1881: The Telegram & bear spoors

On August 27 we drove into town where I picked up my letters all of which were for my birthday which was already on the 10th. They were sent on from my brother in Chicago. The mail from Barmen usually traveled for 30 days. The next day, Sunday afternoon, the farmer’s brother-in-law, John Kopp [see picture], a young Swiss who married the older sister of Mrs. Gottschalk [Anna Boentgen], came to visit the farm. He handed me a telegram from Barmen, addressed to Gottschalk, with the rather unclear words: “Dals roler died”. We made it out as it being the funeral-notice of my father’s death, which was confirmed the next day through a telegram of my brother Rudolf from Chicago. The latter telegram had left Chicago already on the 26th of August, the day of my father’s death, yet it got into my possession only three days later. I could not think of an immediate journey back home. I rather wanted to wait for a letter from home first.

Monday morning, the farmer discovered fresh foot prints/spoors of two bears on the Creekside only 50 feet away from the house. We quickly loaded up our Winchester rifles and followed the prints in which we had to wade through the wide creek several times. Close to the earlier house, about five-hundred feet distance to the new house, a dead horse had been laying there since the day before. The bears had been eaten off the dead body extensively. However, we were not able to find the ragged predators. The two following nights Gottschalk and I went on the look-out in the old house. We had the dead cadaver dragged closer to the house by a strong horse. Through the hatch in the attic we watched sharply into the night, listening to every suspicious sound. But “Meister Petz” (Name for a Bear in a German Fable) did not appear. It might have sensed debris after the dead horse was moved away from its earlier spot.

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

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