Viehscheid: When the Cows Come Home (1/2)
Emma lived in a small Bavarian village, near the foot of the Alps. She was excited. Tomorrow was the day of the Viehscheid (fee-shide) festival. It was the most wonderful time of the year. Even more wonderful than Christmas, Emma thought.
The Viehscheid Festival was held at the end of every summer, when the cows came home. The herders take the cows up the mountains when the winter snow melts. They spend the whole summer there, herding the cows, making cheese and butter there. They sleep and eat in small cabins.
Herding cows can be very lonely. For several months the herders are away from their families and friends. Often they are not even near the other herders because they must each move their cows to spots where the grass is green. Some meadows are miles apart.
Emma's father and brother, Karl, were cow herders. Karl had been herding cows with his father for three years. When his father was no longer able to climb the mountains, Karl would take the cows up alone.
Emma could hardly wait to see her father and brother. In a few weeks it would be snowing in the Alps. It was time for the herds to come down.
Many prizes are given to the herders when they return. There is a prize for the best decorated cow, for the herder with the longest beard, for the best-sounding cow bell, and for the best cheese.
Early the next morning, Emma woke up to the sound of distant bells. She dressed as fast as she could. By the time she and her mother reached the festival area, it was so noisy that everyone had to shout to be heard. There were lots of food booths. There was music playing. Emma and her mother stopped at Frau Schmidt's booth and had hot sausage. At another booth they had schottenplatteln (oatcakes).
Suddenly, over the sound of the music and the bells, the crowd began to cheer. The first herd of cows was coming down the trail. What a sight! There were garlands of flowers around their necks. Ribbons were tied to their horns. The cowherder's beard was long and bushy.
Someone in the crowd yelled, "It's Albert Fischer. He's had a good year. See how decorated his cows are."
Emma had known Albert all her life. He was a good friend of her father's. In the small town where Emma lived all the people knew each other quite well.
Continue on next page ...