The rustic French farm I grew up on was my prison; but in some sense it was my freedom and my innocence. I was held inside the boundaries of the calm but active wheat and barley fields that outlined the border between our farm and the dark forest that spread into tumultuous and violent Germany. As an eleven year-old, I didn't essentially believe I was on house arrest by my Mamma and Pappa but in retrospect, I see how limited my outside exposure was until I went to Marseilles to work and then eventually to the worldly mecca, Paris, to learn to cook. Every morning with my father's alarm ring, I would be coaxed into maintaining the farm which was a family affair. I was the plow of the family; I manned the wheat and barley farms since I was eight and tilled and plowed the soil for days to get it to perfection. The rest of my family tended the garden or cared for the animals. The farm was literally our reason to wake up in the early hours; well that and spending time with each other in the evening.
One particular day, the day our world started to turn on its back, was a momentous and frightening for all of France. Hitler's Third Reich decided to push into French borders on May 10th and we were one of the first towns that was encountered by "die Menschen aus Deutschland." (the men from Germany). Our little farm was soon forcefully occupied by the Wehrmacht. They "asked" our family to keep-up the farm to provide local troops with food. We had to capitulate and therefore, agreed, the best choice to maintain our heads. The soldiers approached me and asked what a scrawny kid like me did on such a farm, pick the flowers to put in my hair? I sternly replied, "Je suis une chaurre." They laughed. One of the ugly brutes with a fat red face came up to me and yelled "Nein! Du bist kein "chaurre." Du bist ein Pflug!!" He then proceeded to beat me until I looked worse than him. I didn't speak a word of French until they left years later. I was no longer une chaurre but ein Pflug until they burned everything when the war took a turn. No one was left after the fire, only the plow.