Ear Shot

This Blog Post was originally published on adagia.org.

My grandfather was born in 1936, so he was 9 when the second world war ended and lived through some horrors after the war. Since he was at that age, it also meant that his memory was fully built (I think I've read somewhere that this happens after the age of 3 or so) and he could tell copious amounts of stories from that time.

Thinking back on those, they are all kinda brutal, but he found a way to tell it to my brother and me so that they would be fun for kids.

It's been over a year since he passed ( Grandfather Yours Truly ), and since I'm dreaming about him regularly (not always in a good way), I thought of sharing one of those stories.

Most of the time back then, kids were unsupervised by their parents. Many males died in the war or were prisoners of war, so women had to do all the jobs that needed to be done. So it happened that he and a few other boys were strolling around the protective tranches. For that to make sense, you must know that the Russians left their war machinery where they were used and just went away. I'm not exactly sure how that was since Austria was occupied for several years, but weapons and munition were everywhere.

Boys being boys, they came up with a dumb idea: make a fire in front of a trench, sit on top of it and throw individual cartridges into the fire. Then they would roll back into the trench and wait for the cartridge to go off. Now comes the "fun" part. One of his friends wasn't fast enough to retract into the trench, and his ear was shot. After that happened, all of the boys ran away back home to not risk a "Watschn" (= "Ohrfeige", a slap on the side of the face).

I'm not sure how my grandfather managed to tell this story in a way it always made me laugh, and it still paints a smile on my face. And before you say: "Nah, that can't be true", I remember many years back seeing that boy who got a bullet through his ear at a funeral my grandparents and I attended. And yes, it looked kinda funny.

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