It Must Be The Noodles

by Ray Spitzenberger

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had time to think about our Wendish preoccupation with our heritage, our history and our specialness. In a previous column, I decided it had to be the noodles, because we are so proud of our yellow, egg-rich Wendish noodles (you can see that I’m not as heritage-obsessed as some of you, because I insist on writing “Wendish” rather than “Sorbian.”) In any case, “It Must Be the Noodles” stuck as an appropriate title for my column.

It can’t be our old-fashioned canned dill pickles, as I said in my second column; and it’s not the fact that we drink kuemmel. You often can’t tell a German pickle from a Bohemian pickle from a Wendish pickle, and most of us modern-day Wends don’t even like kuemmel (gag!).

After traveling around the Serbin area of Lee County in recent years, I discovered what looked like a truly Wendish barn. Here’s one of the keys, I thought, to our uniqueness! Actually that old, weathered barn was not very far from the Museum, and it was so different from the other old, weathered barns in Lee County.

Interestingly enough, in most cases, if you’ve seen one old weathered Texas barn, you’ve seen them all! I have photographed old Texas barns in Wharton County, Austin County, Fayette County, as well as Lee County, not to mention West Texas, and I’m convinced in the late 19th Century and in the early 1900’s, there was one barn pattern used by every farmer in the Lone Star State!

And it wasn’t the architectural design of that old Serbin barn. I’m not a carpenter, I’m not an architect, and I don’t have the time to do the meticulous research needed on the idea of a definitive Wendish barn. So I’m going to leave that subject for those of you who do have enough time for research.

Oh, and I’m not going to attempt any discussion regarding the Wendish way and the German way to sing the old Lutheran hymns. Apparently that was a matter of grave concern at one time in our history, and seems to have been a reason for the split ofSt. Paul’s into S1.Peter’s and St. Paul’s! I have about as much discernment regarding singing styles and rhythmic distinctions as a woodpecker. Better leave that one for the musicians.

Ah, now, that leads me to the one topic of Wendish uniqueness that I think I know something about, and that’s Wendish work bonnets. The adjectival noun “work” in that sentence might actually be unnecessary, because, in the good ole days of our past, why would our women wear a bonnet for anything other than picking and chopping cotton, milking the cows, plowing the garden (yep, my Mama plowed just as often as my Daddy did).

One of the fondest memories I have of my old 100 percent Wendish grandmother is walking back from the cotton field with my brother and me, our cotton picking sacks dragging full behind us. And my grandmother, skirt down to her ankles, long sleeves, and the most fantastic Wendish work bonnet you could find anywhere, looking fresh and perky in the blistering Texas summer sun! Maybe my brother and I weren’t fresh and perky, because we were only 49.9 percent Wendish.

She wore this bonnet, made from feed sacks and/or flour sacks that looked like a cross between the “flying nun” and an early Texas pioneer woman. My mother had a bonnet like that, too, and in later years, she made and kept on hand three distinctive types of bonnets. There was what I call her ancient Wendish bonnet (identical to my grandmother’s), her Texas pioneer woman bonnet, and what I call her “head scarf bonnet,” each one worn at a different time, for a different reason.

The Wendish bonnet was the largest of the three, serving as almost a head tent. It had side flaps and it had shoulder flaps, and the two flaps kept any sun from getting through to her skin. If she could have flapped those flaps, I think she could have achieved liftoff! Her Texas pioneer woman bonnet looked like bonnets worn by all ethnic groups on the Texas frontier, and didn’t seem at all “Wendish.” The third one was the one she wore to town; it looked somewhat like a bonnet, but more like a head scarf, and it had slim flaps or sashes that were tied under the chin.

To show off how cultured I am, I have a bust of Beethoven on a cabinet in my studio/office out in the back yard. Being a small building, it stays pretty cold by means of a window AC. So, for years, I have always put something on Beethoven’s head, at least to keep his ears warm. All three of Mama’s bonnets have graced his head from time to time. Right now, he is wearing a motorcycle rider’s cap, but since I’m thinking it’s the Wendish bonnets, not the noodles, that make us so proud and obsessive about our heritage, I’m going to put one ofthose bonnets back on him!

Originally appeared in the July, 2011 Newsletter

Ray Spitzenberger

49.9 percent Wendish poet, humorist, and Lutheran pastor.