They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust

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Livestock market


Farmers took their pigs, cows, sheep, and horses to the livestock market, which was located on the torgoviske, from the Polish word targowac, which means "to haggle." Deals were made by spitting in the palm and slapping hands. The torgoviske was located on a raised area next to the Jewish cemetery. On market day, the farmers parked their wagons there. When a farmer wanted to buy a horse, he would test its health and strength by seeing how well it could pull. They would harness the horse to a wagon. Four men would hold the wheels, while someone called out "Vyo," telling the horse to go.

Right across the road from the livestock market was Sculz's place. During the week, but mostly on market day, farmers brought their animals to Sculz for servicing. He was a big guy with a big moustache. In addition to breeding animals, he cleaned the public toilets, picked up dead animals in town, and caught stray dogs. As a reward for his services, the city gave him a very nice place on the edge of town. I was told that when the Germans occupied Apt in World War I, they gave Sculz extra acreage because he had a German name. His property was about twenty morgi, which was huge by Polish standards. A morga was a little less than an acre. Sculz had a big wooden house, built low, and barns and stables around a large courtyard and well.

You can see me in this painting standing in the fire tower on the torgaviske. I used to climb that tower in order to see into Sculz's courtyard. I would watch him breed sows, cows, sheep, goats, and mares. A stallion could service up to fifteen mares a day. If a stallion smelled a mare in heat, even from a distance, he would run wild. Big animals like stallions and bulls were quite dangerous around females in heat. Sculz also bred dogs. Among the Polish townspeople there were dog fanciers. They brought their dogs, especially German Shepherds, to be serviced. Every three, four or five years, Sculz had to change his breeding stock. When the offspring of animals bred with his stock matured and were ready for servicing, he could not breed them with their fathers, so he would exchange animals with other breeders. In this way, breeding stock circulated around the region. I remember when he got a new stallion he used to mount it and parade around the town to show him off. Farmers usually brought the animals to him to be serviced because he had good breeding stock. As far as I know there was no veterinarian. Szulc, who had all the animals for breeding, only helped out in serious cases. The farmers knew a lot about animals. They took care of their animals themselves.