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" (SWAVIAN) DIALECT
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......" (Laughs)
(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 of it.
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 komm."
(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 hund."
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 now.
[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 he was.
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.