Daniel Fox’s Letters, 1919
Willow Springs Mo.
Feb 26th, 1919.
My dear old Sis & Hubert.
Your dear letter of Feb 2 reached me yesterday and as it is a rough evening and I am weather bound I’m going to start one back to you. Feb 2nd is “Ground Hog” day here. Don’t suppose you ever saw a ground hog. You may have done, in a zoo somewhere. Heavy bodied, short legged bullet headed 10 lbs weight I should say. Size of a good rabbit but heavy & fat like a pig. It hibernates and is supposed to come out of its hole on Feb 2 and if it sees its shadow it goes back in its hole to sleep for 6 more weeks of winter. This year the sun never got thro the clouds all day, but we are having 6 weeks of winter just the same. We always do anyhow so I guess he always sees his shadow someplace. I remember one Feb 1st I was coming thro the woods and saw a ground hog sitting up surveying the country. He had come out a day too early and as I had my gun he never got back. They are as good as a roast pig. But I didn’t start to write an essay on the ground hog.
Mama says to be sure to thank you for looking after our boy. You and the Brimington folks have sure been foster mothers to him. I’m going to run that can of honey down. It’s a wonder he never mentioned it for we have honey all year and he likes it so well am afraid some one hungry for sweets got ahead of him, but we’ll see. Thank you anyhow. You see they won’t let us send any parcels. They allowed us to send one three pound package for Christmas, but each soldier received one tag and he had to send it home so we couldn’t send him two packages. And they furnished the boxes all alike and our box only weighed two pounds when it was packed tight and not allowed to send any eatable. So it’s so nice that you have helped us out. I asked if I could send things and pay full letter postage on them but they ans’d No!
Since the armistice there has been an agitation to get them to open up & let us send pkgs to the boys, but No! I guess the ships are carrying food back. I send him big bundles of papers & magazines. I guess we supply his company in reading matter & he gets those.
For the lands sake child why don’t you start up in the bee business. I’ll help you, I think I know bees pretty well. 5 guineas per hive, or half that, and honey. But of course that is war prices, when sugar gets cheap, honey will be cheap also. I always think when I get old and can’t hustle around I’ll have bees & clover. I was interested in them in 1882 and started in with 1 or 2 hives and lived with them my spare hours learning to handle them. They increased to 40 hives and as I was building railroad coaches for a living I had to employ an old man to handle them in the honey season. And as I was succeeding in building cars I got ambitious in that line and sold my bees and built cars for 25 years. But never forgot bees. And when I came to the farm I bought one hive from a man living 4 miles away and went for them about dusk. When they all quit work & retired I loaded them in my buggy, in front of my feet, closing up all openings. It grows dark quickly here & I drove home in pitch darkness. On the way I felt something crawling on my ankles and reached down & found both my legs plastered all solid with bees, thousands of them so I sat still & drove home and scooped all I could off my legs and the buggy with my hands and put them in the hive. Lost a few I guess but had enough to start and have had bees ever since. Not many, haven’t time, 4 to 7 or 8 hives, then I let the rest go. Had 7 to 8 hives when the family were home only 4 now. They make 25 lbs comb honey each so that is all we need. You could keep a hive or two in the corner of your yard but I guess you don’t want to bother. Twenty years ago you might have been interested. I remember us having a hive of bees at Ivy Cottage. In one of those round straw hives. Guess that was before you can you can remember.
And I remember old Abbie Bradshaw’s house always smelled of beeswax. Can you remember old Abbie (Charley’s father) and the old lady whom I loved because she fed me on bread & honey. I remember one morning Father allowed me to go to the shop with him and I played around and when Father was ready to go to dinner I was missing and some of the villagers had seen me go and he found me at old Abbie’s below the 3 horse shoes, standing on a stool at the table eating soup out of a little porringer. I know, because the old lady gave me the porringer. Guess I was about 4. Ha! I always was sociable, could never call me bashful.
The Dove in shape of good old Punch “lit” all right and I have rolled up the current months American magazine and will send it. Guess those photos will come now but there’s no hurry, anytime when you get ready.
Did I send you two lots of pictures of Mama & Cyril. Seems like I sent some in my last and you say my Christmas day letter contained some. Well I get busy and forget sometimes, it doesn’t matter. Didn’t want to miss you. Believe I’ve some more you haven’t seen, will look them up. Yes Lil is the photographer and we never get time for taking pictures until about the last day of her visit and she takes the films with her and develops them at home. Then if they’re not good it’s too late to try again. Am afraid now she has gone to Chicago that she won’t visit us this summer. I have a better camera than hers but it uses plates and I have to send off for them. Guess I’ll have to sport a film camera then I can buy films at W.S. [Willow Springs]
Lil seems well, but I know if she wasn’t she wouldn’t tell us, she’s game. But she seems to be enjoying herself seeing sights in Chicago. When she moved to Chicago, I received a pkg thro’ the mail and on opening it there was her appendix preserved in alcohol. She knows I’m a crank for such things and all she said was “Here it is. I know you wanted it.” Ha!
Here is your letter still unfinished. Guess I’ve been having the flu. Been feeling bum for several days. Getting old I guess. But now am shaking it off. It seems easy on old folks. Didn’t think it was anything but a cold but Mama phoned for Dr and of course he had to make it flu. It breaks my heart to have a Dr out here, costs me Ten Dollars per trip. Told Mama it was cheaper to die. Ha!
He didn’t do me any good. Sounded my heart & said it was no account, and punched my chest & back and said my lungs were congested and the cavity filling up with water. I told him when he had had me down, pounding me to give me a show and stand up like a man & altho’ he was only half my age I’d let him pound me with his fists if he could. But he backed out, said I had too long a reach. Ha! We have to joke if it kills us.
Just got a letter from Dorothy saying Harry (her husband) was “held up” the other night. A fellow poked a revolver in his face and told him to hold up his hands. Harry’s about my size and he shot his fist in the fellows face & sent him and his gun sprawling and left him. I wouldn’t have left him, but Harry had some government bonds in his pocket that belonged to another man and he tho’t the man might have a confederate.
Good bye my dear. Fondest love to my dear old Sis. I want you & want you, many a time. You are all I have left of the old family crowd, the family of tragedies, I sometimes think.
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Willow Springs, Mo.
March 25th, 1919
My dear Sister & Hubert.
Your welcome letter of March 2nd arrived yesterday, tried to write you Sunday 23rd but after writing a note to A.C. I was all in and had to quit. I’ve had quite a sick spell since I wrote you last. I was then just pulling out of a mild case of flu and tho’t I was out of the woods. But the day after I wrote you I began to get weak, felt like I was slowly bleeding to death, could feel myself growing weaker every hour & in three days I was down and couldn’t sit up in bed. Sudden work. Dr didn’t seem to know what was the matter he had already punched me all over & said I was [illegible]. The way I felt I tho’t I was going to die sure. I had sinking spells. Conscious but perfectly helpless. Last day I had them I had four of ‘em, soon as I came out of one I was off again, then I never had another one. I sized it up that some chemical change had taken place in my blood, and some necessary element was missing and I was just starving to death for want of support.
I think the Dr worked on those lines for he gave me “beef wine & iron” and iodide of mercury & other things that to me seemed for the blood. (I didn’t take the iodide of M) Just threw it away. Don’t put that stuff inside of me. But filled up on eggs & milk & cream, foul and soup and am building up as fast as I can manufacture good blood.
Say! Sis o’ mine. I think I know how it feels to die. I was so close to it when I had those sinking spells, something seemed to say “let go, it will only be a minute” and I’d think No! I want to see Harold first [illegible]
Mama wanted to send for them but I said no! “I want only you to look goodby if I should go. But I’m going to get better.” And I’m so glad I wasn’t a bit afraid. Tho’ was close. I could feel myself going when I had one of those spells and Mama would administer the ammonia stimulant and it would seem an age before I could inhale that long breath that started me up again. And between spells I would look out of the window at the sunshine and glimpse the trees and think of the beautiful views from different spots on the farm. And what a beautiful world it is and how I had enjoyed it all, had had a hundred per cent life. But if I went it was all right. I should have the great adventure and learn what I had wanted to know. A little eddy of sorrow for the folks and then their lives would be again placid and go on as before. I can now sit up. Stepped outside several times to look at the trees & beautiful hills, the orchard pink with peach blossom and white with plum blossom, and it is all so good.
Harold won’t get to see you. He tried for a furlough & permission to come to Eng. They granted him two weeks but he had to go somewhere in France, nobody to England, too bad. He was enjoying his 14 days at Auncey [?] in the south of France near the Swiss line. Said for the first time in a year he was living like a white man. Had sheets on bed & table cloth and real plate poor boy. He’ll enjoy being home again. Auncey seems to be a pleasure resort lake 10 miles long with boats. Maritime Alps in distance snow clad. Sent us some pictures, pretty place.
Have a good cozy time until Hubert starts in again. I never admitted I was very sick to Mama so don’t say much when you write. Just knew you would like to know how it felt to be way down and then come back.
Fondest love. Think I’m doing well, sure.
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The only objection I have to [illegible] is it was made in Germany.
Willow Springs, Mo.
April 7th, 1919.
My dear Sister & Hubert
Received your card from Skegness. Many thanks for remembering me when you were playing. But you always do, bless you. Hope you had an enjoyable vacation. It is unnecessary to say I should like to have been with you. I’ll have to tell you the joke we all had on each other: I went to the mail box the day your card arrived. So, coming home, I met Tom Pringle, the little Englishman who lives a mile from me. He was moving his traction engine & saw mill so I hollered that I had a picture of the old country. He shut off steam immediately and climbed down and looked at the card. Skegness, he said, where is it? I answered Isn’t it in the Isle o’Man. He said why yes, I believe it is. So when I got home I said to Mama I’ve got a card from Lois. They are having a vacation at Skegness. She looked at it and read your note. Then I said where is Skegness? Why, she answered, isn’t it in Scotland then ran it down in Britannica and found it was right at home in Lincolnshire. Ha! Aren’t we a lot of English. But remember it’s 38 yrs since we left the green sod. And for my part I knew very little of England. Knew how far it was to Chesterfield & Stavely and Sheffield and that was about the limit.
At last I have got a picture of the boy who won the war and am sending you one. Am sorry I haven’t one for Brimington & A.C. but have asked him to send some more & if he doesn’t we’ll have some more taken when he arrives home and then send them one. Perhaps in the meantime you will kindly let them see this one. Aunt Mary & the girls were so good to him. Bless you all. I never can repay you for the “treats” you gave him when we couldn’t. Wish he could have come & thanked you in person. He sure realizes that “blood is thicker than water.” He looks natural. He’s strong built. Close knit. I sure would have liked to see him handling those squareheads. These “hill billies” are wrestlers & active. Have often seen him start his horse on a canter and then jump on his back from [illegible] . . . . read they are much like these timber clad hills & ravines.
We are hoping he will get back to the old U.S.A. in June. He wrote us not to put in many acres of crops for he expected he would be back just in time to cultivate them. I don’t remember if I told you he sent us a Gmn helmet for a souvenir. Hope he “got” the squarehead that wore it. He said he “picked it up” near Stenay [?]. Also sent us samples of their money. Both squareheads & frog. Said in his last they were already beginning to pack up for home. And said if the goddess of Liberty wanted to see him again she would have to turn square round and face west when he once got home. He wants Cyril to go west with him & cash buy a farm and settle down. That will mean Mama & I will go west too I expect. I do wish I could find a place to settle down before I grow old. Wonder what roving planet I was born under. I’m always ready to pull up stakes and move. I like my “Ingle side” but wherever I hang my hat is home to me.
I do hope you both keep well. Keep strictly away from the “flu.” Yes we know how Cyril got the flu, from the young lady school teacher. In these back woods every boy is sweet on the “schoolmarm,” usually a girl about 20. There are only 3 grown boys in this school district of 12 sq miles and no big girls so the Schoolmarm is “it.” When the “flu” was so bad we closed the school and schoolmarm went home about 50 miles away. When we were ready to resume school, she couldn’t come [illegible] having the “flu” then the whole family had it as soon as able she returned and all the three boys called on her Sunday eve. And all the three boys took down with the “flu” the same day as each other. I had been among “flu” patients on & off for weeks & the Dr said he didn’t think I would catch it I was in such rigorous health. But I’m not now, can’t get strong. Feel pretty good some days then have a sinking spell and am set back again. But as there seems to be no organic trouble I hope to gradually wear it out. Lawrence (Frances’ husband) has been ailing ever since he had the flu last September. Wrote them today to all come to the farm for 3 months.
Good by dear old Sis o’mine.
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Will forward some photos to Alice they are good.
Will send back Pier photos in my next.
Willow Springs, Mo.
May 1st 1919.
My dear old Sis. & Hubert.
Your very dear letter of Apl [sic] 13 reached me yesterday and how I did enjoy it. You make everything so interesting. Your travels and experiences stand out so naturally that I seem to live them over with you. I wonder where you got your literary genius. I look over our family, and think of Sister Mary, the best story teller I ever knew. She could make me laugh, cry, or my hair stand up with fear. No trouble to her. Then Burton could write a good letter, interesting & clear. I always expected and experienced a treat when I saw his writing on the envelope. Alice is the one in our family who picks up the trait. She can relate facts interestingly, and I often say to Mama that her letters and yours need the signature to distinguish them apart. But can you tell me where you lit your torch. Our parents weren’t literary or educated, and their antecedents as far as I know were not superior to them. Father like the Fox’s [sic] had a good address, but his knowledge was gained more from experience than by study, what I would call superficial. And I have a number of his letters none of which impress me as being literary, and so I can but think that you must have caught the spark from mother. I never knew very much of mother’s inner thoughts. But I knew enough of her character to stamp her on my mind as a woman of unusual high ideals and strength of character with no equivocation between right and wrong. No middle ground, either one or the other, and I have striven to remember and copy that example as I tell my children, “You will hear many people assert that it is more difficult to live a good life now than it was when people lived simply. Life is now more complex.” But life is no more complex than heretofore. It is just the same old question of right and wrong. Don’t look at life in a general and collective way, just simply decide every question as it presents itself. Is it right or wrong? Then you will find life just as simple as our forefathers had it. But where did Mother get her superior qualities? I’ve been to Somercotes and have seen the bunch of relatives there. But that doesn’t answer the question. Oh well! What does it matter. I don’t know why I have given the tho’t so much importance. You have the gift and I enjoy it, without knowing its origins. I have time now to dream and fuss over questions which if I were busy would lose their importance. I’m slowly improving but old Dame Nature is so slow. And I’m so impatient. I have had several set backs because I overdid my strength and have had to go back to bed. I can seem to get so far but not beyond that point. Got so I can walk outside and then the garden looks so inviting that I just must single out a row of turnips or pull a few weeds, no work to it. But just when I’m enjoying myself I feel that awful fainting and I collapse in a tremble and it takes another week to bring me out of it again. But I can tell I’m gaining a little and hope to have sense enough to let well alone hereafter. You can tell by my writing I am shaky. But I live on the best and eat & sleep good. Have no pain and am not in the least “blue.” We have lots of fun over my being so weak. Mama says she has me now just where she has wanted me for 30 years. She’s the boss now and I threaten what I’ll do when I’m strong. We’re never downhearted for long at a time.
Dorothy’s little girl died last Sunday. We couldn’t go to them, which I greatly regretted. Mama wouldn’t leave me. Poor Dorothy. We feel greatly relieved that at last she is released from her great burden borne for 9 long years. But they both [illegible] more attached to their helpless child than if she had been normal and were disconsolate. The end came suddenly, just time to get a Dr there. I suppose a blood vessel on the brain ruptured. We were always afraid that Dorothy would collapse first.
Am glad you enjoyed your trips to Skegness & [illegible] and hope your colds didn’t develop into anything worse.
How vividly I remember B Hall. It seemed such a rambling old house but I forget any dog-gate at the bottom of stairs. What is it? Something to keep the dogs from going to bed with you? Also had forgotten the inscription on sun-dial. But I’d be afraid to go in the old place for fear I would attract cancer germs. They say we’re all afraid of something and I’m afraid of cancer & pneumonia. I told the Dr I was afraid I had C of stomach as he couldn’t seem to locate the cause of my weakness. But he didn’t seem to think so.
Frances & Lawrence & their boy are here and they brighten things up. Lawrence is taking a bushel of photos so hope to send you some if they are any good. Will get him to take the old cabin for you.
Things are looking lovely now. All boys home but Harold in this vicinity. They’re holding his Div until the Gmns sign up. Hope they’ll hurry.
Time to quit. Fondest love my dear old Sis. Hope you’re both well & happy.
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Willow Springs, Mo.
Sunday June 1. 1919.
My dear Sister & Hubert.
I can tell right now that I’m not going to write you a letter worth the postage for I’m listening for the ‘phone to ring, with Harold’s voice on the other end. For we are expecting him home on every train. He landed in New York May 22nd. He mailed us a card before he landed on the docks. No good to telegraph us for a card would come quicker than a wire. 27.000 of them landed in one day. He came over on the Imperator and the Leviathan started the same day but the Imperator kept ahead of her for 4 days then the Leviathan forged ahead and spite of every effort beat them by half an hour to dock. Quick trip 7 days from Brest to N. York. We next rec’d a letter from him at Camp Upton which is on Long Island where they went for inspection & delousing. They deloused them at Brest. Then again on the 6th day of voyage. Then again at debarkation camp and besides that every soldier has to strip off every day & make a thoro’ search for them. They claim there hasn’t been a single cootie got in the country. We have lots of cooties in this country but they are harmless as they are not innoculated [sic] with Typhus germs like the European cooties are.
Haven’t heard any more from him so have to depend on newspapers for movement and from these we learn that his regiment paraded in St Louis on Friday last 30th for that is “Decoration Day” here. And from there they were going to camp Funston, Kansas, to be discharged. This was the camp he went to when he left the farm a green boy, now he returns a seasoned veteran. He wrote from Camp Upton, for Cyril to have the horses harnessed ready for him when he came home, for he wanted to plow again so eagerly. So the war will soon be over for us we hope.
We received your welcome letter of May 5th O.K. Oh my! You are still hampered with food regulations. I bet you’re tired of folks telling you how much you may have, but I hope you’ll soon be free. We resume two cents postage July 1st, do you? Rec’d your newspapers O.K. Many thanks. Knew you would enjoy Tenny’n [sic] lecture when I read of it. I know I should have liked it, altho’ I’m not very familiar with his poems. Have two books of his selections but somehow they don’t hit me as hard as Browning’s “Prospice.” Your lectures or I believe it was the chairman in his introduction mentioned that some tho’t Tenny’n rather weak so others must have felt something like me, but I have never read his complete works. Oh! There’s so much I should like to know that I do not know. But I’ve been so busy all my life scratching with the rake like Bunyan describes. But it just seems like a man never never amounts to anything unless he concentrates on his work. And if he does this he must neglect the trimmings. In the next life I hope will have more time or a better inclination. I used to rush off to the shops early, and rush all day and be so busy that many a day I’d feel guilty because I’d never tho’t of Mama all day. And when I got home I’d have to give her a good time to square my conscience. Then the children had been studying all day at school so wanted a change in the evenings and we would have music or take a long drive and so for years I couldn’t find time for much reading. Generally kept a book on my desk for odd minutes. Books that were almost out of place there. I remember I read Plutarchs lives that way. And for months I had old Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat in one of the drawers of my desk. I remember one stanza now.
“The worldly hope men set their hearts upon
Turns ashes — or it prospers; and anon,
Like snow upon the desert’s dusty face
Lighting a little hour or two — is gone.”
I always tho’t of Bobby Burns when I read this.
“But pleasures are like poppies spread,” etc in Tam O’Shanter.
Guess I’d better close down on this chat, as what I used to do may not be of interest to others now. Harold was more to the point in his letter he said “I’ve laid a hundred dollars aside in one pocket and I’m going to spend every cent of it for pie, pie, pie, pie, pie. Ha. He’s sure hungry for pie. I bet Mama has about 40 different kinds spoiling for him and makes fresh ones every day for fear she wouldn’t have fresh ones for him. You know American pies are shallow the size of a plate. More like Mother’s big “tarts.” Some have an upper crust, but most have only lower, with filling an inch thick. Those 27.000 boys marched off the ship past long tables stacked up with pies & each one had his fill (free). It took some pies & this many nearly every day or two.
Good bye my dear old Sis, and a fond hug & kiss — on both cheeks. And if you’ll risk the germs — on your lips. I kissed Mama’s cheek this morning when we both looked out of the window to see the sun’s rays streaking up back of Taterhill, and it looked so pretty & pink I told her I’d sure have to pink up the other. 60 yrs old & likes to be kissed yet. I used to think that women grew old but they don’t.
Left this line & held the letter to tell you Harold . . . [remainder of sentence is missing]
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2 cts postage again.
Love to Aunt Polly.
Willow Springs, Mo.
July 20th, 1919.
My dear Sister & Hubert.
Your dear letter of June 1 did not reach me until the 24th and I had a little set back and haven’t been feeling as good as usual but am O.K. now. Think I am gradually getting the best of these “spells.” It is very hot & dry for one thing and one has to be careful even when they are well & strong. It has been 110º in shade around us but I have not noticed it get up to one hundred here yet. But close to that mark day after day. Our crops are now suffering for want of rain. Wheat is harvested and early maize is nearly [illegible] but much of the crops are late on account of excessive & continuous rains when we ought to have been seeding. The wheat is a record breaker and there ought to be a reduction in the price of flour soon. I saw where they had raised the price of coal in England. It seems curious that the price of food is falling in Germany and rising here where we raise so much. There must be a moral in the coincidence, but for the life of me I can’t see it only to account for it by profiteering. A farmer doesn’t have to buy much but I’m thinking of the other fellow. And it isn’t the farmer who is getting the big prices. Cattle have made quite a drop since peace.
Peace, say! Sis o’mine I can’t feel peace and fear I never will again to Germany. I have no use for any of the ilk or for anything they have to sell. Personally the war is still in full swing between me & them and will be until they have a change of heart. And can a leopard change his spots? I doubt the efficacy of the League of Nations but am willing to try it for we certainly shall not escape a still worse war unless it in some way can save us.
Harold reached home June 7th O.K. Lawrence took a snap of us just when we stepped out of the carriage under the flag the same place when 14 months before he bid us goodbye and saluted the flag for which he was going to fight and stepped in the buggy and drove away. I tell you it was a happier bunch this time when he again stood at attention and saluted after doing his duty. He’s just the same old boy after going thro’ the mill. If anything, a bit quieter and he always was quiet. Can’t get him to talk much. When we are all sitting and lying on the lawn after dark these hot nights he will tell us some new item of adventure that I should have told first off. We are still hearing of things that seem important to us but commonplace to him. He was 105 days actually fighting. Did not change his clothes from Sept 12 to Nov 11 and he said they were nearly dropping off him. They were in shreds. They were half way across the Meuse on a pontoon bridge with the Germans contending for every foot, when the signal “cease firing” came Nov 11th at 11 a.m. It looks foolish to me to sacrifice the men in hundreds up to the last minute when the armistice was signed the night before. Many a man got shot and bayoneted on that pontoon bridge I expect just a few minutes before the end. I don’t think that was necessary for he says all they did was to march back to their side of the rive. But oh! it was so still. They didn’t do any hurrahing much they were all nerved up and tense altho’ the fight had suddenly ceased. They were almost speechless except for commonplace orders. And it took some time to relax and sleep that was what they all did. Built camp fires for the first time and got warm and then slept. Since Nov 1 they had been fighting without rest only snatches in the rain. Night & day they had been advancing in the Argonne-Meuse drive. Ahead of artillery and ahead of kitchens. Rifled dead Gmns kits for something to eat. Days where they never had a bite. You have heard the same story from your boys, but the English were better organized and could care for & feed the boys better. We had a terrible transportation and artillery. Congressional investigations are the order of the day here now investigating the useless sacrificing of the boys for lack of support & supplies. But Harold never kicks. Says it was out of question to expect the artillery and kitchens to keep up with them in such a rough wooded country, the way they pushed the Huns back. One kitchen managed to reach them one night and they were all lined up, in his platoon, for mess when a Gmn shell fell right among them & killed & wounded 28, mostly killed. He was missed. Then another time he was in the trenches standing on the firing step watching the shells explode in no man’s land. One sent a piece of shrapnel casing and plowed in the ground just in front of his face. Then another time going across no man’s land to raid the Gmn trenches in the night a bullet grazed across his forehead burning a streak. They raided the trenches every night he said in order to take prisoners for information.
He speaks of the inefficiency of some of our officers. One night they were sneaking across no man’s land to raid the Gmn trenches, was getting pretty close to them when their Lieutenant got rattled and nervously called out “Platoon Halt!” You may guess how the Gmns mowed them down. They crawled back the best they could at least some of them did and unfortunately the Lieutenant for one. But he was reduced to ranks.
They called for volunteers to go thro’ the Gmn lines & capture the town of Nouart [?] about 3 miles back of Gmn lines one night. The Gmns were fighting a rear guard action with machine guns to protect the troops retreating. They crawled thro between the machine guns & captured the town & held it until reinforcements came up next day. For this the Captain and Lieutenant received Distinguished Service Medals but the non coms and privates didn’t get anything. There were only 40 of them in the bunch when they started but they surprized [sic] the Gmns left in the little town and only took one prisoner.
These little things keep dribbling out in our conversations, and we prize them as our part of the war. As he says such things are or were of daily & hourly occurrence and just a part of the day’s work. But they seem important to us for if a fellow here accidently fires off a gun it is sure to hit someone while those boys were exposed all the time and escaped. Harold was never sick a day or wounded. He told me of a bit of good shooting. He and his squad of 7 men were detailed to flank a machine gun nest & take it. It was nearly ½ mile off and he had only 3 men left when he saw the mch [sic] gun crew running across a small open space. So he called out “There they go. Sight 800 yds, fire at will” and he fired too. There were 6 or 8 men running and afterwards when they fought up to that place they found they had killed 3. And another one was propped up against a tree nearly bled to death with a bullet thro’ his thigh. Had his belt strapped around to stop the flow, but the boys couldn’t stop to help him. Had to keep up the fight.
But this is enough. Just wanted to give you a glance of the war from the Fox angle. A very small part but ours. Am trying to get you some pictures, but Lawrence is a busy man and Frances thinks she’s busy and I never can get pictures from them. They have gone back to St Jo’. If they would sene negatives I’d soon have some pictures but maybe I’ll get ‘em.
Goodbye with best love & thanks H. for newspapers & daisies & forgetmenots [sic].
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Willow Springs, Mo.
Sunday Aug 3. 1919.
My dear old Sis & Hubert.
Sunday m’n’g, clear & as yet cool. By & by tho’ it will be hot eno’. Not often I get to my desk this early, but I’m off duty for a few days, for I had a slight accident on Friday. I am sure the champion clumsy fellow of the U.S.A. or I prefer people to say that this is my unlucky year. Ha! It lets me down easier. On Friday mng the boys and I had a bunch of cattle in the corral to vaccinate for “Blackleg.” They were a little wild and the first one Cyril roped was using him pretty rough but Harold jumped to his assistance when the animal threw itself off its feet and flopped down on its back. This is a common trick of a wild steer. But I was just a trifle too slow, for it fell on my right foot & struck my leg with enough force to break the small bone (Fibula) half way between knee & ankle. It cracked so loud that the boys hear it at the end of the rope. But I could walk to the house as this is an unnecessary bone since we quit climbing trees. Just a little painful. I helped Mama to can tomatoes tho’ [sic] yesterday so as to be easy on it and will rest today then I think the soreness will have disappeared and I’ll be O.K. Just bandaged it up my self. Mama says, “You have always been so active that you can’t realize you are getting slow.” I guess she’s right or it never would have happened. I feel ashamed of getting caught. The boys will say I’ll have to admit they can beat me, and that hits hard. Ha! But as you say, ‘Nuff said.
Of course you know we have had one month of universal prohibition in this country. Best thing that came out of the war. We have had prohibition here in Missouri ever since before we came here to live. But July 1, the whole country went dry until all the army is immobilized. But on Jan 16, 1920, the new amendment to the Constitution calling for universal prohibition goes into effect, and I don’t think they will resume the sale of intoxicants just for a few months. They might tho’ to be strictly fair. However it will make no difference to this family. We are all abstainers. The boys have never tasted intoxicants. If England would cut it out there would be more grain & money for food.
Had no rain from July 8 to Aug 2 and very hot so the crops are injured but we got a good rain yesterday which will greatly improve things. Told Mama I wasn’t going to worry over drouth [sic] this year, as often I had tho’t we were going to starve, but always had barns full before winter came. Just more work. I wish I had a hundred acres of that Lincolnshire black dirt. We’d sure raise some crops.
You would be disgusted with this hill soil. It has never been finished, loose rocks from the size of a marble to as big as I can lift mixed in the soil. And after a rain one could pick up tons & tons of them. And we do pick up the large ones, but we think the small ones help retain moisture in the ground. You know it’s always damp under a rock or piece of board lying on ground. Some growers lay rocks between their rows of strawberries to keep them moist and the fruit clean. We grow acres of strawberries here, but I can’t handle such things. The work is too tedious but I like my garden work. That is just a small affair of course and a nice change from field work.
Harold is hard at work with us. We had neglected the place. Had been busy growing our crops and had let little repairs to buildings & tools & implements go undone so Harold has been busy as he can’t stand that kind of work.
I’ve offered the boys 80 acres each if they want to settle down here but at the same time advised them not to do so if they want to make money. This is a healthy place and easy to make a living but not a good farming country like some. Something like Derbyshire is to Lincolnshire. When I came here I wanted a healthy place more than money. The girls & boys needed to get out of town, and that part has been a success, but the boys should find a good farming country to settle in. My land lies all together like this [included a drawing of rectangular property, ¾ mile long, ½ mile wide, divided into thirds] and I give Harold the East 80 and Cyril the West 80 and Mama & I keep the middle 80. I tell them we will build them each a house & buildings and get them started but Harold says that if he got married the girl would sure want to do one thing when he wanted to do another and there he would be. Ha! Mama was there when he said it, so I said “You mustn’t judge all girls by Mama. There are some O.K.” Ha! Mama had to chase me out. Wish you were here to take Mama’s part. We just have lots of fun every day. Don’t know what the boys will do but if they settle somewhere else I’ll soon follow.
Goodbye both. Hop [sic] Hubert enjoyed his trip to London. I liked to live there. Can see the best of anything. Should like you to live there. I know I’d get some good letters when you went exploring.
Fondest love. Wonder if Ethel is married. No one gave the date.
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Willow Springs, Mo.
Sept 14. 1919.
Dear old Sis o’mine & Hubert.
Your letter Aug 24 arrived Wednesday 10th, telling of your trips to Brim. Macelesfld [?] & Sowersby. You are more of a traveller [sic] than I am now. And if you go to London what a time you will have exploring, I know I’ll have some good treats when you tell me about it all. I remember stumbling onto “Bunhill Fields,” where Jno Bunyan is buried and Isaac Watts the Hymnist. It’s a little, out-of-the-way gave yard, seems to be surrounded by factories, but I know you can find it. And when you do you will remember that I stood there about 45 years ago. If I ever returned to London I should have to hunt up my little old lodgings at Mt Pleasant, Grays Inn Road, where dear old sister Mary came to see me and I let her have my room while I bunked with another boy in the adjacent room. And then I should have to go down in the “City” to the little old shop where I worked, in “Lime Street” just a dark room where we worked by gaslight all day. I expect its torn down now, you go down Lombard St from the Mansion House and a little way down Fenchurch St. Then there is a little narrow street more like an alley running north connecting Fenchurch Street with Leadinhall Street. That is Lime Street and that’s where I worked. But they had me working out in the banks and wholesale places most of the time and I worked nearly all winter fitting up show rooms in what was then a new bldg where Leadinhall St & Fenchurch St came together. I expect the bldg is still there, came to a point on the East end like a flat iron [drew a simple map]. You’ll be going down that way to Whitechapel and Petticoat Lane, some day and then you can see about where I worked. Where I worked in those big tea warehouses they used to give me paper bags full of tea, thinking I was married. I used to give them to the old lady where I roomed. I can remember things that transpired those days better than lots of more recent happenings. I heard Spurgeon preached at his tabernacle and Moody & Saukey at the Agricultural Hall.
I think I could still find my way around anywhere from Regents Park to Hyde Park & down to the City. Worked in Regents Park College for 6 or 7 wks. A boat load of gunpowder exploded on the canal which runs thro’ the park and it blew every door & window out of this large building. They called it Reg PK Palace, said someone willed it to the Prince Consort, and he refused to accept it and gave it for a college. Suppose it’s there yet.
Then you can take trips into Surrey & Kent & around. They sent me to put up a new stairway in a big house somewhere in Surrey, and the villiage [sic] had a regular “villiage green.” And the bedroom at the Inn where I stayed had a plaster floor. Cold & chilly. I had to fill up on hard cider & old ale to keep warm. That was the only real villiage green I ever saw.
Oh! You’ll make any place interesting when you describe it, you observe. Had to laugh at the Somersby man losing his swarm because he had no proper hive. Any old box would do for a home until he could get a better one. Then he could have transferred them. I came home one night and found a swarm hanging on a tree. Didn’t have even an old box handy but found an empty nail keg & bored a hole for a door and put them in & they made it full of honey. Then next spring I put them in a proper hive.
Since you reminded me I remember the dew on the cobwebs on the grass & hedges when it was going to be a fine day. We don’t see that here. What funny lingo they talk. I couldn’t understand. But I remember we used to use curious expressions. For one thing we were “starved” when we felt cold. I often think of some of our expressions & repeat them to the boys.
I had a good laugh at Harold. He was telling me of the few days he spent at Winchester & while there they took them out for a hike and on reaching the end of their march they were allowed to rest awhile and they all sat down on the banks on each side of the road, right in the beds of “nettles.” Ha! Never saw one before. “Why he said our hands immediately were all over blisters. What is it you call them?” There are no stinging nettles in this part of the country. Told him they needed to use some dock leaves.
He says that Belgium isn’t nearly as devastated as France. He stayed at a large dairy in Belgium. Quite as modern as an American one, had electric lights thro’ the barn and outbuildings, thorobred [sic] cattle and fine horses. The Gmns [sic] had just retreated thro’ there and hadn’t seemed to molest them, after holding possession of them for four years.
We were eating breakfast Friday morning when Harold said, “a year ago this mng [sic] we went over the top at bare daylight.” Then I tho’t of it being Sept 12th the anniversary of the St Michael drive, his first open warfare. I said “Did you run into the Gmns right away.” Yes! he replied. Jumped right into their arms, but soon had them going. Had nothing to eat all day, dug up some Gmn grub at night, but next mng they had rallied and had strengthened their line and they held us until noon. When we broke thro and got them running and they never made another stand on that drive. Just tried to get out of our way. And they were in such masses that our artillery did terrible execution.
My leg is about O.K. Discarded my cane a week ago. We are all well and busy harvest’g [sic] maize, cane, kafir, etc. Potatoes harvested, very good. Still hot 96º in shade today.
Rec’d H’s card from Kew. So pleased when he thinks of me, am going to write him. The Brim boys take no stock in Uncle Dan.
Meat has come down a little here. Bought a piece this week for 15 cts (7½d) per lb. Hope your grub will soon take a tumble & have plenty.
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[“3” (page number) & “Dec 28/19” written at top of page, but letter was written before Christmas]
. . . but now I feel O.K. and am going to work out my own salvation. I’m a great believer in will power.
We had a good “Thanksgiving Day” (the last Thursday in November). Had roast ‘possum for dinner. Yum! Yum!! I wish you could have had some. We shall try & get a wild turkey for Christmas. We remembered that we rec’d Harold’s cablegram last Thanksgiving Day, saying he had come thro’ O.K.
Yes we get some little fresh story out of him nearly every day. He told me yesterday of the time he was a runner carrying dispatches. They had driven the Huns back to the Hindenburg line and was holding them waiting for dark to dig their trench when he was sent with a dispatch and had to cross a half mile of open field running paralelle [sic] to the Gmn [sic] trenches. He would be exposed all the way, but it was full of shell holes and he tho’t he could perhaps hide. He had to carry his rifle & full kit and he started across and they began to snipe him not only with rifles but with a one pounder using shrapnel. They first dropped a little short, next went a little beyond, but at last they got his range and he was like a rabbit dodging from one shell hole to another trying to get back which he succeeded in doing and went around the open field.
Mama says its time for children to go to bed so good night my dear old Sis. Have a Merry Christmas this year. And with renewed love for you for another Happy Year in which we all join. And a hug & kiss from me.