Tales of Otta’ – from the Lockyer Valley

Tales of ‘Otta’ (Otto) ‘S…….’

‘And of course Grandfather used to explode and order him off the property and tell him he was ‘nuttin’ but a bleddy liar’. “You’re a bleddy liar, Otta, you better yet home go”, and Otto would reply, “No, Max, dat’s vat happened you know, dat’s vat happened!”.

(related by the late Les Moreland, Kenilworth)

Some of the best German-Queensland stories and legends come out of the Lockyer Valley – the German heartland – maybe it was the very large concentrations of German settlers in the 1880s onwards that gave rise to the wonderful and wealthy crop of stories. One of the best of the story tellers was a ‘fella’ by the name of Otta (Otto) Surstein from the Plainland area.

My dear friend the late Les Moreland kindly related to me a number of wonderful yarns concerning ‘Otta’ S……. ‘But anyway old Otto would come and grandfather would be sitting under the back hall in there and he’d just sitting dere and staring and smoking the pipe you know and old Otto used to tell these most terrible lies! And us kids would all be sitting there waiting for old Otto to come, because we knew …… that when he came – not only for when he was telling the stories, after he’d finished we’d wait for Grandfather’s reaction.’

‘Anyway, he’d tell his story, he was telling this story I’ll never forget, “Do you know Max, do you know (he still had de accent) I vas coming down d’ track dere you know and I come face to face wit dis pig black schnake. Before I could anyting do, it jumped at me, and I jumped to vone side and it went my shoulder by.” And he said, “And I quick me turned around. And just as I turned around it had jumped at me again and I yumped over to one side and it vent over d’ odder shoulder.” And he said, “Vhen I jumped d’ second time I reached down and grabbed dis big sthick, and vhen it come at me again I hit it and I killed it.” And he said, “Do you know Max, I put it over d’ fence. And vhen it hung down over d’ fence and dere vas tree foot on dis side of d’ fence and tree foot on dat side of d’ fence.”

Well you calculate the length of that. It’d have to be about eighteen feet long. Anyway, he’d say, he’d tell the story, all wide-eyed you know and he’d be sittin’ there, and he’d then say, “Vhat you tink of dat den, Max?” And Grandad would take out his pipe and then he’d say: “You know what I tink, Otta?” “No Max,” would be the reply. “I tink you’re a bleddy liar,” was the retort from Grandad. “Oh no Max, dat’s right you know.”You’re a bleddy liar Otta, you better go home. You betta go home, you’re nuttin but a bleddy liar!” And old Otta would still sit there and tell another whopper.

‘Yes, he was telling us one time the old classic, saying, “You know Max I vas goin’ down dere to the creek you know Wide Bay Creek, to fish. And I trew d’ line in and I stopped and fills me pipe, and I vas sitting on dis log I vas and chewing on me pipe, and vhen I looked up dere vas it up dere! So I vents up, and I got d’ line, and I trew it in again,” and he said, Me pipe had gone out, I olit up me pipe again,” and he said, “And I looked up and it vas dere again, and I said, something’s wrong. I looked arounds, “ he said, “….. and I’m sittings on a big carpet snake.” That’s the story he used to tell. (related by Les Moreland, Kenilworth)

The real old classic of Otta’s concerned one of the Lockyers’ real characters, ‘Hannes Maroske. The story goes as follows:

Old ‘Hannes Maroske, now he was a great raconteur. There were some really wonderful stories about him. ‘They got this new corn sheller. Anyway, they’ve got the big wheel, and they put the corn cobs in the spout, and they turn the wheel around and its ‘shells’ the corn. Old Hannes Maroske said they got this new corn sheller and he’s out there and he put the corn in and the handle’s goin’ around and around. Oh, it was so ‘bewwdiful’ he said, and he bent down to pick up dis cob of corn dis one time, he said, and up came d’ handle and look …. Out wit one hit d’ eye vas. So I vondered to meself “Vhat shall I do about dis.” (They always said Vhat SHALL I do). “Vhat shall I do about dis? So he said, I picked up d’ eye. I had heard dat salty vater vas good. So he said I vent inside and I got some warm salty vater and I bathed d’ eye – and I popped it back in again. I den thought I’d better into Laidley go to d’ Doktor, just in case you know.’ ‘I then got on d’ horse, and I rode into Laidley, and vent to d’ doctor, and d’ doctor had a look at it and he said, “Well, Mr Maroske, you’ve done a wonderful job there. There’s nothing more I can do about it, you’d better go home and rest.” So he said, “I got on d’ horse and I vent back home and I thought to mineself, well vhat shall I do now? Well, he said he went into the house and sat down on d’ easy chair, and he said, “I got d’ paper out and I opened it and you know I had put dat eye in down upside!”






Photograph shows ‘Hannes’ (Johann) Maroske seated with his beloved ‘vindjammer’ (button accordion). As well as being an accomplished musician Hannes was a great yarn teller.




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