JOHN CHOOSES HIS CALLING
ATHER, said John at the supper table that night, "Anton is
going to herd cows on the Big Alp when he grows up. But
I don't want to be a herder."
"Hear the boy!" exclaimed Mother Hofer. "Now what do
you want to do? Come, tell us."
"I want to make toys the way all the people do down in
"Lawsy me!" exclaimed Mother Hofer, looking at her
 "You can't learn," said Father Hofer, shaking his head.
"It takes much time to learn, and there are the tools
to buy and we have no money to waste. There is enough
to do at home, and when you are strong enough you can
come with me into the woods and help chop the trees.
Only those carve whose fathers and grandfathers did it
John said no more, but he thought a great deal about
how he would some day be able to make the beautiful
wooden animals that he saw made in the people's houses
down in the valley.
"Oh, I shall surely do it, Franz, you will see," he
whispered into the donkey's long ear, and old Franz
looked at him out of his beautiful brown eyes and
pointed his ears towards him with interest.
He often talked it over with Anton when they were out
on the mountains
 with the goats and sheep, for they went every day to
take the neighbors' animals to browse.
"When I was done in the valley with father that day,"
he told Anton, "I saw a man with a basket on his back
full to the top with wooden horses as big as kittens.
Their legs were sticking up in the air. I saw it all
quite plainly. They said he was going over the
mountains to a great city in Germany."
"I would rather make collars for the cows, it is
easier," replied Anton.
"Yes, but I want to go out in the big world, Anton,
with a basketful of toys on my back—out and out,
farther than the Big Alp."
"Oh, John, you would get lost out there!"
"No, I can find my way all over the mountains alone. I
heard Herr Herder
 talking about it in the store that day I went down into
the valley with father. He said it was easy. He went to
a great fair and sold all he had and brought the money
home. And he saw such gay sights down there! Oh, Anton,
all the things he saw! and the land was flat—as flat as
the Pufel Alp over there, as far as he could see."
"I like the Big Alp better," insisted Anton. "I went up
there once. Hansel Zwang had a flock of goats 'way off
by themselves. He had a hut to live in, not a quarter
as big as the sheds where the cow-herders make the
butter and cheese. I went into the hut and they had the
shelves piled with cheeses. They were as big as that
one your mother cut your slice out of—I don't know how
many shelves full, but there were fifteen cheeses on
 "What do they do with so many!" exclaimed John, to whom
such a number of cheeses seemed more than enough to
feed the world.
"Oh, they take them home when the summer is over and
they drive the goats down into the valley. But the
cow-herders send their butter and cheese down every
week. The hotels in the cities far away buy it all."
"There must be a great many people in the cities," said
John, lying on his back with one knee crossed over the
other and looking up into the sky. "I should like to
see a city."
"I would rather see the Big Alp," said Anton; "you make
money up there with the butter and cheese, and
sometimes your friends come up of a Sunday and then
there is a feast for they bring you something good, and
when you go down
 with your cows the girls run out to see, and whoever
has done the best gets a great many pretty looks and
fine words from them."
"I shouldn't care for that," said John, "but I should
like to see the city shining in the night. Herr Herder
told father that day we went to the valley that you
could see it shining far away with many great lights
"But they can't be as bright as the stars on the Big
Alp. You ought to see them in the night; they are near
you, you know."
"Sometimes, Anton, let us go up to the Big Alp and stay
all night and see the stars," and John sat up straight
and looked eagerly at Anton. "We could sleep under a
rock just one night and carry enough food."
Anton looked alarmed. "Why, John,
 you couldn't do that. They wouldn't let us. Besides, we
don't know the way," he continued as though that
"We could find the way; just go up and up towards the
sky where the big stars shine. Let us do it."
"But who will care for the sheep and goats?"
"Oh, I don't mean now, but sometime."
And so the boys talked together day after day of the
world they longed to see, but Anton always spoke of the
Big Alp, while John dreamed of the cities with the
shining lights that lay beyond the rim of the
Often when alone with his goats he would stretch
himself at full length on the pleasant grass and think
about everything in the world, but oftenest about what
was going on in the Toy Valley
 down there out of sight below the mountain. Although
the sun beat hot upon him, the wind was cold and sweet,
for it came straight over the snow fields lying in the
high laps of the mountains that towered all around.
Heated through by the sun and refreshed by the keen
air, he felt as if he could easily climb over the
highest snow-capped peaks in sight and find out what
was on the other side.
But sometimes he made believe he had the coveted tool
in his hand and that the little chips were flying from
the fragrant zirbel wood, as, one by one, out of the
solid blocks, came forth dainty chamois and frisky
goats and whole lines of horses and donkeys and cats
and dogs, and Noah and his wife at the head of the
procession; for the animals were often gathered
together into Noah's arks, concerning which you, of
 everything, or at least so I suppose, for when I was a
child everybody had a Noah's ark—though, now I come to
think of it, that was a long time ago.
Such pictures as John saw lying there with his eyes
half shut!—a long procession of little wooden mules
winding through the grass blades; a wooden doll no
larger than his thumb, sitting on a yellow daisy and
swinging its stiff little legs; a line of cows winding
about that stone near the clump of blue gentians; two
white lambs like those that followed him, only not so
large as mice. Hundreds and hundreds of funny sights he
saw in the grass on the breezy Alp where he lay.
Jumping-jacks springing about like grasshoppers and
weathervanes whirling after them.
He would lie there by the hour making believe drive
herds of little wooden
 goats through the long grass blades, rescuing one when
it fell over a dangerous cliff, performing feats of
valor protecting little toy lambs from imaginary geiers
of enormous size and fierce manner. And sometimes he
would herd imaginary droves of little wooden cows on
the mound that represented the Big Alp in his fanciful
drama. And all the little animals of his day-dreams he
imagined he had himself cut from blocks of wood as he
had seen done in the Toy Valley over and over again.
And yet they were all alive, those funny little wooden
objects moving through the grass and flowers of the
high Alpine pasture. To make them looked so easy, as
the people, even the children, thrust their sharp tools
against the fragrant, yielding wood. Surely he could
learn it if he tried.
 All about on the mountains grew the fragrant zirbel
pines, the wood of which supplied material for the
wood-carvers, and John learned to know it so well that
he could tell it as far as he could see it.
"Father teaches me to know the trees," he confided to
Anton, "for he thinks I will one day go out into the
forest and chop; but I look at only the zirbel, for the
wood of that, you know, is what the carvers use; it
cuts like cheese, and when it dries it is hard and does
not split. Without the zirbel pines there would be no
toy-makers in the valley, so father says."
"I know it is so," assented Anton. "I have heard them
talk about it. And the nuts in the cones are large and
sweet. I, too, know the zirbel."
"Some day I shall have a zirbel tree,"
 said John, with a proud air; "a whole one, and I will
carve it into a million animals no bigger than mice,
and then I will take my basket on my back full to the
brim with them and I will go and go. I will go—I don't
know where, but it will be far away where there are no
zirbel trees and no toy-makers, and the people will
come about me and will buy my toys, and I shall have
money and bring back a fine new hat like what Herr
Malnitz wears on Sunday and feast days."
"You'll be afraid," and Anton tossed a chunk of moss at
"No, I won't," he boasted; "I won't be a bit afraid,
and I shall have gold tassels on the hat."
"I, too, shall have a zirbel tree," said Anton, not to
be outdone, "and I shall shave it into a hundred
collars for the
 cows on the Big Alp. And when the summer is over I will
give money to Herr Malnitz and ask him to fetch me a
beautiful hat when he goes away over the mountains to
some great fair."