Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer | The Farm in the Green Mountains | New York Review Books | May 2017 | 11 minutes (2,896 words)
Below is an excerpt from Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer’s memoir The Farm in the Green Mountains. Having fled Nazi Germany, the Zuckmayers ended up spending several years of their exile on a farm in Vermont, where they engaged in a war of extermination against an invading army of rats. A bestseller in Germany when it was published in 1949, it was reprinted this month by New York Review Books. This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.
* * *
I felt suddenly that I was not alone.
It was the third summer.
That was when I saw them for the first time.
It was evening, and I had gone into the shed to mix the feed before dark.
In this shed the buckets in which the feed was kept stood across from the entrance in a long row.
There was laying meal, feed grain, and the mash for fattening the chickens. There were buckets for duck and goose feed, which we mixed ourselves.
Zuck had carried the heavy sacks into the shed for me and left them in front of the empty buckets.
I began to untie the strings of the sacks and to use a measuring scoop to fill the buckets with the prescribed amounts of oats, bran, fattening mash, and corn meal.
The quiet of evening filled the shed. Ducks and geese peeped in their sleep. Lisettchen sat above me on her beam. I called her name, but this evening she only blinked at me and wouldn’t fly down.
The feed rattled into the buckets and smelled like fields at harvest time.
Suddenly I stopped in the middle of my work, because a violent, overwhelming terror seized me, like the fear of the unaccustomed and unknown. I felt suddenly that I was not alone with my animals, that I was being watched closely from some corner.
I stood motionless and waited.
Now I heard a noise—a disembodied, ghostly tripping across the wooden floor. Then I saw something standing on the stairs. It was a large, gray-brown rat. Read more…