Fritz and Dan - In the Spring
It was just beginning to be light in the little Swiss valley where Fritz lived, when his dog, Dan, wakened him by licking his face and giving happy barks.
Fritz jumped out of bed and, after washing in the cold mountain water, dressed quickly and ran downstairs. This was an important morning in the homes of all the people in the valley. The cows were to be taken up to their spring pasture on the mountain side. Only the men and older boys go with the cows. The younger boys must remain at home and help their mothers, sisters, and grandparents. They must prepare for the long winter which will come again all too soon.
When the sun begins to shine on the mountain tops, it turns the snow to a beautiful rose color. The white clouds, which fill the valley, begin to rise and melt away. Then the procession is ready to start. The cows are at the head of the procession. The men have rubbed them until their coats look like satin. Each cow has a bell on her neck, and around her horns is a wreath of flowers which the women and children have made.
Following the cows are the men and boys. Then come the women and children of the different families, all dressed in their best clothes and singing gay songs.
The mothers and sisters go with the men until the path begins to be too steep for them. There they stop and watch the procession until it enters the woods far up on the mountain side and disappears. It is hard to keep on singing when they know that it will be such a long time before the families will be together again.
This summer, for the first time, Fritz is going with the men. Other summers he has guarded the goats lower down on the mountain side or helped in the hay making. Dan is going with him, for he is a good dog to watch the cows. He knows all the cows that belong to Fritzís father.
Up, up, up they go. The path is steep and winding. In places it is close to the edge where Fritz can look away, away down into the valley. He isnít dizzy as many boys not used to mountain climbing would be. On and on they go. Finally the woods are left behind and a flat place is reached where the trees have been cut down and the grass is fresh and green. Here each man takes his own cows to a separate pasture.
At once the cows begin to feed on the tender grass. How good it tastes to them after the hay which they have been eating all through the long winter months! And how they like to bury their noses in the mountain streams and drink of the cool water!
Fritz is anxious to go into the hut where he is to stay while the herd grazes in this spring pasture. He has heard his father and older brothers tell about this hut many times.
The hut is made of the trees which have been cut down to clear the land. This hut shelters both men and cows. The cows live in the back of the hut and the men live in the front of it.
Early in the morning the cows must be milked before they are turned out to graze on the sides of the mountain. Every night when they return they are milked again. During the day Fritzís father makes the milk into cheese.
Sometimes Fritz helps his father with the cheese making. Sometimes he goes out with the men who keep the cows from wandering too far away on the mountain, and who see that no wild animal comes near to harm them.