Cultural heritage

Family stories based on real events from the long history of the Gavrilović family.

The Milk Cow and the Lost Wallet

Now that is what I call bad luck.

Imagine you decided to ask a girl to go out on a date with you.For your first dinner together you pick out a fancy restaurant; the „Taverna“ for example, Your lips taste the delicacies of the meal and your mouth is full of compliments and flattering remarks for the young lady. You want her to like you; you want to impress her. And then the final scene, The End; the last image the both of you want to save in your memory. Then, misfortune. The focus is on the young man reaching into his pocket – the first one is empty, then the other…..and there is no luck, even the third time around.

There is no wallet; disturbing news for a first night out, but a story that will continue to be told with amusement in the long and happy marriage that this evening will lead to. Gjuro Gavrilovic, present-day owner of the meat family enterprise, is on his first date with his future wife, and has forgotten his wallet. Fortunately, the bill is paid by his wife-to-be, Margaret Gavrilovic. She will also, in her own humorous way; tell the 1967 story of the Upper Town „Taverna“ many a time at family gatherings. She recently conveyed it in a newspaper article as well.

Gjuro forgetting his wallet on our first date and me paying the bill, simply confirms the character of the free-spirited bohemian young man he was. This spontaneity is what attracted me to him from the start. Similarly, throughout our marriage, my husband would often forget to bring his wallet, so that I, although in my less frequent outings, still used to pay the bill in the end. When Gjuro would go to a meeting with his business partners, I would always see him off and ask whether he has his wallet with him.

Of course we are not talking about stinginess here, especially when we know what a prosperous industrialist Gjuro is. Gjuro was simply forgetful! He would joke and reach into his empty pockets and repeat the traditional Croatian expression: only children and fools show their money!

Let us go back to the year 1935, and the livestock fair in Veliki Zdenci, where Gjuro’s wallet was again the issue, but with a different outcome this time. The protagonist was Gjuro III, Head of Gavrilovic, and he didn’t forget his wallet, but rather lost it, along with a considerable amount of money.

***

Would you take a look at this! Corn is only 100 dinars cheaper than grits. It’s better to pay a bit more and get the grits; at least you don’t have to grind them!

This sentence was caught by chance while Gjuro was visiting the livestock fair in Veliki Zdenci, where he dropped a wallet full of money. Just like an egg is an egg like any other; every fair is pretty much the same – give or take a bit different decor. Our fairs share the rule that there is no rule; everything is run according to local custom, tradition and mentality. Let us go back to the dialogue above. The scene is a livestock market, where buyers flatter one other by calling themselves master and boss, as was the common practice. Master Gjuro was interested in the price of cornmeal as food for his hogs that go through tons of the little yellow kernels as their staple food.

My guess is that you ground it all up together – stalks and all!
Yes! Yes! With the corn stalks – let’s indulge!

The vendor’s face was young and cheerful. The buyer is older and untrusting. He pushes his hand deep into the mound of grits once again and brings a handful to his nose for a whiff.

How much you got?

Two more bags.

Fill them both. And add a bag of corn kernels too.

Of the livestock on the fair there were only pigs around. Instead of calling it a livestock market, it ought to be called a pigs’ market – although that doesn’t sound quite as sophisticated. There were piles of all kinds of other items to purchase, set with no order or category. Bicycle chains and worn-out suits; wooden buckets for picking grapes; turkeys, ducks, and the odd sad-looking cow. Mind you, the cows and other large livestock could not have been counted by heads, except for the few left-over pigs that were still alive and still held their price.

How much, ma’am, for the pigs?

If you take all three…

Too much!

It’s a shame for me to separate them; they’ve gotten used to each other. Whoaaa – laughs the buyer – what, pigs are to become our pets, is that what you’re saying?.

Opla – smješka se kupac – A bit further off one hears the sound of a buyer gently rapping the backside of a pig, confirming his words:

These are goods! When they grow up, there’s not a gram of fat.

Do you want a hog or a sow, or both? Or all five…

What we see next looks like a cow daycare. Little calves, so many of them in one place, is truly a lovely sight. Buyers approach the calm animals with reverence. They smell each other – man and beast, and the fingers touch the soft hind of the calf. For most of the visitors to the fair this was one of the rare opportunities to actually touch a baby cow. Bartering was of no use, because no one could afford to buy such tender and expensive meat.”

***

Master Gjuro Gavrilovic, who lost his wallet in the ruckus, was pleasantly surprised when a considerate gentleman approached him and returned the wallet. His name was Jura Bahun. Lost and found. There are, after all, people like that. Master Gjuro expresses his gratitude to Jura and asks him what he is doing at the fair. Jura replies that he came to check out the price of cows, because one could be of great use to him and his family at home. There would be milk and cheese for his four hungry children. Master Gjuro kindly tells Jura to pick out the best milk cow at the fair. This was his gift to Jura for returning his lost goods.This tale was recounted by Ankica Sotola from Veliki Zdenci.