Tales from the Vienna Woods

This is not about a waltz by Johann Strauss called Tales from the Vienna Woods. It’s about our lively friends who live in Vienna. We knew Maria in college when we were students, and she was the Fulbright scholar teaching German. In 1982 we visited her in Vienna. By then she had married Franz, and they had three sons. The photo shows all but me. Note that everyone else posed nicely, but baby John $ was camera shy even then.

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They are visiting us for a few days, and we are filling the gaps from the last 35 years. I was delighted with a story Maria told on herself, and if she gives her permission, I’ll relay it.  [Permission received.]

It seems there was some concern that she would not be able to understand Southern speech, since Europeans learned English with a British accent. It was decided that she should be thrown into the culture before going to our college. For eight weeks she lived with a farming family in Alabama, a family that raised chickens and grew cantaloupes and watermelons. Because the cantaloupes went to market, they were never allowed to eat any. Watermelons were sold, too, but the family ate some every day. The farmer used a huge knife to cut slices for them to eat outside, and the chickens were there underfoot to eat all the black seeds the people discarded.

Maria could not understand the thick accents of the parents and the children. One day they sat down at the table to eat, and the farmer repeated the same words he said every day at mealtime. She figured it had to be a prayer, considering the setting. He was saying, “Oh Lord, hep us to….”

Maria said, “After I got that, I could understand most of the things they said.”

This morning Franz and Maria walked with us to the creek, and I took the usual photo to prove they had gone with us.

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