Daniel Fox’s Letters, 1920
My own dear Sister,
Three weeks ago this morning you were writing me, in your sunny siting room, enjoying early Spring. And consulting my diary I find on that date we had one degree below zero. We sure have had a wintry March. We had experienced an extremely mild winter until March cam in “like a lion” and it has been on that order all the month. We haven’t plowed a furrow yet and should have at least 25 or 30 acres already planted. We are not going to get in a big crop for we can’t put in seed after the middle of May as it does no good if planted after that date [illegible} drouth & heat. I don’t expect to raise much crop anyhow . . . .
. . . so the turkeys left.
Have just been bracing the hen house. The wind must be blowing 75 miles per hour and a “twister” caught the hen house a building 70 ft long and just about demolished it and the flag pole is bent into a horizontal position. It’s a terrible day.
Rec’d a dandy letter fm Hubert and while I value it highly, still I know he doesn’t like letter writing and I don’t want to bore him and shall be perfectly content to get a card & a line once in awhile.
Hope you are both well, we are all O.K. And also I hope they don’t sell your house. Will be thinking of you Easter and hope H will come and give you a good time.
I’ll go to bed. Was up all night with a sick cow, so am getting sleepy.
Fondest love to you my dear old Sis & happy days.
* * *
Dear old Sis o’mine.
June 1st was a memorable day for me for I had a letter shower. One from you, one from Ethel and one from Hilda all written on the same Sunday, May 16, and in addition we also received the circuit letter containing letters from each of the girls. So we had a genuine deluge of “Cherio” whatever that may mean. But I guess it at good cheer.
And to “cap the climax” it was raining and I could just enjoy & read & re-read them with a clear conscience. I sure had a good day. Thank you very much for your share in giving it to me.
I rec’d the two “Punches” and the card from Baslow. You always remember me. Ethel’s lines have surely fallen in pleasant places. She seems to have got just outside of the eddy of the whirlpool which seems to be almost engulfing the rest of the world, just in the edge of the quiet waters, where a home is provided with the position where she is only slightly affected by the maelstrom that troubles the whole of us more or less. Even to my dear old Sis. who always seemed so comfortably fixed that nothing was to be feared while health was hers and Hubert’s. If you were here I’d build you a shack in a week that you could call home sweet home. But I know you would say “excuse me.” You are no pioneer and have been used to a cozy crib. Hope H. will have luck and find some nice place for you. I told you in one of my recent letters that Jo’ was paying 50 dollars per month rent. Now she tells me she has to pay $80. That’s tough, but Detroit is about the worst place in the U.S. for extortion. It is the center of the automobile industry & manufacturing and the men make big money and the profiteers sit around and invent new schemes to grab it from them. Harold said in his last letter that he thought it would end in a scrap over here, meaning revolution. But I won’t entertain any such notions. He imbibed quite a lot of radical ideas while he was in the army “over there.” But old as I am I’ll shoulder arms against any party who undertakes to down law & order. The world will become sane again by & by. Looks like it had hysterics now. Oh! I don’t want to waste my precious space writing about it. You know and have faith in humanity yet I believe.
The summer is progressing. All May was rain and none in June & very hot. 94º in the shadiest coolest place I can find today. And about same all month. Crops need rain. We are enjoying all kind [sic] of new “garden truck” and fried chicken. So we expect some of the girls & families soon. They always come when fried chicken is ripe. Mama has 140 about ready for the frying pan. We have a few peaches. The early ones will soon be ripe & later ones to October. Tho’t they were all killed but find enough for home use.
I’m not doing much these hot days. Milk 4 cows early & then late, before and after heat. Up at 4.30 but take a siesta at noon. Mama and I both feeling fine. Have only 15 acres in crops to tend, which seems like a big garden but it is enough to cultivate these hot days.
This is locust year and the forest is just one chorus of trills. The millions of them make a big noise. They are the 17 year locusts, i.e. make their appearance every 17 yrs. These will deposit their eggs in holes they bore in the small branches of trees and then die. Then the eggs will hatch and the larvea [sic] will bury in the ground and stay there for 17 years and then come out full grown like these. There are several swarms that come out in different years. It is 13 years since we had our last here, the second year we were on the farm. So we will have another swarm in 4 years. They don’t hurt crops. Damage young apple trees a little by boring the twigs full of holes in which to lay their eggs. But we have endless miles of forest for them to use so they do little damage to orchards. They have a “W” on each wing which of course stands for “war.” That’s what the natives affirm. They are really not a locust but a cicado [sic]. Our grasshopper is the true locust, about 2 inches long. When they come in swarms they clean all the crops up, but I”ve never seen them in such numbers.
The family are all well & prosperous here. Hope same in England.
The boys say they’re getting along O.K. They ought to these days of high wages. They make on an average abt $8½ per day each. Just think 35 shillings per day. It’s ridiculous for such work as sawing timber. They ought to save money.
Good by love. God bless my dear old Sis and find her a home.
Fondest love. Hello Hubert.
* * *
My dear old Sis.
Your dear letter of July 4 with its enclosure of priceless pictures is here and I’m the happiest fellow in these hills to have so good a picture of you. Tears came unbidden when I saw you, so much like your girlish self as I remember you. Seems you have changed so little. It is sure a gem and I hope I can get a good enlargement from it. Oh! for the negative. Hubert is a master at “lighting.” I feel greatly indebted to him. I think both of you look much better than in the large pictures you sent me. Lillian and husband were just returning to their home the day the pictures arrived so they saw them, and everybody exclaimed “Isn’t she young?” You both look to be perfectly care free and but for your letter telling of house troubles I should imagine life was one sweet song. But of one thing I am perfectly assured, you make a practice of looking at the sunny side. For if you ever had any wrinkles of care during the war you have now shed them. Dear old sis o’mine, you’re just a “peach.” So there! You’re knitting aren’t you?
What a lovely farming country Lin’e [sic] is. And the winding roads & hedges & hawthorn & daisies I can smell them all & want to come. Hubert picked gems. He’s an artist among all his other accomplishments. That old ferry scow looks incapable of drowning anyone, but water is treacherous. With your letter came a card from Elsie with a view of Dovedale, so much like the scenery in these hills. Ozark Mountains they are called but they are like the Peak of Derbyshire. Just picturesque hills not very good for farming but healthy to live in.
We had Lil & husband here for 2 weeks and of course enjoyed their visit and they enjoyed it too. They like to ride and swim. Frank is an adept in the water and Lil can just do plain swimming. So they made daily excursions to the creek, about a mile distant. When they missed doing that they would take a duck in the brook that runs thro’ the farm. For water is grateful when the weather is so hot, 100º to 104º in shade. And we are thankful to have plenty, altho’ we have had no rain yet. Just imagine hot as it is and no rain since June 1st. Vegetation is dry & crisp. Crops withering and a poor prospect for next winter but the drouth [sic] is not universal. Seems to be mostly in South Missouri. Plenty of rains where the boys are in Iowa. For they are still there and likely to remain there for some time as they appear to be doing well.
Rec’d letter from Alice yesterday. They are still having earthquakes at Los Angeles. Some days they have four. It has continued for a month but apart from toppling over chimneys and breaking plate glass shop windows and shaking down plaster it has not hurt them much. They get out of the house as quickly as possible and try to get where things can’t fall on them, if they are out riding in their cars they don’t feel it.
Margaret (Alice’s daughter) has just graduated from high school. She is eighteen and so I’ll soon have a grandaughter [sic] married I suppose. Guess I’ll enclose the sheet of Alice’s letter telling about how they graduate here. You seem to know Alice, and may be interest in her’s & Jim’s doings. The other girls you never saw so I do not ring [?] them in on you. I want Margaret to go to college now and study medicine and be a doctor but she has not yet come to any decision what she wants to be. Perhaps will be satisfied to be just married & spoil my dreams. Oh! She’s smart and I wanted a Dr in the family. We need one. But Winifred’s girl (Maxine) is just as bright and as big as Margaret and will graduate soon. So I’ll keep wishing. I know I should have made a good Dr or surgeon if I had had the opportunity. You used to be quite a homeopathic doctor. Do you still follow it? Lil was telling me about having her appendix removed and my fingers just itched to make an incision. Ha! I’m going to be a student when I get to Sir Oliver Lodge’s “other side.”
Good by dear old sister. Your precious photo will cheer me by the hour together, and when I think of house troubles I’ll say “Cheerio” as I look at you and I know they can’t scare you. You have the blood of the old martyrs. You and I could go to the stake for a principle good old Sis.
Fondest love, Cheerio.
* * *
My sweet old Sis.
I’ve saved you until last. Have written Hubert, A.C. & Aunt Mary so I’ve everything off my mind and can devote the remaining hour before retiring wholly to you. Today has been an oasis in the winter, a bright balmy day. When a fellow likes to be outside and bask in the sun and have all the doors and windows open. When I invite Mama for a walk across the farm to the persimmon grove. Taking along a bucket to fill with those “Missouri Dates,” for they are delicious now. Having had sufficient frost to thoroughly ripen them, for until they have been frozen they are so astringent they pucker up your mouth like as much alum. There will be a few left for the boys when they come at Christmas but they are being thinned out. The trees were loaded this year but birds & ‘possums and cows & all things seem to be greedy for them. Those of them who can’t climb trees eat what the wind blows off. When I turn out the calves, mornings, they march straight off to the persimmon patch and when they return their “tummies” stick out they are so fond of them and they do them good for they are full of sugar. People make beer of them. I never had any but expect it is heady. For the sugar would turn to alcohol in fermenting guess it would be illegal to make it now under prohibition. I sold my cider mill because I couldn’t make cider if it had more than half of one per cent alcohol and all cider has unless it is boiled while new and that spoils it for drinking I think. Can’t make wine either so we have to use non-alcoholic grape juice which I think is good for anyone when made of the pure juice like we make it ourselves. But there’s no “kick” to it. Wish I could send you some for Christmas.
Once had an old gentleman and his wife stop here for dinner one Monday. They were travelling [sic] with a horse and buggy. After eating dinner I said they had better stay over night with us & proceed in the morning which invitation they gladly accepted as the weather looked threatening. That night we sat around the hearth and sang. But the next morning we sang another song for there was two feet of snow on level and drifted to cover fences and it was the next Saturday before we could shovel the snow away from the gates to let the old couple go on their journey. But their horses were well cared for as they were themselves and we drank two gallons of wine that week and enjoyed the week immensely. I had made 40 gals that year. I never saw the old couple again but bet they thought of the good time they had.
My! You have to pay for things over there. Our prices begin to appear reasonable will send you a clipping of prices out of yesterday’s paper. Eggs keep up pretty well.
1920 is about gone, my last letter to you I expect. It seems to me that the outstanding development of the closing month is one of worldwide uncertainty and fear for the future. Looks like the world war was a profound disappointment. The fine young men who made up the armies fought to end wars but the results hoped for have not been attained. This may be the dark hour before dawn. Two years after the close of the great war our army & navy budget is four times as much as was spent in 1913. Your Lord Bryce can not be called an alarmist but rather [?] a conservative statesman & he remarks that “the world has been plunged into an abyss of calamity by the war.” Already it seems that jealousies are developing at Geneva. But what’s the good of raking up this stuff at Christmas. We are going to have a good time and hope you & your boy will also be together then I know you’ll be happy. Hope you will be moved to a new location before proceedings for ejectment are begun. I’ll be so relieved to know you are together again if ever it comes.
Will think of you and wish you when Christmas comes. As we wish you now a Merrie [sic] Christmas (forget worries) and a prosperous & Happy New Year.