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My Village in the Valley This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

The small farm town of Boncourt lies in a peaceful valley at the very edge of Switzerland, on the “doo-hickey of the doo-hickey.” It's a town with a population of 1,200. Pushed up against the edge of France, it is practically surrounded by the same country, whose language it speaks. The train line from a bigger town, Porrentruy, cuts through it before passing into Delle, the town just across the border. When they dug the space for the freeway (that was begun years ago and that won't be completed for years to come), they found ruins of an old Roman village. People have been here for so long that I can't imagine this place without them. At some point, someone decided to give this place its name – Boncourt, meaning “good farm.”

I take walks on the Triangle, a name my family gave to three roads near our house that form a pleasant 15-minute loop. The ever-fresh air awakens my brain and clears out my thoughts as I walk. The tobacco, sugar-beet, and cornfields wrap over the rolling hills of the nearby countryside. On snowless, cloudy days, gray fog seems to sink and smother the town in gloom. But, like anywhere, when sunshine appears, it is instantly beautiful. Then the open blueness of the sky seems to be loftier than elsewhere, and the light shines golden on the grass. The renowned American buffalo gallop lazily across their field here, giving a unique aspect to my Swiss town.

A watch-factory has just been built next to that field. Less than half a mile from France and built for French employees, the company's location had to be on Swiss soil to attain the label “Made in Switzerland.” It's amusing to see the sophisticated new building sitting haughtily next to the grazing Wild West buffalo.

The other main employer in town is the cigarette factory, which explains the tobacco fields. Not the most charming asset of the village, the perfume of the burning leaves is often carried on breezes, but it's much more appealing than the scent of cigarettes when they are being smoked. Some fruit trees obligingly grew in the cow field across our street, blocking the unsightly beige warehouses from our otherwise picturesque view of the church steeple above the orange-tiled village roofs.

An old ruined tower stands on the hill south of the valley. It's the remains of a medieval fortress, built as a watch-point to keep an eye on the Gauls. A few decades ago, a secure staircase was erected, creating a lovely viewpoint from where you can see all of Boncourt, into France, and the Vogses mountains beyond. Beneath the hill are sepulchral caves created by an underground river that carved magnificent stalactites and stalagmites into the limestone. These caverns welcomed visitors for many years until a storm damaged the walkways and the farmer who owned it refused to repair it. The village also boasts a year-round indoor swimming pool, a surprising investment for such a small hamlet. But it's a sporty village; its basketball team plays against big cities like Zurich and Bern.

I have grown fond of this village: the buffalo next to the factories, the opinionated gossipy villagers, the hills that are soft and gentle on the outside but hide splendorous, drippy passages beneath. The agreeable scent of burning tobacco and the less-­welcome fumes of manure fertilizer make this place special. The hawk soaring above me on my walk in the damp spring sunshine, the limitless blue heavens, and even the clingy fog all contribute to the peaceful beauty of this gentle valley.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Katherine F. said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 11:11 am
Great description of Boncourt! Fun to read.
 
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