|Spellbound by the
Johannes Bloß was a contemplative man. He stood for a while with his elbows braced on the balustrade of a small arched bridge, which led to the east entrance of a small reformation church. Below him the reflection of the bright summer clouds glided over the shining surface of the moat.On this late August evening, the normally muddy gray sky seemed to be a varnished azure blue. In the last sloping beam of the sinking sun, the gnats danced their strange round dance, and in the waning daylight, a dragonfly was buzzing her iridescent song.
Several thoughts went through the head of the young Bloß. His thoughts were like the clouds on the surface of the water; they had their bright side and their dark side. Like the clouds, his thoughts were irresistible and unfathomable above the surface of his musing soul. They were wistful, and matched the quiet evening hour. There was a refreshing cool breeze in the air that moved his spirit to resolutions and decisions.
A lock of curly hair hung over his pale forehead. Sorrow and work had deeply furrowed his forehead above his bony face. Could that have been different? Johannes Bloß's life had seldom seen sunny days. November 10, 1741 was one of those rare happy days. At that time he had led home the Burkhardtin. His Regina was not only a handsome and neat woman, whom others might envy; she was also efficient and quick in the household. She knew how to manage well and to economize. She wanted to make a life together with him.
They had been married for 3 years when in the spring on February 18, 1747, she gave birth to a small boy. He was baptized Johannes Philipp. He was a strong, healthy boy, who sucked his small thick fist with real delight. He screamed loudly when Regina didn't put him to her breast in time. Then he took part with a full appetite; drank and smacked, until with a tight belly, he fell forward and sought rest from the exertion in a refreshing sleep.
What else did he get back from his life? He was now 31 years old. The glazier handicraft of his father had never been a lucrative occupation. Sometimes a new pane had to be put into a stall lantern, or a split window had to be repaired that had been crashed by some street-boys in nightly frolicsomeness. The boys should be rewarded for this, so rarely did orders arrive from the Fellbach citizens and winefarmers. These citizens had suffered heavily under the disorders and afflictions of the time looked at every kreuzer three times before spending it. The citizens preferred patching their cracked planes themselves with putty and linen, instead of going to the small glazier's shop above the townhall and let the old Bloß to earn something. Yes, these were hard times that needed strong men who wanted to succeed.
Johannes Bloß stood up and brushed the lock of his dark hair from his forehead, as if to banish his sad thoughts and dreaminess. Before him stood the mighty fortress walls, their round towers silhouetted against the evening sky and the small loopholes defiant in the twilight. Now the last rays of sun were disappearing and on the wall the clinging vines were hanging heavy with the day's warmth.
It was a considerable partition, this southern wall of the bulwark. It had already overcome many hard times. Being destroyed once in 1519 by the "Federations" it was rebuilt by the Fellbach citizens. Since then it has been whole. As in past centuries, a bulwark surrounded the small village church situated at the center of the main square, secure in its defense against all enemies.
Deliberately, Johannes Bloß crossed the bridge toward the fortress wall. It's gate bow stood open. Over it was carved a coat of arms with deer horns and cut into the stone beneath was the year 1423, both weather worn by long forgotten misery and dispute. Located inside, and within four round defense towers, was the large churchyard, its east side still touched by the fading evening sun.
Johannes walked through the cool, long shadow of the church
tower, it's saddle-roof and gothic "Fialen" at both gables clearly visible,
and in the water trench cooled the summer heat from his face. He felt a
pleasant silence here.
Fourteen years ago the church had been expanded and Johannes' father, Christoph, had been chosen to make the windows for the new building. It was a large order and Johannes was allowed to help trim the glass and pass it to his father to putty. They had been nice weeks, enjoyable weeks, and Christoph had been in the highest spirits. Each evening with relish he drank his quarter of Fellbach's mountain wine now affordable because of the church window order. What all did happen since then!
Duke Karl Alexander had demanded long hours of heavy work
from the people, harassing them to the point of exhaustion. The upright
Swabians worked hard - the corn grew tall, the wine grapes were fat and
round with juice, and the country prospered in trade. But the Duke and
his Jewish financial director, Süß, bled the last gulden from
They groaned and growled and clenched their fists, but only in secret as they could not risk an open revolt. The Duke's soldiers threatened them everywhere.
They well remembered in 1736 when Karl Alexander put the innocent Mayor Thomas Kuglar on trial and sentenced him to death for an alleged dishonest act. All his life Kugler had been honest and just. Just one year ago, in 1735, he and his wife Margaretha Kuglerin had donated the poorhouse in Bettelgasse (Begginglane). They were both generous and magnanimous. But all this did not help. Witness after witness testified as to Kugler's honorable past without success, for the lawsuit and trial was not about justice or injustice, but about the empty privy purse and empty cellar of the Duke and his financial advisor.
Only several months later in 1738 the Mayor's son Johann Georg Kugler, seemingly to spite the Duke and the Jew Süß, built an imposing building on the Vordere Gasse (Frontlane). Soon the Jew Süß was himself sent to the 10 meter high gallows in the Wolframshalde (Wolfram Slope), but hardly had this scourge been removed from the country than the Austrian War of Succession brought new disturbances and afflictions to the people.
In 1741 it was the French, in 1743 and 1744 the Austrians who plundered the countryside, and then on the 13th of August 1744 Fellbach had to tolerate the pitching of billets by Karl of Lothringen.
Truly these were not quiet years, when Johannes Bloß
and his father were born and raised. Hunger and misery, and poverty and
pestilence seemed to rule the century. This wore away at the people and
also greatly affected the father,
Christoph. Certainly Christoph had always been a hothead and did things as he pleased against all advice, and often Barbara his wife suffered because of it. When Christoph came home in the evening, having drunk too much, he
treated his wife roughly. He would use mean words and wild swearwords before he found liberating sleep in his warm strawsack.
And after his poor wife died in December 1743, Christoph lost all stability. He quarreled with God and the world, he was grumpy and continually in a bad mood, and nothing could please him. Johannes Bloß could not stand to be around his father any longer, so that same year he moved from his father's house to Burgstreet [Castle Street] and married Regina.
He was not an ungrateful son and had always taken the 4th commandment seriously. His mother would have attested to that. But how can one respect a father whose stubbornness leads him more and more away from the right path, who would pick a fight with everyone, and went only to that "church" (read pub) where the hymn books have handles and the songs have rough and unchristian verses?
Yes, and it became even worse after his wife had died.
He would seldom come to the shop, and when he did, he would so abuse the
rare customer with unflattering words that they would prefer to go to another
glazier rather than call on him a second time. The little money his wife
had so painstakingly saved was spent in the pubs long ago. Now, because
of his profligate ways, he took on more and more debt which he could hardly
Johannes Bloß knew this could not continue. If no radical change took place in his father's attitude, not only would Christoph ruin his own life, but also Johannes', and the rest of his family which he drew into mischief. Therefore he had taken his father to task today, but with kindness and reason. Yes, Johannes even proposed running the shop alone. He would work hard and give his father enough Gulden on a regular basis that Christoph's old age would be secure. However, Christoph must stop incurring debt.
It had all been in vain! Johannes reminded his father about how carefully his mother had saved and spent money, and about how she had maintained order. But this did not help. Just the opposite. When he talked about his mother, his father became all the more stubborn and obstinate.
So Johannes Bloß referred only to those people who had been good neighbors and relatives, but where his father had long since lost his good reputation. Now they composed mocking poems about him and no Fellbach citizen would loan him a kreuzer. At Johannes' proposal, his father had jumped up and smashed the workbench with his chisel and threatened his son, saying he would still be the boss in house and shop, and if the son would not do what he wanted he would "show him where the Barthel fetches the cider". Christoph had left the shop rumbling and grumbling, had banged shut the door behind him so hard that the hinges groaned, and had not come back since then. The father was probably sitting in a pub now, starting a quarrel with his buddies, and bragging about how he had shown Johannes where the line was.
All this had transpired this afternoon, but Johannes Bloß had stayed at work and while he cut the panes to size serious plans went through his mind. Today was not the first time he had had them; they had haunted him for weeks and months. Nor had he mentioned his plans to his father or Regina, but only to the pious and reputable pastor Brastberger from Obereßlingen. The pastor had been in Fellbach for two years, and he was esteemed by the upright, god-fearing citizens of his parish. He was religious and a theologian and understood the sorrow and trouble of the common man.
In confidence, Johannes had told him he would like to leave his father and found his own glazier shop, but that he had had misgivings. Was it right to leave his father? What would his late mother have said? Pastor Brastberger offered to talk to the father. But Johannes had already tried to reach his father through kindness and persuasion. He had never been hot tempered or intolerant, but always understanding. He had taken care of his father and had hoped to win him over. Sometimes it had looked successful, but always his father had fallen back into his drunken, contentious ways and not appearing at the shop for days. Today it finally became clear. All Johannes' hopes and dreams on behalf of his father had been in vain. He would remain blind and obstinate, nor would he forsake his bad habits. Johannes Bloß was sorry for his father. Already another of his sons had run away abroad, and had not been heard of in years, because he could not get along with his father. Now Johannes was resolute about a similar separation. But first he wanted to tell Regina of his plans to establish his own shop. He was not afraid. He would get so much work from the Fellbach citizens that Regina and the child Philipp would be able to live well. And since it was for Regina and little Philipp, how happy he would be to work till night. He knew that in the beginning, careful spending and everything in order, like in the past with his mother, would be called for.
ago the sun had set in the west beyond the bulwark wall. At the blue dawning
August sky the pale shine of the first stars were trembling. Johannes Bloß
left the wall and with free and optimistic steps crossed the narrow bridge.
In the seclusion and silence of the small village church all became completely
clear to him. Tomorrow he would register his own handicraft shop with the
authorities.It was a small and modest start for Johannes Bloß in1747,
but behind this undertaking was that solid Swabian workman spirit of courage,
effort, energy, and confidence that shines through always and everywhere.
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