A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 3: Our Daily Lives

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Over the pigsties (there were two of them - although we never had more than one pig) was also a "hilt", like the one in the house over the cow pen, but this one didn't have any hay or straw stored in it. Instead, it was full of old junk - like parts of wagons and wheels, pieces of chains, pins and bolts and lots of treasures.

On Friday, Ma always went to the eggmarket in the city to sell our surplus. What a beautiful chance to explore the hilt over the pigsties. How I got up there I would never know, but I sure had a fantastic time.

From the ground, I could look up and many times I got that feeling of longing to explore the unreachable. One fatal Friday, I made it. At the time I was only three years old. I remember very well crawling around checking every unknown item and trying to determine what possible use it could be to modern society. After satisfying my curiosity, I tried to figure out how to get down. I didn't have to figure too long. When I got to the front, the wood had been totally eaten away by termites. It gave way and there I went - head first into the cast iron washtub. The awful screams I let out softened the pain somewhat but it did nothing to ease the anxiety of my oldest sister who was supposed to be looking after me. Being only 10 years old herself, what was she to do with a boy whose teeth were knocked out, his jaw all twisted, maybe broken, his upper lip torn, with blood all over his head and face and still dripping?

Well, you do what you've seen Ma do when there was a cut somewhere or a bloody nose. Just put some rags on it - and wait till mother gets home.

When mother finally returned home and assessed the situation, she decided that the best thing to do was to clean the wounds, wrap some clean rags around them, put the boy to bed, say a little prayer and with God's help, the child would heal.

Well, as usual, Ma was right. The kid did heal and the only visible evidence that this incident actually occurred is a scar on my lip and a slightly out of place lower jaw.

Across from the barn stood an old shed (loods). Here is where Pa kept the wooden wheeled flatbed wagon which he used to haul the milkcans. Next was stored the (gierbak) manure wagon. This was like a big watertight wooden coffin with a big wheel on each side at the rear and one small wheel in the front. Whenever the (groep) that is the trough behind the cow was full, this got shoveled into the gierbak, towed by the horse to the pasture and spred over the grass. This was done by standing on the edge, dipping down with a big wooden scoop and spreading it over the land. This worked fine all the time, unless . . . something went wrong, like slipping off the edge, or if the horse figures it was time to move like when it saw a very appetizing pluck of grass to munch on. Whatever the reason, many farmers went for an aromatic dive.

Thank goodness, we lived in a land of plenty, water, that is. Water was used not only for cooking, washing, scrubbing, cooling and painting but also for preserving wood. Next to the house was the Kuipers gracht (coopers ditch). It was a main drainage for the surrounding farms. The water was always moving, slow in the summer but swift in spring and fall. As kids, we had fantastic fun.

In summer, when the water was low, it was the playground for all our friends. What made it so attractive was it had a sandy bottom, at least for the first 25 meters next to the house where the water came rushing out of a culvert under the street.

Every year in the spring, Pa put up what looked like a stretched teepee. He got a whole bunch of sapling, stuck a row on them in the garden on a slant then did the same thing about a meter and a half on the opposite side. Where the two crossed, he laid a stick in lengthwise then tied the whole works together. Around the base, we planted climbing beans and when they grew up, wow, did we ever have a nice place to play hide and seek.

In order for the saplings to last longer, they were thrown in the water, preferably running, after they had been cut. They were left in the water for several weeks. The accepted idea was this would make them last longer. After they came out of the water they had to be skinned. We called that sleete ville. For this operation, you used a drawing knife. On one end, a post was in the ground with a big steel point on the top. The sapling was pinned on the post and the other end was on a saw horse. Many hours have I stood there, going back and forth with the knife. When one side was done, you turned the thing over and you go at her again, then the next side and the next.


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