Upland Pastures






A Shepherd's Tale

Downward Float the Rafts


OLESKA, a simple-minded shepherd boy, was an orphan. Being weak and crippled, he was easy game for any youngster of his size and got plenty of beatings. Nobody thought much of him. Whenever he appeared in the village, limping as he went, children would jeer and run after him. All this abuse hurt his pride, and he would have liked to hit back. But it was no use; he could not stand up to anybody.


Perhaps if he had a pistol, he thought, they might leave him alone. And so he started saving and saved every farthing he could spare. The day came when he was about to buy an old blunderbuss, and from then on all uneasiness left him.  But the real turning-point in his life was still to come. And this is how it came about.


Somewhere beyond the river Tisa there is a huge rock, and under the rock a steep abyss opens out. Once upon a time the devil lived there. He would sit on the rock, abuse the Lord, and blaspheme for all he was worth. At long last the Almighty lost his temper and smote the rock with lightning. There was a blinding flash, followed by a crash of thunder. The lightning split the rock, but the devil was unharmed. Before the deafening roar died down, he crawled out of a hole in the ground where he had quickly hidden and started mocking again. God struck again, but again the devil vanished into his hole.


One day Oleksa witnessed this game of hide and seek. And as the devil mocked and mocked he pointed his gun at him and -bang! The devil was hit, fell into the abyss and was smashed to pulp Nothing was left of him but an evil-smelling cloud of smoke.


Suddenly there was a flapping of celestial wings above Oleksa’s head and, before he knew what was happening, the Archangel Gabriel stood before him in all his glory.  “You have rendered the world a great service and the Lord has decided to reward you. What is your wish?  Oleksa thought for a while and then he said “People laugh at me and despise me. If I could only show them that I can do something worth-while, that I am somebody . . . I wish I had great strength, to defeat all enemies, to punish all wrongs . . . If only God would make me so strong that no one could beat me and no bullet could harm me. His wish was granted.


From then on Oleksa became the leader of a daring gang. He went to live on the mountain where he had destroyed the devil His men hewed a throne out of rock for him, and there he often sat and planned raids on the estates of cruel landlords. His booty was immense. Much of it was given away for Oleksa robbed the rich to give to the poor. Those who needed money had only to ask him and they got more than they wanted. What he did not give away he had walled up in the depths of another rock ; and there it was hidden so well that no stranger could ever find  it.  Heaps of gold, silver and precious stones were stored in this stronghold, and it is certain that they are still there. True, nobody knows where they arc hidden; but one day the rock will spring open and the fabulous riches will dazzle the world.


Oleksa’s exploits struck terror into the hearts of the mighty. The troops they sent against him were quickly put to flight. Oleksa was invincible. At last Oleksa’s fame reached the Emperor himself. He sent word to Oleksa to come to Vienna for negotiations. But this was a trap. When Oleksa was approaching the metropolis at the head of his gang, the Emperor ordered a whole regiment to march against the robbers and destroy them. Anticipating the success of his ruse, the imperial ruler stood by the window of his palace to watch their annihilation. But there was a shock in store for him. As the troops fired at Oleksa, all the bullets rebounded from him, hitting and killing the soldiers. They would all have been killed, had not ‘the Emperor intervened and made his peace with Oleksa.  From that time the former shepherd remained unchallenged for fully seven years; and as long as he lived, the poor fared well.


In the end a woman was his undoing. He might have lived to this day had he not listened to her cunning words. But she coaxed the secret of his magic strength from him while he was holding her in a passionate embrace. The slut! Nine times she swore she would not tell it to anyone. Yet she betrayed him the very moment he left her. She told her husband that only a silver bullet, upon which twelve priests had invoked a blessing at twelve high masses, could destroy Oleksa’s magic strength.


Last Update: 03 August 2002


East Slovakia Genealogical Research Strategies