Jan's Blog Flower



Now reading . . .

"Journey into the Whirlwind"
by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg

"The Wind in the Willows"
by Kenneth Grahame

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Leaves on my Family Tree

I am surrounded by books and papers and maps and little bits of paper with dates and stories on them. What am I looking for? My family – my roots. Almost every child asks, at one time or another, “Mommy, where did I come from?” Just because you are grown doesn’t mean the questions go away.

I am fortunate because my mother’s family was meticulous in recording the names and dates of births and deaths and marriages of my ancestors – at least of the men! I can trace back my family tree to about 1515 in Switzerland. We all want more. We want the little stories that will put flesh on these bare bones – or do we? Don’t we all hope that we will discover a hero, an unusual person, a notable person? I don’t aspire to find royalty or nobility, just a real person. I am fortunate because the people who compiled the family tree also recorded a few stories. One story is that my great grand-father Graber was a man who was a game keeper on an estate in the Ukraine.

Here is a story passed down and written about in a book:

The forests were a challenge for hunters. They seemed to whisper, “Come and hunt our fur-bearing animals.” Our equipment was rather crude, but our hunting expeditions were usually successful. The urge of hunting was upon me, and soon I had a trip scheduled for the next morning. Five were in this crew. The equipment was inspected and we were all set for the trip. As dawn was breaking it promised to be an excellent hunters’ day. A soft snow had fallen, covering the old snow with a new blanket about three inches deep. Thus blazing a trail was unnecessary, for our tracks would lead us out again. The other four men soon arrived. We had arranged it so that one man in our gang was to be the driver, two were shooters, and two were to load the guns.

A team of light fast horses were chosen. I got the bait, “A young piglet.” The smell of gunpowder, the odor of pig made the horses rather nervous, yet eager to go, and with a jump we were on our way. We drove deeper into the forest than on former hunts, because the tracks we left behind would insure our safe way back.

Soon we arrived at the spot that seemed perfect to lure the prey, the piglet was brought forward, and now with the guns loaded, the driver grasped a firm hold of the reins, and the piglet was made to squeal. Almost in seconds, the wolves came and the hunt was on. The hungry pack rushed in from all directions. The gunners began to fire. Neither the shooting nor the smell of gunpowder daunted the hungry animals. The squeal of the little pig, the snarling and the yelping of the wolves terrified the excited horses. The swiftly running team now raced for their lives. The front loaders tried to load their guns, but the bumping sled made this impossible, so they used their guns to ward off the wolves, by now trying to jump into the sled for their human prey. To save our lives, we threw the piglet into the pack. It was almost devoured on the run, and they were upon us again. But the short delay was enough, the flying horses dashed out of the forest. The race was won.

The book continues:

The teller of this true story, whose real name is probably unknown to most of our readers, but whose nickname “Poltowitz” rings up a familiar figure, - a famous hunter in both Russia and the U.S.A.

This was my great-grandfather Jacob “Poltowitz” Graber. You can see his picture in the photo section on the left.

Couldn’t he just have rescued a maiden in distress?

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