Rösi used to miss the view when she left her village on top of the mountain for the house one slippery slope above the Emme, but that didn’t matter as much since she lost half her eyesight. She was now so deep down the valley the sun never touched the old house in winter.
We sit in the massive, dark farmhouse that Dänu had rebuilt in 1953. It had been much worse then, so soaked in water and shadow they had to drain the land, and Rösi had to cook for the 13 men who worked on the land. They cut the trees and moved the hut for storing cheese, the Chäs Stöckli, closer. But they could never get to the sun in winter, and it took till almost midday to light the field just beyond the house.
Daniel’s family has been living here for seven generations. His great-grandfather was David, who’d owned all the huts on this road up the Hohgant, all the way past Glunti and the desolate moor of Hennenmoos (which had also been his until it was protected under the Rothenthurm Initiative, which still gives him compensation), the moor named after the hen, the Auerhuhn. All the way to Gemeinenwängen, just under the top of the Hohgant.
All the houses and huts on this road have variations of the same name where Buch refers to the beech tree, the Buche, while Hütte is a hut, and Hüttli might be a smaller hut.
There was Hinterbuchhütte (Hinter is behind; this is where the Hadorns live), Unterbuchhüttli (Unter is under), Vorderbuchhütte (Vorder is before; this is where the Siegenthalers with Maxli the dog live), Oberbuchhüttli (Ober is over; this is where the coffee baron comes for holiday), Mittelbuchhütte (Mittel is middle; this is where Stifu has his hut), Oberbuchhütte (this is where Stefan’s aunt Klara has her hut).
Rösi had met Daniel at the horse market, and he’d ride up the mountain pass of Schallenberg to see her. On top was a stunning hamlet of a few houses perched on a ridge looking over two valleys on either side, with hundreds of kilometres of views. This was Schallenberg-Gabelspitz, Gabel being a fork and Spitz a peak. You could walk this ridge about an hour to Naters, the highest point at the end of the ridge, just under which Rösi had grown up.
No wonder she’d been claustrophobic in her new home at Buchhütte, and terrified of her first thunderstorm in these recesses where everything that fell down the mountain tumbled into the Emme, one slippery slope under the house.
Dänu learnt the art of being a butcher for one year in Sainte-Blaise near Neuchâtel in the French part of Switzerland. He says he couldn’t speak much French but knew enough to count money.
Daniel is known as an expert on cows, and he says he has a good eye for choosing the right ones for breeding. His grandson Bernhard studied it and is even better than Daniel was. Bernhard, always with a smile, and as good as his grandfather is with people too.
Daniel’s parents were Johannes and Berta, and they had six children. There were four girls, each born like clockwork every second year: Rösi (who shared the name with Dänu’s wife) was born in 1910, Emma in 1912, Anna in 1914, Berta in 1916. And there was Hans in 1918 and Dänu in 1924.
The sisters went to England to work for a few years when they were around 18, and spoke good English, and also went to the French and Italian parts of Switzerland.
There was always something special about the eldest daughter, Rösi. People saw it, and felt it. And when the Appenzeler painter Kurt Metzler happened to eat at her restaurant at Wald with his wife, she would inspire him to create art.
Rösi worked in a restaurant in Ticino and later took over the Wald restaurant from her family. Others who had run the place had preferred drinking with their guests. It was a hard time, and she worked hard. And although she had a special humor like her brother Danu, she would sometimes come to Stegmatte, the house above the Emme, and cry.
By the time the artist passed by, Rösi had grown old, but her character was stronger than ever. She was always dressed in white, but her hair was always black.
And after that one meeting, Kurt started painting her on huge postcards he made, and he sent her one every single day when she lived in the old people’s home. He was a teacher, and probably made one each morning before starting work. Most featured her, and the ones that didn’t had his cat Kater Kobi on them. And Rösi showed the cards to every visitor she had, every single time.