
Yets wo sie fertig wahret yets war es dunkel in der kirich. Un
sagt er, "Ya, desh ish doch kai virtschafft." Sagt er,
"Vie kann mer eim doh das kapital ferlesa, mer kann yo nix
sehe?" Sagt der ainte, "Vell, ich veis vass mer daehn.
Mir draget helle nei mit die saek". Nu haen sie saek g'nomma,
naus g'nomma un immer nei g'lehrt. Ish halt net hell vorra. Uf
einmal ish ahn schtei ab g'rutcht ober vom bukkel der ish runter
g'komma un hat ahn loch int kirich nei g'schlagga. Noh sagt der
einte vo hanna den rat g'hen hat zum helle nei traga mit dem saek.
Dem vars halt nimme einerlai, nah sagt er, "Doh ish aber
menchnam." (?) Sagt er, "So lange habe ich die helle
verschtaekelt. Yetz kommt sie raus."
(Translation: One time they built a church. It was
located near a large hill. They built the church but they didn't
put in any windows. So when they were finished it was dark inside.
One said, "This is really a dumb business. How's a guy (the
pastor)going to read the riot act (to the congregation ) if he
can't see to read?" A guy replied, "I know what we'll
do. We'll bring in light in sacks." So they took some sacks,
took them out and brought them in and dumped them. But, of course,
it didn't get brighter inside. All at once a rock tumbled from
the nearby hill and knocked a hole into the side of the church.
So the wise guy who had suggested earlier to bring light in in
sacks said, "To this point I have hidden the light but now
it has been revealed.") [A puzzling punch line.]
RB: Un no var dess einte, vo die kell sinn rum k'ookt,
dess war ah ahltes dorf, do vahra neimand g'vohnt. Un der ainte
kerl var a bisslie ahrg tappich. Noh ish er g'schtolbert noh ish
er in der brunnah nei g'fallah. Noh var kai __________im brunna,
no sinn sie halt dort k'ohkt. Sagt er, "Yah, dah hokken mer,"
sagt er, "der _____, dort likkt er im brunna, schtirkk hin
mer net, vie grigge mer den hund yetzt rause?" No sagt er,
"Vell," [Der einte kell, dess war ein grosser, schtarker
kell] nu sagt er, "Doh ish ah brechschtang," Sagt er,
"Mir leget die brechschtang ober ueber, noh haeng ich mer
nah, un du gesht noh nunter un haescht mir ahn die feese un du
bischt ...bis der andere kell drah ish." Haen sie so g'macht.
"Alle fertich?" "Yah." "Bischt drah?"
"Yah. Alle drah?" Sagt er, "So," sagt er,
"yets schpukk ich mer uff die haend noh hohpsen mer raus."
So lasst er lohs un sinn sie alle in der brunna nei......"
(Translation: There was this joke about some guys
who were sitting abound in an old village where no one lived any
more. One of the guys was a bit clumsy and he stumbled into an
old well. There was no [equipment?] in the well, so they sat around
[wondering what to do]. One says, "Ya, here we sit,"
he says, "the [stumblebum] lies in the bottom of the well,
we don't have a rope, how the dickens are we going to get that
dog [jerk] out of there?" So one of the guys who was big
and strong says, "Well, here's a crowbar," he sez, "we'll
lay the crowbar over the well and I'll hang on to it. You go down
and grab my feet and the guy in the well will grab yours."
So they went about the task. "All set?" "Yah."
"Do you have a hold?" "Yah, we're all on."
He sez, "So, I'm going to spit on my hands and then we'll
just hop out." So he lets go to spit on his hands [for grip]
and they all fall into the well.)
AS: Okay. One question, you said dabich?
RB: Huh? Dabic. (Tappich.)
AS: What’s that mean? I haven’t heard
RB: Well, that means clumsy.
AS: I’ll turn it off for a second.
[skip in tape]
RB: Der fahtter vahr grahd fertig zum in't schtatt
fahrah. Der hat villah der rahm nei nimma in't schtatt. Jetzt
kommt der kleine boy ah un sahgt er, "Pa, dah kommt a kahr
rei frum andere dohr." Nu sahgt der fahtter, "Vell,
ich muss macha dass ich int schtatt komma aehe der train kommt.
Aber ich sag vass du duscht." Sagt er, "Du gaescht nei
zu der mutter un vens der prediger ish noh gepsch......."
Sahgt ehr "Sie soll em etvas broatvoorsht gehe un vielleicht
ah bisslie schengle, oder vass, un sahg er mich drei for shure
zum naechst sonntag int kirich komma, dess amolle. Un venns der
Raleighmann ish, nu sahg mir ville zwei flasche alpenkreuter,
etvas magenschtaerge un a bisslie heiloehl. Un venns der Fred
Roschmann ish, noh hopse uff der mutter ihra schoss bis ich heim
(Translation: The dad was ready to drive to town.
He wanted to take the cream into town. So his son comes to him
and says, "Pa, there's a car coming in from the other gate."
So the dad says to the boy, "Well, I have to hurry to get
to town before the train comes. But I'll tell you what to do."
So he says, "You go in to your mother and if its the preacher,
give him.....tell her she should give him some fry sausage and
maybe a little ham, or something. And tell him that the three
of us are going to be in church the following Sunday, for sure
this once. If [the visitor] is the Raleighman [salesman of patent
medicines] tell him we need two bottles of 'alp mountain essence,'
some 'stomach strengthener' and a little 'healing oil.' And if
it is Fred Roschmann, you jump on your mother's lap and stay there
until I come home.")
RB: We used to have "Mutter geht dem fahtter
mit der vicks besht noch." (Mother chases father with the
shoe polish brush.) "Krautz, donnervetter, aber der schwetzt
lohs." (Cabbage, thunderation but he speaks loosely.)
I want to talk a little about those early telephones.
In those days we didn't have telephone numbers and the whole community
was hooked up to one deal and the operator's number was one long
one. They called the operator they called her 'centere,' from
'central.' Dess wahr "Hello, centere." And then they
would get a little lonesome some time and they'd call 'centere,'
"Hello centere, how much time you got?" And she said,
"Not as much as you think," you know. "I've got
other things to do." And they'd do that a lot, call up 'centere.'
And this one guy, this actually happened, he wasn't just the sharpest
guy in the world, and he was going to call up a guy about a part
on his threshing machine. And so he knew a little bit about calling
in the business place and in the home. So, of course, the whole
people [all on the party line] were listening un noh sagt er,
"Hello centere. Get mer amoll Joe Malleger's reverse."
Un sahgt der einte, "Net reverse, Reinhold, ..residence!"
"Oh, hahnoh, get mer's residence." Noh endlich nu grikkt
er der Choe nu sagt er, "Nu, vass villsht?" "Ha,"
sagt er, "Ich brauch a rahd fert dreschmachine." "Ya,
vass ish's nummer fom rahd?" "Ya vass," sagt er,
"Ich veiss nix fomera nummer fom rahd." "Ha,"
sagt er, "Du musscht mer etvas gehe, dass ich veiss vas zum
grikka." "Ha," sagt er, "ish's graeschte rahd
ahn der nort site fon der dreschmachine."
(Translation beginning with "Hello centere,
get me Joe Malleger's reverse." One guy [on the party line]
says "Not reverse, Reinhold,....residence!" "Oh,
well, get me the residence." Finally he got Joe on the line
and he says, "What do you want?" "I need a pully
for my threshing machine." "What's the number on the
pully?" "Ya what, I don't know anything about the number
on a pully." "Well you have got to get me something
so I know what to get for you." "Well, its the biggest
pully on the north side of the threshing machine.)
RB: They used to.....einer haht zwei lange un einer
haht zwei kortze ring kaet, un nah haen sie fier lange ring ....dess
hat g'meint feier un noh hatt yeder solla horcha. Aber's vahr
really net nohtventich. Die haen halt doch immer alle nei g'horcht
aber alsamohl haen sie des duah. Aber, der einte kell, des war
der Edewart, Edewart Kartoffelsaak haen sie en called, der hat
eifach sie ring net palta kenna un no haen sie g'sagt, "Well,
ich weiss vahs mier daen. Der train geht zimlich dicht ferbei
dort, mir gehen ihm der selbicher ring vee der train." Uff
selemer zeit vahr es zwie lahange and zwie koartze. Un es hat
aber gut g'schafft. Yedes mahl venn der drain g'vislt hat, nah
ish er an der phone g'schprunga, aber.......
(Translation: They used to...one guy would have
two long (rings) and another had a couple of short rings and then
there were four long rings....that meant that there was a fire
somewhere and everyone was supposed to listen. But it really wasn't
necessary because everyone was listening anyway but sometimes
it was necessary to do it. There was this one guy, Edward...Edward
Potatosack we called him, who couldn't remember his ring so they
said, "Well, we know what to do. The train comes pretty close
by and we will give him the same ring [code} as the train."
At that time the train whistle was two long blasts and two short
ones. It worked well. Every time the train whistle blew he would
answer the phone!)
[Skip in tape.]
RB: Noh ish ha.....uff sella zeit ...waren pferd kaum g'woent
vaer zum a car sena uff em veg. Gell. Un grad venn sie es beinah
g'vaent varen hat ein kell an motorcycle grikkt. Un dess war mein
onkel. Un mei nochbar, der Artur Rempfer, der ish halt in't schul
g'ritten mit dem... mit em alte schemmel. Nu var er schon beinah
ahn der schul yetz kommen dee kell ah fon forna mit dem motorcycle.
Nah gookt sich der alte schemmel dee schweinerei eeber un dess
var him halt net einerlai un er denkt doh ish blos ei ding zum
donnah un ish er umdraet un heim na zu vasser vee er haet kenna.
Un er (Artur) hat immer zoaga ahn der leine. Er hat villa int
schul geha un die kell sinn halt immer dichta hinnanoch. Endlich
hatt der schimmel in der ditch nei un der dreck un der mischt
ish ei vaeg g'floaga uns dinner pail der andere vaeg un heim un
in der schtall nei. Un der hat dem hund nimmer raus grikkt fom
schtall. Raus gookt hat er ahn der deer zum sieah vo der motorcycle
ish aber er hat ihn halt nimmer aus grikkt. Nu hat der Artur missa
int schul laufa un ish er schpaet komma. Yetz der naechste dahk,
(un dess haen ish selber g'hoert un so) nu vahr der Artur sei
fahtter, John Rempfer, der hat sie nochtbar uff g'fohnt, der Heinrich
Keller, der hat dort vest drausa in der schtein g'beit g'farmt.
Noh sagt er, "Heirich, ich hab g'hoert du bisht ziemlich
gut mit dem fiech." Nu sagt er, "Der Artur sie schimmel
doh, der fielt net gut. Ferschichtert var er der andere dahk un
yetz....." Sagt er, "Vass macht er?" "Vell,"
sagt er, "er fresst net un er sauft net un er gookt immer
zurueck vann etvas kommt fon hinneh." No sagt der Heinrich,
"Venn er zurueck gookt uns kommt nichs von hinna, nu ish
er verschtopft." Un sagt der John, "No, so komts mir
net fohr. Vell, vas sollmer nah macha?" "Nah, dann muss
mer oehl ei lehra." "Vell, nu daen mers auch so macha."
Un die liet sie haens alle g'hoert. Yets sinn sie... g'wart...vass
basiert ish mit dem schimmel. Dort sinn sie g'hokt, ei dahk ferbei
ganga, zwei dahk, arbeit ish likka blieba, yeder ish am phone
g'hookt. Endlich ish der Heinrich Keller ha so neischerich gevorra
nu hat er uff g'font nu sagt er, "Na John, ich haen g'dinkt
mer hoert fielleicht vas ....vas macht der schimmel?" "Vas
macht der schimmel? Ferrekt ish er." "Ha, doch net.
Hash en oel ei g'leita?" "Yah," sagt er, "Ich
haen im oel ei g'leit ..der hund ish verrekt vie a sau."
Sagt er, "Schteiner erde un noch amol schteiner erde. Ish
dess net eubel's.....?" That's the story on the motorcycle,
(Translation: At that time horses were not used
to seeing cars on the road, you see. And just as they became used
to it a guy, my uncle, got a motorcycle. My neighbor, Art Rempfer,
used to ride an old sorrel horse to school. Once he was almost
to school when those guys with the motorcycle came from in front.
The old sorrel took one look at this wierd machine, it didn't
suit him and thinks there's only one thing to do so he turned
around and headed for home as fast as he could. Art pulled on
the lines because he wanted to go to school. The guys were right
close behind him. The sorrel took the ditch, dirt and manure flew
one way, dinner pail the other and he tore into the barn. Art
couldn't get that dog out of the barn so he had to walk to school
and got there late. The horse would look out of the barn for the
motorcycle but Art never got him out. The next day (I heard this
myself.) Art's father, John called up his neighbor, Henry Keller,
who farmed out there in the stony land. So he says, "Heinrich,
I heard you're pretty good with livestock. Art's sorrel doesn't
feel good. He had the heck scared out of him the other day and
now......" Heinrich, "What's he doing?" "Well,
he's off his feed, won't drink water and is always looking back
to see if something's coming." So Henry says, " If he's
looking back and there's nothing coming then he's constipated."
John said, "It doesn't seem like that to me. What do you
suggest?" "You've got to give him an oil enema."
"OK. We'll do it." People on the party line heard all
of this. Now they waited. What's to become of the sorrel? There
they sat, one day, two days, work was neglected.....everyone sat
by the phone. Finally Heinrich got so curious that he called,
"Well, John, I thought I would hear something...how's it
with the sorrel?" "How's it with the sorrel? He croaked!"
"You don't say. Did you give him the oil enema?" "Oh
ya," he says, "I gave him the enema but he died like
a sow." [The concluding statement is unclear. Literally it
is "Rocky earth and again rocky earth." It appears to
be a quotation, perhaps implying the Biblical, "Earth to
earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."]
AS: Okay. Now that’s supposed to be true than?
RB: Yep, that actually is true. I heard that…
AS: When did, when did that happen?
RB: Oh, let’s see now, I was probably in the
sixth or seventh grade. He was my age, seventh grade you’re
about…well, cause I was pretty young. I was in the first
grade when I was five years old; instead of kindergarten I was
in the first grade. I don’t know why, but…that’s
still around........ okay, five…ten, I was maybe ten. That
could have been forty-five years ago, forty-six years ago.
AS: Did you say you were going to mention something
about German swearing?
RB: Oh yeah. Okay, we’ll go into that. One
thing about German swearing is that you don’t really seem
to hurt anybody or your religion. And I remember my dad had a
terrible temper. And he would get so mad he’d get blue in
the face. But I never really worried too much until he started
switching over into English. Then I knew it was dangerous, then
he was really mad. But they had things like, "Donnervetter
noch amahl, aber so ah schweinerei," you know. (Thunderweather,
again...such a pig dirt mess.) Stuff like that that was swearing.
"So ahn krauts verdamnter velts kriminalischer hund, so ahn
ferfloochter..." (Such a krauts damned world criminal dog,
such a cussed out...)
AS: What was that again?
RB: "Krauts verdamnter velts krimianlischer
AS: Does it mean anything, or…
RB: Yeah. And a krimminal, that means like criminal.
That was a swear word you know. Denn soll doch der deifel lebichen
hell nei holla. Venn dess net the deifel g'seha hat dann hat er
ferflucht noch nix g'seha. Ha, der doorem (?) der schwaetzt ya
grahd venn er loase tzaeh in der fress haet. (Translation: The
devil should get him into the living hell. If the devil didn't
see that then he damn well didn't see anything. That dumbhead
(?) talks as if he has loose teeth in his gab.) I think the rest
were pretty well repeat, you know. But my dad could, he could
go for five minutes straight without repeating himself. But I’m
a little out of practice on that. But that’s the kind of
swear words he used.
AS: Did, did they, since you were around the Kachubin,
did they have anything…like I’ve heard other groups
who lived near Kachubin would say, you know, someone who couldn’t
be understood when they were speaking, they’d say "Er
schvaetzt vee ein Kachubah." or things like this?
RB: Well, no I can’t remember exactly how
they put it, but I…they used to, a Kachub would say "Ie,"
(Ich) you know too. "Ie haeb," (I have.) and stuff like
that. And oh yeah, I gotta tell you this one. This var in Kachub
un der haht sein, sein kind villa tahfa lassa. Nu sahgt der praediger,
"Vee soll das kind heisa?" Sagt er, "Ha, Paeder."
Nu sahgt er, "Ya, du hasht yo schon ahn Paeder." Nu
sagt er, "Der kahn och noch Paider haedeh."
(Translation: There was this Kachub who wanted to
get his child baptized. So the preacher says, "What name
shall the child be given?" So he say, "Peter."
[The preacher] says, "But you already have a Peter."
So [the father] says, "He can be called Peter too."
AS: Haider? [Katchubish for the Schwaebish 'heisa,'
to be 'called.']
RB: Paeder haedeh. Kahn auch noch Paeder heisah.
See they said 'haedeh.'
AS: Oh, okay.
RB: We named them both Peter. "Der kann auch
noch Paeder heisah." You know, what the heck. That was supposed
to be a true story.
AS: I’ve always heard the Kachubin weren’t
supposed to be too bright.
RB: Yeah, that was the impression they would give,
you know. But I had, we had a neighbor that had…is Reinhold
Keller by the way, he had a son named Hugo. Hugo died, he buried
him, he put a tombstone on, and he named his other son Hugo. He
actually did. And he, later on he died too. Now I’ve never
even checked whether they’re both…no, the other one
was, otherwise he’d have been buried in the same cemetery.
But that would have been something.
AS: But he died much later than?
RB: Yeah, he grew up and he got killed over in Montana,
so I don’t know if he was ever shipped back or not. And
now I’d have to…no, maybe that’s enough now.
Huh? I’d have to collect my thoughts on something right
[Skip in tape].
RB: You know in those days, we didn’t have
flying saucers. But we had our own, really our own mystery, just
like you do today. And I wonder as we go through history, different
things seem to replace this superstition or this unknown thing
that maybe is deep in our mind, and I wonder if it isn’t
all come from the same source, whether the flying saucer isn’t
the ghost of our forefathers a hundred years ago. I’m actually
beginning to think that they are somehow related. And of course
we had a lot of ghost stories. They would tell us ghost stories,
we’d go to our neighbor, noh haen sie halt verzaehlt von
die geischter un noh hin mer maessa heim lahffa im donkel. Donner,
mir haen aber angsht k'haet dass mer denkt dass mer kommt nimmie
schnell genug heim. Un noh sinn die ehrlichter ah kohmma. (So
they stories about ghosts and then we had to walk home in the
dark. Donner, we were so scared that we didn't think we could
get home fast enough. And then the 'ehrlichter' came.) Do you
remember the ehrlichter? You ever hear of them. Es var a licht
that came, it was floating across about maybe two or three feet
above the ground. It would bounce up and down like this. And our
neighbor, at Christmas time we would all go up and practice in
church, the country church. We would practice, the kids would.
And our neighbor lady saw one of those lights and she wouldn’t
stay home alone anymore, so they…and she was a very religious
person, didn’t believe in any of this stuff, but she, she
was something. Like I said, I don’t believe in ghosts but
I’m sure scared of them. [Laughter]. That was her philosophy.
So she would come up to our place and stay there until they were
through practicing and go home. That’s how serious. And
one time we were sitting in this little country church and we
looked out that north window, and we all saw that thing. That
high off the ground and just bouncing around, it kept on going
like that. That’s about the only thing that as a group we
saw, but it scared the daylights out of people. And my brother-in-law’s,
brother-in-law, he rode home from the neighbor one time and here
this light was following. He was on a horse, the light was following
him, and he, he was really scared. So he rode as fast as he could,
and when he, he went across an L corner, like this. And when he
rode across like this, the thing cut across kitty-corner, before
he even turned here already, and followed him up. And when he
got to the house, he just jumped off, and let the horse run, bridle
and saddle and all, and ran in that house. That’s how scared
AS: And that was around Kulm?
RB: Yeah, by southbound, by Menango, somewhere around
in there. And then they used to play tricks on each other, in
those days too. Oh that was a bad thing. They would, like if there
was a new grave, they would bet this one guy ten bucks that he,
if he slept in that grave that night.... So, he’d take him
up, maybe he’d been drinking. Then they’d go out ahead
of time and they’d have a lantern and a white sheet, and
a blanket. And they’d have this all under the blanket. And
just as he was ready to jump down, they’d take that blanket
off and here was this white, bright light down there. And then
one guy took off, and he went completely out of his mind. Ran
thru the fence, and then they all had to chase him and run him
down. They were the ones that got scared, you know. But those
things actually happened in the old days, and stuff. And I don’t
know how true this is, but they claim they nailed this one guy
into this haunted house with a dead man in there. And he took
a bet on them. And then to make sure that he’d keep it,
they nailed the doors and the windows shut. And they said the
next morning, the guy was completely out of his head. Now you
hear things, like people get white over night and science claims
that it’s not true. Well now, they’ve got second thoughts
about that thing. Because, you lose the black hair faster than
the gray hair. And so there is a possibility that you could in
a very short period turn white. Okay. That’s all I can…
AS: Okay. Well, what we can do is continue than.
RB: Yeah, some other time.