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Destinační společnost Východní Čechy
Orlické hory a podorlicko
Sdružení obcí Orlicko
Království Orlice

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Putování po historických městech Čech, Moravy a Slezska
From the memoirs of Jindřich Doleček
In our family winter evenings were a meeting of neighbours who came by almost daily for a bit of chat, as we called it. We children sewed threaded buttons so that through our work we could help ease the financial burdens upon our father. Our mother always made sure we performed our work well, because otherwise the commission agent wouldn’t accept our buttons and they would have to be re-done at our cost. And so during this button sewing some storytelling took place, sometimes with a great deal of embellishment (our father called it lying), about all sorts of things. Even scarecrows, jack o’ lanterns, bogeymen and similar things came into the stories. Meanwhile the men told stories about war, about lands where the soldiers went, sometimes also about their journeys and places they had wandered through. Naturally us children listened with baited breath, our eyes on stalks. We finished our work at 10 in the evening, when our neighbours also left for home. These evenings were always something we looked forward to all day. The main characters who were our daily guests, and whose talent for narration never let us down, and whose resources of stories were inexhaustible, were old Blank, a former gamekeeper and lathe operator, old Kristek, a labourer and soldier of general Radetzký in Mantua and Padua in the period 1848-1860, old Neugebauer, a former labourer who enjoyed talking of spirits and robbers, and then as a listener old Mrs Pospíšilová, sometimes also the Kovařovic family and in time old Vyhnálek from Podměstí appeared in our dwelling. All were several years older than my parents, and all thoroughly enjoyed visiting them.

The cursed spirit

Of the many stories which old Blank told, I still remember that of the cursed spirit beneath the stone bridge in the direction of Šedivec (it was a bridge across a stream on the main road from Kyšperk to Šedivec). An enchanted spirit resided there, which when anyone went over the bridge around midnight sneezed and waited for the reply God Bless You, which was the general response to anyone who sneezed since the times of the plague. People passing by who heard sneezing regularly ran from the stone bridge in fright, gibbering various prayers, because people from far and wide knew of the spirit by the bridge. The worst time for the spirit to sneeze was from 11 to 12 in the night. The more faint-hearted preferred not to go past during the night and slept over either in Šedivec (if they were from Nekoř, Pastviny, Klášterec etc.) or in Kyšperk, if they had to return to these places. And so Blank decided to go an take a look at this spirit. Because he was young and was working as a gamekeeper, he went with a hunting rifle to the inn in Šedivec, where he had a drink and a chat about ordinary matters with his fellow drinkers. When it came to eleven o’ clock, he paid and said he was going to Kyšperk. All those present turned to him and the barman asked: “You mean you want to go across the stone bridge? Don’t you know there’s a spirit there?” The others also warned him not to go there, but rather to go through the woods and through Bažantnice, which would be a small detour, but no so great, and he would have no need to fear. One of the locals immediately leapt in, telling him that only a week ago the spirit had scared old Mrs. Hubálková of Nekoř, and she’d prayed so hard until it stopped following her, but the poor woman went out of her mind with fear. Immediately a second came in with a tale that once the young man Brůna of Pastviny was going that way, and if he hadn’t had the axe he’d just bought in Kyšperk, then he’d be a dead man. It’s true that he’d been a while in the inn on the square in Kyšperk, and so he’d had a bit of Dutch courage, but it was precisely this courage which saved him. A third began to tell what he knew about the bogeyman, but Blank declared: “Enough friends, I’m going across the bridge right now and I’m not afraid of the devil himself, so goodbye”. He took his hat, slung the rifle across his back. The innkeeper wished him good luck and told him to come by and tell him of his experience. Blank set out valiantly, he had plenty of courage, which had been helped along with good firewater in the inn, and so nothing could deter him. When he came to the stone bridge, he took the rifle from his back so as to be prepared to shoot if necessary, if the spirit pounced on him. About five steps before the bridge he suddenly heard a sneeze. Blank started, but had the composure to call out: “God Bless You for one hundred years and the other things you must impetrate”. An unknown voice responded: “Thank God, I’ve been waiting one hundred years for that reply”. Nothing, not a whisper could be heard! Blank went on, everywhere quiet as the grave, only in the distance an owl hooted. He arrived in Kyšperk with relief. Since that time the spirit left the stone bridge for good, because nobody since then, not even Blank himself, has heard it. It waited one hundred years for someone to respond to its sneezing, but everyone feared it and fled, and only Blank freed it by replying.
And even I as a boy, when going alone over the stone bridge, always looked to see whether there was a bogeyman hiding beneath the bridge.

How old Kristek fought in Italy

Old Kristek fought for an eternity in Italy, where he served for 12 years under the command of general Radetzky, apparently a Czech and a capital fellow to the core. One evening he told us of how they marched to Italy (in those days there were no railways) for approximately 3 weeks, day after day. When they arrived in Tyrol they met with terribly cold weather. It was so cold that the water froze in the cauldron above their fire, and the cooks could not cook mess. Some of the soldiers were crying with the cold, their tears froze right under their eyes, and those who cried more had icicles hanging half way down to their waist. They left Tyrol as quickly as they could and hurried down to the Italian plains. On the plains they had everything they wanted, warmth, food, so many pretty girls clinging to them that they didn’t know what to do with them. They marched to Mantua. It was spring, the sun was blazing, the snow on the mountains melted and the rivers burst their banks. At this time a great flood came. The flood was so great that they had to march for 14 days under water, up to the ears of their horses. Then he told us how with God’s help they weathered the flood, and began the assault on Mantua. The infantry held fast to conquer Mantua, and was praised by general Radetzky. I once spoke to him in person, said Kristek, it was a great honour for me.
To us children it seemed at that moment that Kristek was a hero, he rose in our estimation and we also felt sorry for what he’d been through. As he was telling the story my father smiled slyly, but we didn’t know why. Only a number of years later, when old Kristek had passed away, our father told us how Kristek had duped us when he told us about Tyrol and the flood. We then realised that they could never have marched for 14 days under water.

How old Neugebauer won in the lottery

Old Neugebauer loved to tell stories about ghosts that walked around the graveyard at midnight, how they visited him at home (he lived by the graveyard), and how he talked with them. I asked him whether the ghosts knocked on his window or on his door at night, and he told me that they came through a keyhole in his door. He invited me to sleep at his house, so that we could take a look at them in the night. I was too frightened and didn’t go. His neighbours said that he was in league with the devil, but this was probably derived from the things he said. He also had a book on interpretations of dreams and frequently bet on the lottery. When he had a dream he looked up such a case in his dream book, where it also told him the number he should bet on in the lottery, and he wrote it on a piece of paper and went to Ledrom to place his bet. He occasionally won a couple of sixpences (something like a pre-war one crown), but lost more. At one time he used to visit my father every morning and ask him what he’d dreamt about. My father regularly told him that he hadn’t dreamt about anything. When this had gone on for a while with his incessant questioning, my father grew impatient and one morning to get rid of him told him that he’d dreamt that the devil was running around on our roof, and that Neugebauer’s dead wife was chasing him with a broom. Neugebauer listened carefully, and immediately went home to consult his book of dreams, and a while later we saw him on his way to Ledrom to bet on the lottery. Our father said that he’d finally get some peace, and that Neugebauer wouldn’t win anything anyway. However, our father’s prediction didn’t come true, and in fact Neugebauer was merely the beginning of his daily inquiries into his dreams. Because on that dream of the devil he won the jackpot – I can’t remember how many florins it was, but everyone must have known that he’d won because of Doleček’s dream. Everyone envied him, and so every now and then some of the neighbours, as if just in passing, asked our father what he’d dreamt, and then we saw them going off to Ledrom to bet on the lottery. Whether any of them won I don’t know, if so then they haven’t boasted of it, if not then they haven’t had the chance to boast of it yet.

The ghost by the wayside crosses beneath Mechnáč

I also remember how old Vyhnálek, another crafty raconteur, told us about the ghost that played haveoc around the wayside crosses beneath Mechnáč hill by the road from Kyšperk to Písečná. Vyhnálek went to buy a cow in Písečná, and because he’d found a good bargain he stopped in the Lipenský’s pub for a stiff drink. He stayed there a while, because his friends came and Lipenský took his cow for the meantime into his barn, which was empty, because it was before the harvest. So he rolled out of the pub at around eleven o’ clock at night in a somewhat merry condition, leading the cow on a chain. They walked together along the road towards Kyšperk until they reached the wayside crosses beneath Mechnáč hill. It was a starry night so the visibility was good, and because there were trees along the side of the road, they could not have strayed off the road. Suddenly opposite the wayside crosses a dog ran out and began to bark at the cow, which took fright and began to run, dragging Vynálek with it. When the dog first barked Vynálek was frightened, remembering the ghost, and he crossed himself and sobered up immediately, and when the cow began to flee he was able to keep up, even overtake it, and so they ran to all the way to the Kyšperk barns (which stood in the place where the road from Kyšperk forks in the directions of Písečná and Lukavice). When they arrived at the barns they were terribly out of breath but relieved all the same, because they had escaped the ghosts. If they hadn’t run they would surely have come to a sticky end, since it was said among folk that the ghost by the wayside crosses chased people to their deaths. Once as a dog, another time as a horse and sometimes even as Lucifer with a tongue of fire. When Vyhnálek finished his story we were all dumbfounded, and none of us would have dared walk past the wayside crosses at night.
I later found out that on the same day the bricklayer Hotmar had also been in Písečná, and had been accompanied by his dog. He worked until darkness, and then stopped off in Langr’s pub, and because bricklayers have goose liver he had to have a drink. He had a skinful and so didn’t leave Písečná until going on ten o’ clock at night. When he reached the wayside crosses he stopped for a while to sit on a bench and gather his strength for the rest of the journey. As soon as he sat down he fell asleep, and his dog guarded him. Naturally, when Vyhnálek went by with his cow the dog barked at them. Towards morning a patrol of nightwatchmen went by the wayside crosses. The dog barked at them and the nightwatchmen saw that someone was lying by the monument and went to wake him up. They found that it was the bricklayer Hotmar and after questioning him as to what he was doing sent him home. At home he boasted that he’d slept by the wayside crosses beneath Mechnáč with his dog Vořech, and so the local people found out that it had taken place on the same day that Vyhnálek had brought his cow from Písečná.

         The life of a schoolboy at the beginning of the twentieth century

We sewed buttons in the morning before school, it was always my task to sew a certain number, and so I regularly got up at half past five and sewed until seven – from seven until quarter to eight I revised my homework and at five minutes to eight I went to school. I had a big advantage in that we lived close to the school. I enjoyed studying, and I also liked working at home. Unlike the children of wealthier parents I didn’t have much free time, but I wasn’t alone in this, most of us in the class were in the same situation. As soon as the snow began to disappear we went to the forest to gather wood. It was still a little damp and heavy, but that didn’t matter, because it dried out in the yard in the summer. We tied the collected wood into sheaves, made the string into a strap and carried the sheaves on our backs like knapsacks. After Saint Joseph’s day we regularly walked barefoot, because we had to save on shoe leather. Our father always bought us whose which were too big so that they’d last several years, so we had to be careful how we treated them. From the beginning of May I always got up together with my father at four o’ clock – half past four at the latest. It was still twilight, but by the time we had washed and eaten breakfast (our mother also got up with us) the dawn had broken and it was time for work. I either went to the forest for wood and came home by seven o’ clock, or I worked on the allotment we had at Kopeček beneath the chapel of St. John of Nepomuk, where we grew vegetables for ourselves and turnips for our two goats for the winter. The ground was stony, it was necessary to fertilise it well and pour on plenty of dung-water. I carried this up the steep hill to the allotment in two old wooden pails. Before I went to school I’d had to carry at least 16 to 20 pails. It was heavy enough work for a grown man, let alone for me – a child of 10-14. Of course, weeding the vegetables, as well as repeating and weeding the turnips also gave us plenty of work. My mother, who was employed in field works with the gamekeeper Vanžura, had no time to take care of her own vegetables and turnips. I took an interest in the field work, and it wasn’t in vain. We had a turnip so large that nobody in the surrounding area could grow one of such a size, even on first class soil.
Mr Trejtnar, the headmaster of the general and public schools in Kyšperk, took a number of pieces of turnips used for animal feed from us and sent them to the farming exhibition in Prague, where they gained a respectable ranking in the competition. The certificate went to Mr Trejtnar, because with my mother’s blessing he was named as the grower. This was because my mother thought that she would have to pay something if her name was to be entered.

Life in an average family

In the summer holidays I had various jobs to do on refurbishing the estate of Earl Stubenberg. These were often on forest and field paths or public roads which Earl Stubenberg was obliged to maintain in a condition for road travel. Stone was brought in large pieces, and we had to break it up ourselves. One summer I spent doing nothing but breaking up stone, from six in the morning until six in the evening, for four sixpences per day (80 hellers). It was laborious work, but our supervisor Holeček took mercy on us children and didn’t push us too hard. Naturally however, we had to do a fair amount of work. When I came home from work in the evening, we went to the forest for wood, at harvest time we went to gather ears of corn because we needed grain for our hens.
Our father worked from morning until night – he was a tailor and sewed exclusively for labourers, i.e. cheaply. He also adjusted many suits. His wage was barely enough even for the bare necessities. Through our work we helped him make up for this deficit. In the shop they often had to give credit and interest was charged even on bread. I remember how I hated going for bread on credit to Faltusovi, who was nicknamed “Breadhead”. In Sýkora’s shop they still had our debt from the First World War, until my sister Marie paid it all off. Marie brought the most money home of all six of us children. Our sister Emilie, who now and then came home from her servant work (all the girls worked as servants elsewhere) and our parents had to support her. Later she got used to it, she stopped working as a servant and didn’t go to work in a factory either, excusing herself through illness. Out of us six children she was the smartest, she let herself be supported her whole life without regard to the burden on our parents and naturally also us siblings, who supported our parents.

How the stones turned into pieces of silver

The first Neuman, Antonín came from Kyšperk, and his wife Lenka Malová from the Mistrovice pub by the church. His mother came from Králíky, where there’s a pub down by the station, known as the chapel. When she was a young girl they had music in the pub and she used to go to the cellar for beer. In the middle of the festivities she was pouring beer, when she saw a trough full of stones. She dipped in and took and large handful, put it in her pocket with the intention of cracking them later, and forgot about them. The next day her mother was putting away her clothes after the previous day’s entertainment and saw that her daughter had brand new silver coins in her pocket. She wondered where she could have taken the money from, since all night people had been drinking and had paid for themselves in the morning. Lenka remembered that she’d put a handful of stones in her pocket. They went to the cellar and there they found coins scattered around from when she’d dipped her hand into the trough. They started digging in the cellar and around the pub, but found nothing.

                                           The scarecrow

Wanderers used to go to the fair in Vambeřice, and Karel Majvald of number 68 in Kunčice was a singer. They always set out on Tuesday morning and came home on Sunday afternoon. Once when he went to the fair and his wife stayed at home alone, the story goes that she was visited by a scarecrow. When she complained to him of her poverty, he took her up to the grange and showed her piles of grain: rye, barley, oats, flour, plenty of everything. One day Mrs Majvaldová went to her neighbour, Mrs Marková, to show her everything they had at home. She took her upstairs and showed her a sack of flour, piles of grain, whilst Mrs Marková saw nothing. When Majvald was due back from the fair, the scarecrow told her: When your husband gets home, don’t tell him anything. But she went to meet him, and on the way back told him everything. When he came home he went to the rectory to see the rector, told him everything and the rector gave him the following advice: Take some holy chalk and draw a line in chalk around your cottage and recite the rosary. When they had said the last verse, the scarecrow jumped down from the roof and said: “I’ll get my revenge on you”. The story goes that the neighbour Mrs Marková drowned thereafter. She went to the river and when she didn’t come home they went to the river and found her drowned there.

My father often said that his grandmother had frequently told him how she saw the scarecrow once with her own eyes. She was chopping branches by the house under the linden tree, which still stands there by number 54, and the scarecrow came barefoot from the direction of Ovčín, wearing a green coat, the tail of which was dripping with water. He held a noose in his hand and went into the village.

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