My beginnings

I was born in 1824 in Zurich Switzerland. I was the youngest of three brothers and a sister.  My father was a farmer who grew wheat, corn and some cattle and sheep.  My mother made Swiss lace which even then sold for a handsome price. 

By the time I was ten years old I was hanging around the Roman Catholic church which was our parish because I loved to watch the organist play the massive pipe organ.  She was an elderly woman who was quite accomplished and it fascinated me how she could use both hands on the three manual keyboard and both feet on the pedals.  I stood and watched her for an eternity of summers and winters until she finally asked me if I wanted to try it myself.  I was over-joyed and immediately crawled up on the wide bench with her.  She explained all the stops and levers to me and how to play the bass pipes with my tiptoes.  By the following summer I was playing one of the three masses each Sunday.  When the woman died the following winter, I became the primary church organist at the age if 12.

As time went on I grew to the lanky height of six feet and four inches tall and I began courting a young lady by the name of Eva.  Eva’s father owned a bakery in Zurich and I eventually gained favor with him and became an apprentice.  I know it seems strange today but back then, a young man could not see his lady friend alone.  Eva’s mother had to be present at all times we were together.  Usually we were seated at the table on each end and her mother was between us.  That was to make sure there was no footsie under the table.  The conversations were usually quite strained and we could only talk about the weather, a sporting event or her fathers bread.  Still I am sure the heat between us was enough to fire one of her father’s furnace ovens.

I often worked late into the evening to make sure there was fresh bread for the morning shoppers.  It was on such a night that I closed up the bakery for the evening and headed to Eva’s house with a few fresh loaves of bread to deliver before heading to my own home. 

Between my home and Eva’s home, the bakery sat on the edge of the Limmat River.  There was a path that led above the high bank of the river south to Eva’s home.  I had walked this path hundreds of times balancing on the narrow stretch. To my right was a drop of about two hundred feet to the rocky river bank.  Often the rocks would dislodge and fall what seemed like miles to the shore below. 

The moon was full and its silvery light cast deep shadows from the trees and bushes along the path.  On my left were the backs of the shops in the village and I could see occasionally a dim flickering lantern through a back window left to meagerly light the interior after the closing hours.  Then eventually the path led further past the village into a more wooded area but still the danger of the cliff was always to my right.  I had the sense there was someone behind me and I could smell the fragrance of cinnamon in the air.  Then, something grabbed me and with a great force spun me around and I felt teeth sink deep into my neck.  I fought with all my strength and punched and pushed at the beast.  In the dark all I could see was  that it was dark and furry.  It seemed to lose its balance and started to pull me with it over the side of the cliff.  I grabbed a tree with my right arm and held tightly to it as the grip of the animal inched away.  I could hear it tumble through the trees and fall to the shore below with a distant thud.  

I put my hand to my neck and there was blood but the pain was only slight so I continued on, hoping to reach Eva’s house where I could dress my wound and gather my thoughts.  The rest of my journey I was a little nervous.  I had traveled this path so many times and never encountered any animal that large and that strong.  I wondered what it could have been.  Certainly there were bears but there had never been an attack reported.  Whatever it was I felt sure it had fallen to its death on the banks of the Limmat River.

Upon arriving at the home of my girlfriend, I was greeted with exclamations and calls for help to Eva’s father.  In the light I could see that I had bled a great deal and there appeared to be two deep marks on my neck.  After the clamor of their concern and my feeble explanation of what happened, Eva’s mother and father saw to my wounds cleansing it with alcohol and dressing it with a cumbersome bandage that encircled my neck as if to hold my head on.  Eva’s brother was sent on to my house to alert my parents that I had been injured but would be home directly.

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