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Lucien Camille Claerr, my grandfather, was born in the mid- 1800’s, in Alsace Lorraine, his village was located in the portion of the Alps north of the region that borders France, Germany and Italy.  The Alps have many moderate to large mountain peaks that surround secluded Alpine Valleys.

My grandfather lived in a small village in one such valley. The villagers were hardy mountain shepards, farming the lower slopes and grazing livestock in the mountain pastures. Lucien learned mountaineering arts at an early age, and when he was as a young adult, he explored the Alps during the summer months. With a bedroll and a backpack, he traveled for many miles around, climbing the summits and visiting the remote villages. Often he would offer to work for food and shelter, or sometimes, a small sum of money.

He related this story to me of an adventure he had near the border of France and Italy. Situated in the heart of the Alps, the mountain ranges on the borders of  those countries are some of the most inaccessible in Europe. One day, deep in the interior, he happened across an isolated village that was peculiar in many respects. The first thing he noticed was that the building constructions was very different than most he had seen in Europe. They had thatched houses and barns with supports made of rough-hewn trunks with some of the big branches left on the trunk, to form arches that supported the ceiling beams. The men of the village were all burly, barrel-chested, bushy-haired and coarse featured, with enormous beards. Many of these men also had red hair and blue or greenish eyes. They wore leather breeches and homespun shirts. The women seemed to be staying indoors, and he didn’t see any for the first few days. The children seemed very shy and either peeked around the corners of the houses or darted away swiftly.

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