Peeta Niefeld haud enn Rußlaund eene groote Wirtschauft enn fief Jungess. Waut Niefeld besondasch scheen jintjch wea goot buhre, oba waut ahm noch scheena jintjch, wea de Schustarie. "Daut ess siene Flus," säd siene Fru foaken, woon'e Niefeld "Mame" nannd.
Niefeld haud enne Väaleew een Stoaftje enjerejcht mett Neimaschien, Leest enn eene Reaj Hohmasch enn Tange enn Pleiasch enn Oate enn Nodle; kromme uck jeboagne enn jlitje. Uck Petjtwearm haud'a enn een ladanett Schaldoak enn siene Reemabeintjch.
Enn doa moak Niefeld Säle trajcht, enn uck Schooh, Pereestje enn Schlorre wann'et senne mußt. Enn doa emm Stoaftje wea Niefeld foaken opp siene Reemabeintjch auntootrafe. Emm Winta ooda noh Fieaowent neid'a daut "de Schnodda Fiea foot," - enn bät een groffe Utdruck, säd'e de Mensche, wiels Niefeld too de Breedajemeend jehead, oba tjeena säd daut opp Ludes, wiels sonst diead daut Neie ooda daut Fletje bediedent lenja...
Oba schnorrijch wear'ett, wann Niefeld enn siene Schustarie saut, dann wea hee een aundra Mensch; dann wea hee frintlijch enn oppjeriemt, enn utjelohte; joh, dann sung hee rusche Leede enn uck Dietsche. Rusch sung hee, "Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe" enn "De Lorelei" enn "Scheen ist die Jugend" opp Dietsch, oba waut ahm daut scheenste jintj wea "Hab oft im Kreise der Lieben,"...Joh, donn hold Niefeld foaken siene Junges, siene Bonsch Junges toop en donn word doa enn'e Schustarie jesunge waut Zeijch enn Lada helt, säd Niefeld. Enn schmustad.
Aundre Mensche sunge measchtens opp'e Stap wann see mett'e Pead oabeide deede; wann de Sonn unjagohne wull, enn de Pead wellja worde, enn daut Onjezeffa nohleet, enn de Loft frescha word. Joh, donn sung Niefeld uck, enn hee sung daut Orlik enn Maschka de Ohre spetzte enn maunjchmol sogoa Schrett hilde.
Oba aum scheensten jintj Niefeld daut enne Schustarie mett siene Jungess toop sinje. Baus, Tenor, twee ooda dreestemmijch...see sunge. Enn wann de Mensche daut Sinje nijch soo scheen jeheat haud, haud'e se woll jedocht: "Schnorrijch, schnorrijch, woa jeiht daut bloß han mett Niefeld enn siene Jungess?"
De Tiet kaum enn de Tiet jintjch. Enn donn fong de Tiet aun too ranne. Enn donn wear'et mett eenst sowiet: Schwoatja gauf'et aum Himmel, enn de wulle nijch meea vetratje. Joh, enn donn gauf'et Jewitta, enn daut worde diesta.
Joahrelang. Niefeld docht: "Daut woat aulwada, mau aufwachte. Enn hee buad enn neid enn hee sung. Oba mau een bätje, enn mau langsom, enn mau eenstemmijch, wiels Niefeld siene Junges, Obraum enn Johaun enn Peeta enn Jasch enn Isaak lenjst enn Kanada weare. Eascht schreewe se foaken, donn worde see doch woll ritj enn haude daut väl too drock, joh väl too drock, enn donn word daut Schriewe emma wietleftja...
Enn Niefeld buad, enn donn buad hee ut; hee schustad noch, oba boold dreid de Neimaschien langsomma enn Niefeld haud den Schustahohma boold lenja enn lenja opp sien ladanet Schaldoak lidje. Enn siene Brell bleef lenja enn lenja enne Fupp. Enn sinje? Bloß noch aum Sinndach enne Tjoatj. Sesst saut'a doa enn Rußlaund emm Darp Tus enne Schustarie. Enn wea een bät vebiestat. Siene Fru, Mame, uch han enn wada Auna jenannt, nu daut de Tjinja utjefloage weare, wull ahm auf enn too een bät Troost tooräde, enn stemmd daut Leed "Scheen ist die Jugend" aun, enn Niefeld rauspeld sijch uck den Hauls enn sad uck loos, oba ahm fehld de Freid enn dann vestommd daut Leed. Maunjchmol wees de Niefeldsche ahm Bilda vonn'e Groottjinja ut Kanada.
"Sitst, daut ess Kennett, dat ess Heather, doa hinje steiht Catrien, aules Peeta siene," oba Niefeld sad sijch nijch mol de Brell opp... "Dee tjenne je nijch mol Dietsch," säd'a, enn jintjch lidje...
Hunga enn Trua puttade bie Niefelds aune Däah. Jrebble, dentjche "woo ess'et bloß mäjlich." Enn boold word de Heimat jäjne Frieheit vetuscht, enn Niefelds foahre loos noh Kanada opptoo, noh de Tjinja enn Groottjinja, enn wea weet, waut noch aules...
See kaume enn Kanada aun. Niefeld tjreajch noch eenmol Wind von Hinje enn hee läd noch eenmol loos. Oba woahan? Woa sie etj hiea Tus? Wea finjt sijch hiea bloß trajcht? Joh, sogoa siene eajne Tjinja weare ahm framd jeworde, Joh, joh, see nauhme ahn fein opp enn gauwe ahn Kost enn Queteea, oba Niefeld reatjcht daut nijch too... Enn waut de Niefeldsche wea, dee säd nijch väl, see säd bloß, see wea fe daut Laund too oolt, see word hiea nijch soo rajcht tusijch. "Mie bangt," säd see, enn ahr flautad de Tjenn. Enn donn läd see sijch han enn foljd de Henj enn hield. See socht äah Schaldoak omm sijch de Trohne too wesche, fung'ett oba nijch. Enn bruckt daut uck nijch meea... "Auna ess wajch
," säd Niefeld bloß.
Auls enn wanneea enn woaromm dee Mensch too sijch tjemmt, enn woaromm de Mensch hiea enn Kanada noch seldna too sijch tjemmt auls sesst woa - wea weet soohnt aules, docht Niefeld bie sijch. Oba waut halpt daut Räde?... Jenuach, nohm Bejrafnis kaume Niefeld siene Jungess, Obraum enn Johaun enn Peeta enn Jasch enn Isaak toop. Enn toom easchten Mol enn Kanada noh twintijch Joah - noh äwa twintijch Joah - haude see Tiet, nauhme sijch Tiet; see vetalde, beroatschluage, enn jinje enn sijch, auls see mett eenmol sage, daut äah Voda doa biem Grauf auleen stund enn sienen schwoaten, oolen Hoot aum Raund enne Henj hild enn rund enn rund dreid. Enn donn wada...Voda wea ahn soo goot auls framd jeworde...woo wea daut aules mäajlijch, wea haud daut jedocht...See haude daut väl too drock jehaut, joh, väl too drock jehaut...
De Jungess wudde Voda noh Peeta nehme enn Jnodenfeld. Eascht wudde see ahm halpe siene tjliene Wirtschauft opptoorieme, enn donn, enn twee Wäatj sull hee bie Peetre enn Oat nenntratjche. Em Darp Jnodefeld.
Enn wess woah, enn twee Wäatj wear'ett donn uck sowiet. See weare aule fief Junges noch mol toopjekohme, enn holpe Voda nu biem Ommtratjche.
Joh, enn waut meen jie, waut doa tweschen Hus enn Staul dijchtbie dee Väaleew stund? Eene enjerejchte Schustarie, mett eene Reemabeintjch enn mett aulem Toobehea...
Enn donn sad sijch Oomtje Oola Peeta Niefeld uck aul opp'e Reemabeintjch dol, moak sijch daut doa macklijch, enn fung aun too neie enn Näjeltjess enntooschlohne. Enn donn sad'a de Neimaschien enne goh, daut de Schnodda Fiea foot. Enn donn mett eenmol stemmde aule sass groote Niefelds enn noch enne haulwe Dutz Tjlienatjes enn uck Oat enn noch twee Schwäajasches daut Leed aun, "Hab oft im Kreise der Lieben". Enn donn bleef de Tiet stohne, joh, dee Tiet dreid tridj enn rand äwaroasch. Enn Niefeld tjitjcht äwre Brell, enn derjche Brell enn säd: "Mie ess vondoag tusijch." Enn neid enn sung enn sung enn neid. Enn schloach Näjeltjess enn. Enn schmustad.
In Russia, Peter Neufeld had a large farm and five sons. And he enjoyed the farming well enough, but what he enjoyed even more was making and repairing shoes on his cobbler's bench. "Yes, that's his quirk," said his wife Anna, whom Neufeld always called "Mamme."
On his porch connecting the house and the stable, Neufeld had equipped a tackroom with a sewing machine, a last, a series of hammers and pliers, awls and needles - some crooked, some curved and some straight. He also kept rolls of pitch-yarn there, and his cobbler's apron.
In this room Neufeld worked on harnesses, shoes, house slippers, whatever was made of leather and needed repair. Whenever he wasn't in the fields or couldn't be found anywhere else, that's where be was bound to be. During the winter or after the day's work was done, he cobbled and sewed "until his snot caught fire" in the irreverent words of a fellow Mennonite Brethren member, who took care to remain anonymous because one's repairs tended to take a little longer if such remarks came full circle.
Yes, this was there Neufeld was truly at home. No matter what anxieties might be bothering him or what troubles loomed, when he sat down at his cobbler's bench he became a new man, a relaxed, cheerful free spirit. In no time at all he would begin to sing, Russian songs and German songs: "I Pray to the Power of Love", "Die Lorelei", "Youth, Beautiful Youth", but best of all he liked to sing "Often in the Circle of My Beloved. He often assembled all five sons in the cobblery, and then they sang fit to raise the roof. And Neufeld smiled. He sang and smiled. Other people usually just sang while working the fields, when day's end was approaching and the insects were diminishing, and the horses had caught their second wind and were more willing again. And Neufeld sang then too, sang enthusiastically and melodiously to his two horses Orlik and Maschka, who pricked their ears and kept better time as they did. But most of all, Neufeld like to sing in his cobblery.
Well, times came and times went, and then time started to gallop. Suddenly there were dark clouds on the horizon, and they wouldn't go away. Then there was thunder and lightning of an evil kind that no wind seemed able to move and no prayer alter. A malignant darkness set in over the Mennonite villages of the Ukraine...
For the next half-dozen years Neufeld consoled himself constantly with this thought: "Things will be alright, eventually. Just have patience. Patience." And he kept on farming and cobbling and singing as best as circumstances would permit. Often, circumstances didn't. And as one son after another fled to Canada, his singing became sadder and quieter and less frequent. The sons wrote back often at first, long accounts of the freedoms and riches in this new land, but then they seemed to have become rich themselves, too rich and too busy, yes, far too busy and their letters arrived less and less often.
Neufeld kept farming, but his farming proceeded as unenthusiastically as his sewing machine. His cobbler's hammer remained untouched on his leather apron
for days and weeks, and his spectacles remained in his vest pocket. And the singing? Well, only on Sundays in church. And finally he took to idling away long hours in the cobblery, doing nothing at all. He seemed a little lost. His wife, now called Anna since the children had left, tried now and then to lift his spirits by singing "Often in the Circle of My Beloved" and Neufeld did try to join in but his heart wasn't in it and he usually faded away. Sometimes Anna showed snapshots of their grandchildren in Canada: "See? That's Kennett, that's Heater, and there at the back is Cattrien, all Peter's children." But Neufeld didn't even bother to put on his spectacles. "They don't even know German," he shrugged....and went to bed.
Hunger and sorrow now knocked regularly on Neufeld's door. Neufeld spent much time brooding, questioning his fate. How was all this possible? How could God forget his children so callously? Eventually patience could no longer sustain even the patient Neufeld. He and Anna packed a few small possessions and joined the throngs of the fleeing. And arrived in Canada, eventually, to join their children, their grandchildren and who knew what else.
For a short time after their arrival, Neufeld's sails seemed to catch a breeze. But his new fate was overwhelming. What direction should he take now? Where was he to find a new home in this huge country? His own children had become strange to him. Oh certainly, they offered room and board, but somehow it was not enough. Anna said very little, but you could see she was having the same problem. "I think I'm too old for this country," she said finally, her chin trembling. "I'm homesick." And then she lay down and folded her hands and wept. She looked for her apron, but she couldn't find it. Worse than that, she didn't really need it anymore. "Anna is gone," was all that Neufeld said. And whether people here or there or anywhere else had any more luck in squaring themselves away he didn't know, but somehow this country wasn't an easy fit. But then again, what was the point of such thoughts, Neufeld thought to himself. What was the point of thinking?
After the funeral, Abraham and John and Peter and Jacob and Isaac got together. For the first time since they'd come to Canada, it seemed, they found the time, they made time to reflect on the image of their father, standing alone at the grave turning the brim of his black hat over and over in his hands. He was as much a stranger to them now as they to him; how had all this managed to happen? Who would have thought that if would come too all this? Yes, it was true, they had all been too busy, far too busy...
So it was decided to move him to Peter's place in Gnadenfeld. To move in there with Peter and Agatha. Anna's effects remained to be dealt with, of course, and his few possessions too; but in two weeks they would return and accomplish this. They all agreed on it.
Two weeks later they all showed up at the appointed time. And when they arrived at Peter's farm in Gnadenfeld, take a guess at what had been set up between the house and the barn, in a little room on the porch. Yes, a fully equipped cobblery, with a new cobbler's bench and every cobbling tool imaginable.
Old Peter Neufeld sat himself down on that cobbler's bench and made himself good and comfortable. Then he picked up the hammer, filled his mouth with nails and began to drive them experimentally into the heel of an old boot. And then he set the sewing machine into motion and then he pounded some more nails, and soon he was cobbling and sewing as if his snot had caught fire. And suddenly all five Neufeld sons and half a dozen wee Neufelds and also Agatha and to other daughters-in-law burst open into "Often in the Circle of My Beloved."
Well, you might say time stopped, and then time reversed, and then it started galloping backwards. Old Neufeld looked over his glasses and then he looked through them, and then he had just a thing or two to say. About how he felt pretty comfortable, about how he felt all right in this new home he was in, not too bad, really, not too bad at all. And Neufeld sewed and he sang a little more, and then he sang and he sewed. And now and then he hammered in a few more little nails and smiled.