July 17, 1918 – Letter from Robert to his sister Ruth:
July 17, 1918
Co. B. 140 Inf.
I do not know whether I should write to you or not. I have not heard from you for a long time, but I must write home and no doubt there is a letter from you on the way.
Helen tells me that you were visiting Bess last month. I hope you had a nice time.
It is very hot here now. Much hotter than St. Paul. I don’t know whether I can stand it or not, but I am going to try. Tell Helen I really “wish it was winter” as she used to say.
Some time ago while I was in another town very near the German lines, where there was lots of shooting on both sides, we were never surprised to hear the big shells whistle over us, or burst so close that one feels sure that he is as good as dead. I was standing watching a German airplane which was trying, I guess, to get across the lines, but couldn’t because our anti-air craft guns were too active when I saw a pack mule come galloping down the mountain trail. The poor mule did not have a pack and was not used to the noise of artillery fire. It looked funny to see the poor mule run so fast. We all felt sure that the poor mule was a deserter, when someone said, “Deserter nothing, he is hurrying back for more supplies.” We all laughed but really it was a play with a moral. After that mule made several trips up the mountain he would go along with the rest, hardly noticing the booming. That is just what they have been doing with us boys. Getting us used to it, so when we are called on “to go over the top” we will all be there.
By the time you get this I suppose you will be getting ready to start school again. I hope you will be glad that you have the chance to go. In France when a girl gets to be your age, unless she is very rich, she must work. Lots of girls your age work in the hay fields. I don’t see how they stand it. I don’t believe I could. So be glad as I am glad that you are an American.
We are now camped in a very beautiful little valley. There is a little stream at the bottom where I swim nearly every evening. The big green forest covered hills on each side which we call mountains when we have to climb them. It makes us feel secure from the outside world of war. When the people built the towns here they must have felt the same. It is so peaceful even now that one feels lazy. I imagine that in peace time it is so lazy that there is no progress. You can not help but yawn when you see a team of cows yoked to a wagon coming down the road at the rate of about a yard a minute. Rockford is a busy place compared to this, and you think that is dead.
I suppose you drive the Ford out to the lake real often. I wish I could be there to eat some fruit. There should be lots of apples and cherries this year.
I am going to get my picture taken some time soon and will send you one.
I want you to find my tan shoes and put a can of red Shinola in one and mail them to me. Will you. Now don’t forget.
It is too warm to wear my sweater now but I keep it with me because I know it will soon be cold again. I use it for a pillow now.
Well I must quit now as it is time for supper.
We had macaroni + tomatoes, fried potatoes, bread + coffee tonight.
I am sending you a silk handkerchief. I do not know who would use such a flimsy thing as it is, but it is pretty to look at any way.
Love to all,
Robert was pretty salty in this one – clearly he was getting irked at not getting as much mail as he would have liked. But I think it says a lot that Ruth kept this letter, despite her brother’s tone.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.