National Geographic : 1969 Jul
Switzerland, Europe's High-rise Republic paddles that looked like harps on a stick. Later they would hoist out the curds in huge cheesecloth nets and mold them under pres sure into 90-pound cakes. After two weeks of daily washing with brine, the wheels of Gruyere cheese would travel to the nearby town of Bulle for six to ten months of curing in an underground warehouse. I joined the Raboud family for a day of harvesting in their fields. Noel's brother Casimir drove the tractor that pulled a rotary potato digger. Riding the big machine, I helped the women sort out stones and weeds as the potatoes rolled down the conveyor belt into sacks. The youngest boys ran along be hind with plastic pails, picking up small potatoes the machine had missed. The whole family worked together. Even so, it would be eight in the evening before the last chores were finished. Well, I thought, harvest is almost in, winter's not far off. Things should slacken a bit then. "Mais non," Monsieur Raboud corrected me. "As soon as snow falls, we will drag our big sleighs up to the high pine forests behind the village and start cutting timber." Yodelers Harmonize With Cowbells The Swiss continually break their hard routine with fetes and holidays. I was in Appenzell-Inner Rhoden in September when the Johann Sutter family and friends cele brated the Alpabfahrt, the annual descent of livestock from the upper pastures at the end of the summer season (pages 98-9). Herr Sut ter breeds Brown Swiss cattle-in demand all over the world-and maintains his herd at about 120. Today he had traded his working clothes for yellow leather breeches, buckle shoes, and a red waistcoat with silver buttons -the traditional Appenzeller costume. Frau Sutter cooked lunch for us all at the small herdsman's cabin near Wasserauen, four miles uphill from the Sutter home in the village of Appenzell. We dipped oven-warm bread into a common pot of fondue made from melted cheese, eggs, and spices, and helped ourselves to thin slices of Moscht "Bun di!" In the Lower Engadine village of Scuol, a 78-year-old patriarch named Not Tall says "Good day!" to visitors in his na tive Romansh tongue-spoken by 54,600 Swiss. Of Latin origin, the dialect has been designated a Swiss national language along with German, French, and Italian. brockeli-cider-soaked,air-driedbeef-wash ing it all down with huge bowls of steaming cafe au lait. After the meal the men finished polishing giant cowbells on the porch of the rustic cabin. Herr Sutter and three of his farmhands each hefted one. "Ding! Deng! Dang! Dong!" the bells pealed in perfect harmony, and the quartet began to yodel and sing: "Appenzell, Ldndli du .... Appenzell, you little land...." The demicantons of Appenzell cover only 160 square miles. Even the people are small. Many of the men around me were less than five feet five inches tall. Because of this they bear the burden of many Swiss jokes. "Appen zellers never have fleas," goes one, "but some fleas have Appenzellers." We buckled the bells on the lead cows and started the descent. Sutter's five-year-old daughter Cordelia led the procession, driving a herd of shaggy white goats. The handsome Brown Swiss followed, clanging and mooing, through the wooden gate and down the nar row mountain road. How pleasant the two-hour walk downhill. Appenzell is the Switzerland you see on travel posters, a magic land, unbelievably green, unrolling gently beneath the slopes of snow covered Santis mountain. Oaks and maples, in bright autumn leaf, shaded the tiny roads lacing back and forth up the pastures to vivid ly painted farmhouses decked with flowers. Here and there hamlets huddled among the hills around tall church spires. In Appenzell village our menagerie stopped the traffic in the narrow streets-big diesel trucks, soldiers on bicycles, kids wheeling milk carts, and tourists with packs on their backs. A pretty waitress from the Hecht Hotel followed us with a tray of cool wine and glasses. "Prosit!" As we walked we toasted the end of a good summer. "Delivering livestock, I've traveled a good bit of the world-Persia, Greece, South Africa -but I'm always glad to get back," Herr Sutter sighed. "We have an old saying: God "Perfect Swiss vista," the author called this view of the village and valley of Lau terbrunnen and 984-foot Staubbach Falls. After trekking up and down precipitous trails in search of such a scene, he snapped this picture from the window of a train in the Bernese Alps. KODACHROMES (INCLUDINGFOLLOWINGPAGES) BYTHOMASJ. ABERCROMBIE© N.G.S.