The Man who confused his house with a piece of paper

Jeannine Meighörner
The Man who confused his house with a piece of paper
This is the story of a man who has been dead for a long time, yet he still lingers among the living. The story passes from mouth to mouth as anecdote, mostly behind a shielding hand since a stranger would never understand.
In the Uplands of Tyrol, where flatlanders fancy they are in heaven – and even the Swiss come in droves since in these high ridges it is cheaper than in their own “Heidi” mountains – up there in the so-called High Courts the story of Isidor Pale still told.
Perhaps the names found in this region originated because the area produces creatures like Isidor? Outsider, Obstructionist, Monkey God, Village Buffoon, Mental-Abnormaler, Weak-Minder, Artist, Dada-ist, Visionary: every epoch has had its own name for Isidor.
Isidor was a touchstone for everyone who knew him. He could be a touchstone for the one who today searches in the mountains for what he cannot find at home, even though he possesses so much.
Isidor owned nothing and er searched for nothing. If you gave him a fresh shirt, because he literally stank to high heaven, he would rub himself on a cow until he once again smelled like the poor Isidor.

At the same time, Isidor was a child of hope. On July 8, 1887 he was born in Fiss into a well-off family. The Pales – they were notable! No poor farmer family on the steep mountainside. In the middle of the village they managed a farmyard whose large, arching gate swallowed family, livestock and all the wagons like an enormous mouth.
This farmyard was like a village in itself under one roof. The division of inheritance in the Uplands had resulted in two families living in the “S' Paules and S' Seppls Hause”. The Pales stood for the S' Paules and the Pregenzer family for the S' Seppls part.
Two family clans, each with around 20 members, met each other in the dark and cool refuge. Not to mention over 20 different Tyrolean Grey Alpine steers, pigs, Haflinger horses, goats, chickens and other livestock, which nurtured and warmed this microcosm. The cellar, all of the rooms and stables were cleanly divided, as well as the barns and hay lofts built facing the sun.

There were two of everything in the “S' Paules and S' Seppls Hause”, except for the out-house and the kitchen. Even in divided houses, only one fireplace and chimney were allowed.
In Isidor's childhood, a charcoal line running across the stamped-earth floor divided the kitchen. This line was comparable to a stone wall, so there was also two of everything in this farm kitchen. No unauthorized person even dared to step into the territory of the other farm wife.
And still there cooked behind this invisible wall not only the porridge in two pots and bubbled two Sunday roasts, there also fermented strife and food greed. “The Pales have fat, boiled meat, while we're starving on burning soup,” one liked to think when the mouth was watering for meat.
The hated line was replaced by a board wall. Only a hole for the smoke sucked up the cooking fumes from the Pales, but it was still better to cough in the smoke as to have to watch “Those over there” during meals.

Isidor was still a young boy as the charcoal line disappeared. In spite of all the hungry mouths to feed, he and his twin brother were “welcomed brood”. His father ran a large wheelwright's workshop in S' Paules cellar of the barn and therefore boys and muscle-power were for this hand-work a blessing.
However, Isidor threatened to fall by the wayside after his twin brother froze to death in winter while gathering wood. After that, he did not want to grow any more. And he didn't want to learn anything either, let alone a skilled craft, even though he was not at all ignorant in school.
He hired himself out as night watchman and grave digger. The latter he liked so much that he would often measure the freshly dug graves with his own body and stay in the graves so long that he began to scare visitors in the cemetery. At night he would scamper between the graves with bedsheets.

Then Isidor became a “bone reader”. Stealing the skull of one who when living had been a real character personality, he felt their secrets with his fingertips. If the dead one had been wrathful, he would break the skull of that once village-grouch in his modest room and “turn it off”.
When he had fallen in love, and Eli from Serfaus then turned him away for being too dorky, he carried around the skull of a once village-beauty in his backpack. He scared school children this way, kids who came to him often because he could tell them horror stories and he knew everything in the village.

He would write in notebooks who had sat at the Christmas Mass with new shoes, since new shoes were brought by St. Nicholas. When Isidor was given new shoes, he didn't wear them. He also refused to eat in the dining room of the “S' Paules and S' Seppls Hause” saying that the kitchen was good enough for someone like him. He also shovelled out the stinking soak-away of the outhouse. “Shit holds this house together,” he wrote in a notebook.

In the first major war of the 20th Century, Isidor became a soldier, returned home shortly afterwards due to “attested imbecility”. In the second major war, the very same thing happened, and it was only the reputation of his family that protected him from being carted off to an insane asylum: “That place where they turn eccentrics into paper,” he had replied to that.

From then on, Isidor no longer wrote on paper: “It lies and it is made out of clumps of cooked dead people.” Yet he had to write. So he began to write on the wooden walls and furniture in his room, even on the crucifix. Afterwards, he wrote on everything in the house that belonged to the Pales.
“To promise nothing would be a virtue, but to promise and to hold – that is one too much,” he noted with pencil in the family alter of the nice parlour. It was written in a handwriting so small and fine that he could have written it on a postal stamp.
Isidor extended his “pencil-bombings” and covered everything that he saw and could carry away: window shutters, beams, even the baroque cabinet door from the sacristy out of the Fiss church, which he took into his room as though it were a notepad.

After the priest berated him, the outside chalk façade of the “S' Paules and S' Seppls Hause” became Isidor's paper. Soon he had to climb on top of the firewood pile up to the 2nd floor to reach untouched areas with his writing fury. Isidor's sharpened army of pencils scratched poems and verbal memorabilia into the snow-white chalk surface of the house such as:

“I have no plunder, I have no machine, I don't even have a Sunday suit. I am a free man.” No other modern seeker of meaning has climbed in this way to such unsteady heights. Isidor's legacy is known as such only by a dedicated community, along with the wind that blows competently around the houses of the High Courts.
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