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THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
by
Laura Casagrande

He appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as mysteriously. He was a smallish man, thin and frail, speaking with a German accent. He stood at the farmhouse door, a pathetic figure, saddened by the trails and tribulations of daily life.

The farmer's wife was not frightened when she saw him because this was in the early 1930's, a time when many men traveled the countryside looking for non-existent work. They traveled constantly, mostly by railroad and they ate and slept in "Hobo Camps" that were usually located beside railroad tracks.

He looked at the farmer's wife, asked for something to eat and stated he would gladly work to pay for it. He was a humble man and her good heart went out to him. She fed him from what little food she had. It was the time of "The Great Depression" and most people were struggling just to get by. He ate and drank what was given to him and soon looked like a different person.

The farmer arrived on the scene in time to hear him ask if he could sleep in the barn that night as he was exhausted from walking all day. He told the farmer his name was Andy Styler and asked if he could possibly give him some work to do as he was tried of bumming around. The farmer stated that it would be impossible since there was no money to pay him. The stranger smiled compassionately and said he would gladly work just for a place to sleep and a little food to eat. He stated that he was so tried of the life he was living and wanted to do something meaningful again. He told them that he was originally from Germany and that his whole family had been killed during the first World War and he had been a drifter ever since. Now things were so tough he couldn't find work anywhere. In Germany he had been a farmer and was sure that if they permitted him to stay he could be very useful to them.

The farmer and his wife discussed his problem and decided he could stay but he would not be permitted to sleep in the barn; that barns were for animals. He was to sleep in the house and have a room of his own. Before long he became a part of the family and was soon walking with a spring in his step, a smile on his face, and was as happy as happy could be under the circumstances. He worked hard and seemed to enjoy every minute of it. Before long he was teaching the farmer how to farm.

The farmer wasn't really a farmer but an unfortunate construction worker who had been injured in an accident while at work. There was no workmen's compensation back then and no disability payments. He really had a problem on his hands. He, too, had his share of hardships. Perhaps this is why he could understand and sympathize with the stranger's predicament. Back in his native Italy, there had been no work and he, like many others, went to France, Germany and Switzerland to find work, leaving loved ones behind and seeing them only occasionally. In the United States at least the whole family could always be together. After recovering from his injuries he had taken what little savings he had and brought a small farm thinking that at least they could raise enough food to eat and would surely have a roof over their heads.

The Farmers FamilyThe stranger who had come to them, so humble, asking for food and a place to sleep, took the reins, and not only taught the farmer how to farm but fascinated the whole family with his stories. In the evening he told of his travels and about his life in Germany, being careful not to mention his wife and children for that was a thorn in his heart. He had traveled all over the United States and his stories were fascinating. His German accent contributed to his charm. He was loved by the whole family. Every night at 9 o'clock he would say "Nin Ein Spetine" meaning it was bedtime and everyone went to bed. He was like a father figure in the household.

Andy was very imaginative and could do and make just about anything. He made farm implements of wood, carefully carving each piece and fitting them together without the use of glue. You must remember that farming in the early 1930's was very primitive compared to farming today.

First of all he made a contraption for holding pieces of wood firmly in place. This was operated by foot power. He probably fashioned this from memories of similar objects he had used or seen when he was farming in his native Germany. He then made a "Draw Knife" and when this was accomplished his imagination ran wild. He made large wooden rakes and cradles to attach to scythes for cutting grass and grain and gathering at the time. He also made parts for the horse drawn wagons and shaped wood for any and all repair work needed to be done. He also taught the farmer which mushrooms to avoid and which were edible and how they could be dried for the winter months. This contributed to their meager diet.

He was truly a fascinating man, simple, yet full of wisdom and compassion. His intelligence and patience were beyond understanding and it was a joy to be in his presence. He stayed on the farm about 3 years and one day announced that the farmer was capable of running the farm without him. He said he did not like "Good Bye's" and that one day he would be gone. He thanked the farmer for giving him a real home for that period of time. He left one day, without anyone knowing of his departure, just as mysteriously as he had arrived.

Was Andy Styler really a down and out man looking for a hand out or was he a blessing in disguise, an angel sent from God to help a family that really needed help but wasn't even aware of it. We'll never know, but this man was truly loved and I'm sure his family would have been very proud of him.

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