Around Nomeny, France


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Nomeny, France

In the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year at college, after spending a month hitch-hiking through Italy, my friend, Alan, and I returned to Nomeny, France where my parents were renting a house.  This was a small village with one business street on which was a pharmacy, a bakery, a restaurant and I do not remember what else.  By 9 PM the town closed up.  There was nothing open.

View of Nomeny

View of Nomeny

This is a more modern version of the town, but you can get a sense of the irregular nature of the street layout.  It was a village that had grown up over time; not a planned community.

During World War I it was the scene of much fighting and changed hands several times.  History repeated itself in World War II with the result the town experienced much damage.

Nomeny

Nomeny

To the best of their abilities, the French rebuilt it as it had been.

There had been a castle on the edge of town.  It had been badly damaged and when we were there it was a hulking ruin.

Castle in Nomeny

Castle in Nomeny

Near Nomeny there were many little farms.  And, I do mean little.  Because of the Napoleonic Code by which each descendent was entitled to his or her respective share of an inheritance, over the years land was divided and distributed with the result there were many small holdings.  The code would not allow a person to leave this property to one child and another property to a different child.  Each child would inherit half of each property.

As a result a person might have an acre here, two or three acres there and other small holding somewhere else.  Very few had large holdings.

The Maginot Line went through this part of France.  There were still concrete bunkers on much of the farm land.

bunker

bunker

One afternoon Alan and I took our bikes and went out to look at some of the bunkers.  Disappointingly, the one we came to was flooded and we didn’t go inside.

In the field

In the field

Alan and Cows

Alan and Cows

We were walking across a field, pushing our bikes when I noticed a horse and several cows following Alan single file across the field.  It looked like the Pied Piper.  Later I learned that the farmers would go into the fields and lead the animals home in this manner.

Since the town shut down so early Alan and I would spend our evenings walking around the village and talking.  Standing on the bridge.

Bridge in Nomeny

Bridge in Nomeny

This was before television was in the area and long before any thing other than radio.  But we didn’t mind.  We were college guys.  We could philosophize, smoke our pipe and be worldly.

Gendarme Francaise

Gendarme Francoise

link

One evening we came upon two gendarmes making their rounds.  I said “Bonne Soirèe” as we passed by.  They acknowledged our greeting and asked us to stop.  One of them asked me where I lived.  I explained I lived here in Nomeny.  He asked me when I arrived.  Now the answer to that was beyond my French capabilities.  I tried to say I had arrived about six weeks before but had been away for a month and had been back about a week.  There was no way I could make that understood.  He asked me to take him to my home.  When we got there he talked with my mother who could speak French.  She explained that I had been traveling and showed him my Youth Hostel Pass and my passport  which established that I had been away.

Everything was fine and they left, but not before they explained their interest in us.  It seems that while we had been away there had been a series of burglaries in the area.  When we returned and started our nocturnal strolls we were reported to the gendarmes as “suspicious persons”.  No one knew us and we seemed to be out quite late.  We were the wrong people, but we were the ones the gendarmes were looking for.

Alan and I thought that was pretty funny but it might not have been if my mother had not been able to clear the air.

Alan stayed on a week if I remember.  We did local sight-seeing and such and then he returned to Paris and home.  Here we are at Versailles.  Al and I are on the right.

Versailles

Versailles

At the end of the summer I returned to the states making my way back to the University of Washington in Seattle.  I stopped for a time in Prescott, Arizona  to spend some time with my father and grandfather.

In the town square is located a court house surrounded by grass, trees and park benches.  It is a beautiful park and in those days many veterans from the VA hospital at Fort Whipple, just out of town, would spend time in the square, people watching.  One day I was in the park sketching.  You might notice in the photos I had an Abraham Lincoln style beard.  I thought it was quite the look.

Anyway, I was intent on sketching when I heard  this loud voice call out,

Boy!  Boy’r you Mormon?
“Me?  No. No I’m not Mormon.”
“What chyou have the beard for?”
“Oh, I was just over in France and thought it would look good.”
“Where were you in France?”
“Oh in a little place you would never have heard of, a little town called Nomeny.”
“Hmmm, Nomeny!  Right next to Pont-à-Mousson, and Nancy, not far from Metz.”

He was one of the WWI soldiers who fought in that area, a victim of mustard gas.

More to come

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Original Paintings available

At the Window
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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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