Daniel Fox’s Letters, 1913
My dear Lois,
Just a line to say that after many days Dorothy is beginning to improve, very slowly but noticeable. Is still too weak to sit up. Mama is still with her and will remain for some weeks yet. Know you will be wondering how we are getting on so give you the first favorable news I have been able to report. We lost two weeks thro’ Dorothy being so obstinate in her refusal to consult a Doctor. Wouldn’t admit she was ill when she was so weak she had to be lifted around in bed. Couldn’t move herself. Finally I had to insist and she consented, but we had lost so much ground that it has been a question for a week if we could fan the flicker of life, remaining, back to a flame. But I feel that we have succeeded so far if there is no set back.
Dorothy’s attack came on suddenly, a complete collapse. Fell over & her heart stopped and her husband thought she was sure gone. Brought on by worry & over work attending on her little girl and she has never let us know. Christian Scientists are funny people. Won’t admit there is any sickness and Dorothy wouldn’t admit that either her child or herself was ill. — Intolerable nonsense — But we had to proceed very cautiously as Dorothy’s nerves were worn to a frazzle, and we dared not excite her. I have written all the other girls to help me with their influence to try and persuade Dorothy to quit such foolishness if she recovers, and take a more rational view of life and do hope we will succeed.
We missed Christmas & New Year this time but Mama says when she returns we will put them and two or 3 birthdays which are due to celebrate all into one and rejoice at Dorothy’s recovery at the same time. We miss Mama so much. We all seem to live just for Mama. And she for us and when the combination is broken life is all out of joint. Or as Hubert would say of his Engines, we are “running on one side.”
You & Hubert would have a quiet time together I presume unless you went to B. to cheer them with your presence. How much I thought of them all and wished I could say or do something to help them. But no one can help them much this year and for years their Christmasses [sic] will be clouded by its associations.
Many thanks for the prints of the Cathedral. They are beautiful. My boys looked at them for hours, astonished at the magnitude & richness of the work. What are they Hubert? Bromide prints?
We are having so far the driest & warmest winter I ever remember. Hasn’t rained for about 10 or 11 weeks & never has been below 8°. I was going around all yesterday without a coat or vest. It turned cold at night but today it is warm again.
Much love to you my dear Sister & a great big hug. I’m just like an old bear anyhow. Best wishes for the New Year to you both. May it be prosperous & Happy.
* * *
My dear Sister
Just a line to report again, Mama is still with Dorothy (9 wks) but advises she hopes to bring Dorothy to the farm in two more weeks if she continues to improve as at present. Are going to break up housekeeping & pack & store their goods for we expect it will take several months of the bracing air of these hills and farm fare to build Dorothy up to normal again. It has been a long siege but we are all thankful that it is terminating as well as it is. If we can manage to land her on the farm without a set back I’ll be happy. They will leave Ft Scott at 9 pm and go to bed in a warm sleeping car and arrive at Willow Springs 2.30 am, and I will have warm rooms ready for them at the Hotel. And bring them out to the farm in the middle of the next day in a closed carriage with foot warmers & plenty of rugs and a team that will bring them over the 10 miles quickly. Will write you when I have them safely home, so you can rejoice with me. We have needed a “stiff upper lip” on the Farm but Mama has had the hardest part with little rest and the trying responsibility of such a combination of mental & physical sickness. But I expect her to return without showing a trace of the anxiety & labor she has experienced just as fresh as when she went away. Talk about British stamina & nerve. She is a fit sample, with courage of the highest type and an elasticity of physical endurance that seems to respond to every requirement. All sustained by her placid disposition which meets every emergency without a ruffle. Looking back over the 28 yrs we have been married I seem to see little but Mama and she always the same cheerful helpful wife. She understands me and seemed to supply my deficiencies & has been and is now the model for our children. I weave her into my life & conduct just as I weave her into my letters. She is not demonstrative. About all she’ll say when she gets home and we have a quiet minute together will be as she snugs her head on my shoulder and perhaps says “you have helped me so much.” As if I could help her. But she is perfectly unconscious of being anything more than an ordinary little woman who loves her husband & family as all women do.
In place of writing much tonight as it is late I will enclose a letter from Alice which I have just answered & do not require further. It will perhaps entertain you a few minutes and I want to get you inside our family circle now you are going to be one of us. And in order to do this you have to know us. Know our dispositions. Know how we think. And these family letters which I receive about every week are perfectly natural & indicative of the girl who writes them. You saw Alice’s disposition in the letter I enclosed in my last. Now you will see Alice as she is when she loosens up to her Dad. She is like you. I call her Lois many a time unthinkingly. I don’t think she would consider it a breach of confidence to let you see her letter for there’s nothing of importance to her in it, just a chat. I wish you could join in our “Circuit” letter. We have a letter or rather a bunch of letters continually on the move around the family circle. Gets around about every month. No one is allowed to keep it more than 4 days. We each have a letter in it and when it comes to us we take out our old letter and after reading all the other letters we add a new letter on any topic which may have been introduced and matching wits just as if we were all sitting together in a room & having a good family time roasting each other. We have been doing this for quite awhile & it seems to keep us united in the family circle. I wish you could join for you would see some horse play once in awhile when we “get after” some one. The girls’ husbands join in when they have time. This is just a family re-union for each, every month & does not take the place of personal letters. And its a mighty good institution for a large & scattered family like ours. I send it to Alice, she to Winifred, she to Jo, Jo to Lil & Frances, they to Dorothy & she to the Farm & so it keeps traveling month after month.
Good night dear. Hope you are escaping colds & grippe this winter. I haven’t had a cold for years. Never wear a muffler either. Was down to zero Sunday morning the 2nd with 4″ snow. Lots of love & a good hug & kiss from your rough old bear of a brother. Tell Hubert “Hello” and not to work too hard.
Lovingly Bro Dan.
When I received your letter of Jan 22 this morning, I held mine to you, so I could add a little if necessary. You will have rec’d two more reports before this. I tell you its fine to get your dear sisterly chats. Good for you on C.S. or Eddyism as you aptly term it. You nearly used my words to Dot in its dissection. They have been scrapping over Mrs. Eddy’s will ever since she died. She left over two million Dollars and her son testified in court that C.S. was not a religion but a money making scheme, and I wrote Harry (Dot’s husband) to stop paying Dots instructor (a woman demonstrator) and the C.S. outfit would soon quit troubling her as soon as the money stopped. Well Dot has quit it all now I hope & while she is home I hope to lead her mind into saner channels. It was the hope of curing her baby that led her to embrace the doctrine. Mother’s love will adopt any measure they think will benefit their children.
Sure! We get the best kind of feed. You know I used to bake when I ran that little grocery soon after I was married. So I make good bread and can cook anything else, believe I’m more scientific than Mama. The boys hadn’t learned a single thing ab’t cooking except Indian fashion camping in the woods. But I have them trained now so they bake in their turn or cook the meals entire, and they have also made a few fancy chocolate cakes. Guess all mother’s progeny can develop into good cooks. Wish you had been here to Dinner last night. We had “ground hog.” They boys keep us in game, so they brought in two Rabbits & a “Ground Hog” and we roasted the G.H. last night. Good for two meals. Abt 3 times as large as a rabbit. Then we have ‘Possum & Squirrel. Lots of apple sauce & preserves of all kinds, scads of Butter eggs & cream. No trouble to live well, but at the same time would be mighty pleased to have you here to keep house for us. — But good bye. Sure this time will mail in a.m. Another kiss
Lovingly Bro Dan
[Note: “C.S.” is Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875.]
* * *
My dear Sister,
I have them here, all O.K. came thro’ in good shape and no ill effects from the trip. Not much of Dorothy left but am not afraid of that. Am expecting her to build up right along. I am a good companion for the “down & out.” Poor little Dorothy is what we call “all in.” I could pick her up with one hand. She looks like she could crawl thro her wedding ring, but I have her smiling & laughing once in awhile.She has been here about 48 hours & she showed me today how her arms were filling out. Bless her, it’s worth 5 dollars to have her think so. I keep her buoyed up by noticing how she has improved already, and tell her of the wonderful way in which this clear bracing air and crystal water builds people up. And her eyes are brightening with hope, for like all young things she wants to live, and bless her she’s going to live. Mama showed the effects of her long nursing. Looked worn & tired, but now she is home & can leave it to me she is all right, and her cheeks are rosy & firm again. I seem to have an abundance of animal magnetism or something that helps & strengthens everyone with whom I come in contact. I take hold of Mama’s hands & she says it takes the tired feeling away. Same with Dot. She is very weak & sensitive & she says the world & life seems to have a bright outlook when I show it to her. I’ll tell you what it all is, it’s love, the highest activity of the soul, which warms them back to life & health & strength.
Hope you & the boy are well & having a good time. I often think of you back there in civilization with all its privileges. How I could improve my mind by attending lectures & enjoy concerts & public gatherings of almost every kind for I’m a social animal and how honored I would be to have you & Hubert with us.What good social & intellectual times we would have together, for above all I enjoy a home gathering with those we love, where we can discuss subjects of interest in the cozy home circle. But I’m about a hundred years behind, living among primitive men & women, where brawn is favored more than brain, where feats of strength or a quick eye & hand are preferred to wit. I think women are in a measure responsible for this condition as long as they set a standard men will try to attain to it in order to win their favor & I must confess that naturally & constitutionally I live up with these primitive men rather than with the intellectual crowd. For to me there has always been consolation for all the ills of life in a fight. Ha! — I was with a crowd of these men about a week ago and had on a large pair of expensive fur gloves. One of them said “I would like to put you on your back for the gloves.” Off they went on the snow before he was thro’ speaking. All right says I. They are yours when you have done it. I was 60 & he abt 35 but he wouldn’t undertake it. So I get along first rate with these men for I allow myself to revert to my natural disposition. But I enjoy the intellectual society best of course due to the little education I have acquired. But I’ve always been subject to relapses. Ha! When I was 53 I was in Ft Scott a member of the Commercial Club & having for my associates the best society in the City and still one night I fell & whipped a young husky fellow of 25 for offending a lady, right in the public street. Until he had to be loaded in a buggy & taken home & never hit him where he was down either. I know you’ll be shocked, but I don’t want to sail under false colors, and I may reform yet. Mama never says it is wrong to act so, but she reminds me I’m getting too old & will get whipped some day. Ha! She’s English & I dare wager that her progeny will be fighters when necessary but not quarrelsome. — But this stuff will sound crude & out of date to refined ears & it is. So we will forget it. I wld [sic] re-write & exclude only it’s too late & if I confess at the start (for I feel like you & I am starting on a new era of our lives in it’s reference to each other) I shall be thro’.
Lillian had appendicitis last week . Couldn’t get her in the hospital for an operation until next day so Dr stayed with her and before she could be moved to hospital began to feel better & stood out against operation until they heard from me. So I blocked the operation & she’s O.K. about now, but if it returns soon will consent to operation & try & be there with her. But she may never be troubled again, if the inflammation has left no ulcer to break out again.
The girls are playing off on me just now it seems like, causing me lots of trouble. Next will be Jo I expect about St Patrick’s Day. But good bye dear old Sis o’ mine. Don’t worry over me. Ha! We had a big strike once, and somebody said to Mama, “I should think you would worry abt Mr Fox,” for they were shooting. Mama said “I’m most worried for the poor strikers.”
[The last line of this letter was written in the left margin and not legible in the photocopy.]
* * *
My own dear Sister.
Easter Sunday, high wind. Thunder & rain here. Wonder how it has been with you. If it has allowed you to wear your new Duds and go out & pick Daffodils. The day is past with you for it is 9 p.m. here & Monday will soon be dawning with you. I hope you have enjoyed the day, however spent, perhaps you attended Service at the Cathedral and joined in the Hallelujahs of “Christ the Lord has risen today.” Say! If we had been there together we would sure have done our part. I did mine anyhow, way out in these hills. Sat down to the Piano and all joined in that grand hymn and rejoiced. We have to make our own choir & church here, and we can do it O.K. Everybody here eats all the eggs they can hold on Easter Sunday. Mama boils a bucket full. When the children were young we used to color them & ornament them in various ways. We have over a hundred hens so have scads of eggs. Will soon be incubating, are late this year, been too busy to bother with it. Don’t expect to raise more than 300 or 400 for frying thro the summer. Fried chicken is something I never had in England. You would find it good if you tried it. Say when they are about 1½ lbs weight to 2 lbs. Joint them and fry & make milk gravy. We kill about 3 per day when hot weather comes & we can’t eat cured meat. We have salted down about 800 lbs of meat, have to be prepared for a crowd here at any time. Can’t go to Butcher shop or grocers, and Mama is a good provider. She has always lots of fruit & vegetables preserved in glass jars. Suppose you can such things in Eng now. Mama cans hundreds of jars. We had green kidney beans today for dinner, the pods you know sliced up, just like we had picked them out of the garden. We had no peaches last year. But have lots from the year before. We have still got lots of rosy cheeked apples in the bins and about 20 bushels of potatoes left and this year’s crop already planted. Will have to feed them to the hogs. Wish we could share up with you. We always have so much more than we can use, and are too far from town to haul much for sale. I never sell anything scarcely except cattle, hogs, or other live stock. I like my crops to walk to market I say. Have a splendid location for raising stock. Have an unlimited range to pasture them on about 8 months out of the year, and everything except my work horses are on it. Forest as far as eye can see, miles & miles with grass up to their knees, and every valley with its brook of clear cool spring water.
We have 10 springs on our farm of 240 acres, making 3 brooks running in different directions. You would think we would lose our cattle & horses turning them out in the endless forest but it is seldom that any are lost or stolen. I have never lost any cattle or horses, but have lost a number of hogs at times. But have always plenty left. It is unhealthy to steal horses in this part of the country. Have a “horse thief association” and telephone lines in all directions and it is hard to get a horse out of the country without being nabbed, and if caught the punishment is heavy by law, and often they do not bother the law, but just decorate a tree with the thief. We are so far from an officer of the law that we have to be a law unto ourselves very often.
Rec’d the book “Eddyism” on Thursday, so read it Good Friday as it was a stormy day & couldn’t work. We don’t keep good Friday here. Many thanks for it. It’s a dandy, I see you have read it by your notations & marks. Intended to write you this afternoon but got so interested finishing reading it. Will re-read several times I expect.
Dorothy is getting along firstrate [sic]. She has been playing while I’ve been writing so I’ve made several mistakes. Now she is getting baby ready for bed. Harry is coming down for a few days soon. I know he will see a big improvement in them both. I was playing some little hymns for baby tonight so she could sing, and I couldn’t keep the tears back when I heard her voice in “the Sweet by & by.” She can’t sing the words, but I tho’t how soon she might be on that “beautiful shore” and leave her poor head below, and sing in that “land that is fairer than day.” I’ve got so attached to the little helpless girl, she sang herself into my heart.
But it is bed time, have just been talking for about 20 minutes to a neighbor who lives 3 miles distant. He called me over the phone said he was lonesome the night being stormy, so we had a chat on local matters, crops &c, and I got him laughing & feeling fine. Said he was O.K. & had something to think about. Ha! I never am lonely, sometimes a week & never see anyone but our family but we are always busy & happy and have our daily paper & numerous other magazines. We have always something to read & think about.
This isn’t much of a letter dear. Just a bit of homely chat but I wanted to talk to you a bit before I went to bed. I think of you every day & love you, and am going to see you some day. You don’t know how near I came to selling my Ranch last week & that would have meant a holiday for Mama & I & I’ll be doing it some of these days & then you will have a chance to see what we look like.
We of the open country
Men of the Ranch & Range
Bronzed of skin & out to win
Men of the landscape strange
That’s your loving brother Dan.
* * *
Had just rec’d some pictures fm Alice when I wrote to A.C., so asked her to for’d to you, perhaps Alice sent some, if you want one keep it, I won’t count them.
R.D. #1. Willow Springs. Mo.
Apl 13th. 1913.
My dear Sister & Hubert.
I rec’d your dear letter of Mch 10th just after I mailed my last. Wanted to write you last Sunday but had our usual quota of visitors. You must not worry if I write too often. You do not have to reply to each one, just write when you get good & ready. Don’t think that I will count letters on you and sulk if I do not receive as many as I write. I’ll always be happy whenever one comes my way, if it’s only once in awhile. And it is such a pleasure to write you that I want to indulge myself frequently. You know when I love anybody I love them with all my “heart, mind, soul & strength” like I do everything else. I used to dislike in the same proportion but I am more charitable now. I give a person credit for doing what he thinks is right, if it isn’t my way and there is always a possibility that I am wrong. And so today I feel that I haven’t an enemy in the world and have no hard feeling to anyone. It has taken me a long time to attain to this condition, but it was Mama’s way and I saw how happy she always seemed and finally I caught on. She never preaches at me but she has taught me many things for my good.
Say! My fountain pen is kicking. The ink has been frozen I guess I’ll try another one & get some fresh ink when I go to town.
You make me wish hard, when you speak of coming over here for 3 months. If you would furnish the opportunity I would be delighted to finance the trip just for a sight of my dear old sister but I should be afraid to be responsible for it, for the change would be too great. It is either too hot or too cold here. I always felt that the trip cost Father his life for he began his trouble while here. My Dr wanted to operate and said that would be the only remedy but Father wouldn’t submit. Think I’ll have to come to see you. I don’t believe the trip would harm me and I would enjoy it immensely. We are all talking (that is, the whole family) of meeting at San Francisco in 1915, when the Panama Pacific Exposition is held there. Mama has 3 brothers & one sister living on the Pacific Coast, and all have families grown up and we aim to have a regular family reunion, but I would prefer to come to England. It would cost about the same and I should enjoy it more. Mama has no desire to revisit England or rather she would prefer to go & see her brothers & Sister so I have thought that we may divide and one go East the other West with the children from St Joe & Milwaukee, but have not mentioned it yet. But I don’t suppose they will agree to that and I will have to be one of their party. But I will make it one of these days & have a taste of civilization once more.
The book on Eddyism didn’t cost me a cent. If it had cost me a Dollar it would have been cheap. It was just splendid in you to think of me & send it. Have been wondering what I could send you that would interest you but you seem to have the advantage of me in everything pertaining to culture. You surprised me when you told me of Dr. Ballard’s views on our future state. I did expect such doctrine from a Wesleyan Minister. While it is exactly in accord with my belief, still I expected the orthodox preacher was still teaching of a Heaven of Pearly gates and Crowns & Harps and a Hell of Terrors. Letters are such poor substitutes for conversation or I should like to enlarge on this subject for it is of vital interest to me. But someday we will sit beside each other and with your hand in mine I’ll tell you of the things that have brought me serenity and peace & happiness in my daily life and a belief that I shall step over the boundary we call death into a progressive spiritual life beyond. For I believe that the Law of Evolution does not cease with Physical death. I wonder if your public Library contains the following books.
“Harmonies of Evolution”
“The Great Psychological Crime”
“The Great Work”
I have been thinking since your letter arrived whether I might send them for your perusal, but am always so careful not to press my religious views on any one who is satisfied with the views they hold, for the best of us know so little about the hereafter. I once sounded Anne Cutler on this subject, for with all her religion and honest endeavor to live a Christian Life she seemed unhappy and afraid of Death, and knowing how I look forward to Death as a step in advancement, I thought I might assist her. But she said the creed “I believe in God the Father &c” embodied her whole belief, so I did not wish to disturb her views so long as she was satisfied. You, like me had a Puritanical training when young and for years you have been the wife of a true & honest preacher of the word who went to his reward true to the faith. Therefore it will shock you to know that I cannot honestly repeat the above creed and still I am happy as few are and look forward to the future life with joyful anticipation. It seems odd that I have to make you acquainted with your brother this late in life, but we have lost so many years of the past. You were enjoying life with your husband & boy & I was busy, busy, working & loving, and so happy that I was negligent of you. You didn’t need me, and I always like to be needed.
But this is too much about myself. There are others. Ha! — Dorothy’s cheeks begin to have the tinge of Peach bloom. She is not an invalid anymore. Bustles around and it does me good to hear her having a time with the boys. Her husband is coming next week for a few days visit and I tell Dot I am going to furnish her a piece of white chalk to rub on her cheeks and we are going to wait on her and make out she is far from well so Harry won’t take her back with him. Baby’s general health has improved and the milk & eggs have fattened both of them. All the rest of the family at home & abroad are well. Jo’s baby girl arrived Mch 25th, all went well.
The past month has been a very disastrous one for this country. Cyclones & Fire & Flood have caused fearful losses of life & property all over the States. We missed one here by about 5 miles, and one cut thro’ St Joseph where Lil & Frank live and missed them only 4 blocks. — The season is very late this year. Weather very unfavorable for farm work. Have a show for a fine fruit crop so far, but it is not safe yet. Might freeze & kill it all not sure until the 10th of May. You ought to see our Peach Orchard. Over 500 big trees all one mass of pink bloom. Then there is the white Pear & Plum blossom. Apples are not yet in bloom.
Know you are interested in what interests us, so I send you a newspaper write up of Max (Win’s husband) who was recently admitted to the bar, and can now practice in any of the courts up to the Supreme State Court and the U.S. District Court. Max is a great big fellow & a hustler. He sets the pace for us all. He’s bound to go right up. You couldn’t stop him. Bet he’s a judge one of these days, and he just worships Win & the Kids.
Are you tired? Ha! I used to dictate a big bunch of letters every day to a Stenographer so it doesn’t take many minutes to fill a page, when I love you.
Sent Hubert’s love to Frances. She has slowed down on Gym the last few months in favor of dancing lessons.
Mama joins me in love to you both. She has so much correspondence she lets me attend to England but I’ll be sick maybe some day and she will write you and you’ll like her.
[The following note is written upside down in empty space at the bottom of the letter]
Kindly return this letter, haven’t answered it.
* * *
R.D. #1 Willow Springs, Mo
May 4th 1913
My own dear Sister,
Sunday eve. and you are in slumberland I expect, for you are about 6 hours ahead of us. I pray all good Angels to watch over you and give you health & peace and happiness. You are not exposed to many physical dangers I expect. I suppose you have police to patrol the streets to warn you of fire & guard you from prowlers. One of my neighbors last week left home about dark to visit his neighbor about a mile away thro’ the forest. On the way he met with a “mountain lion” and being unarmed was obliged to quickly shin up a tree and the beast kept him there all night until daylight. They are unusual around here but there have been two around this neighborhood all winter and tho’ often seen have managed to elude the hunters. They are kinder (sic) cowardly by day light unless wounded. You scarcely realize over there, tho risks to which children are exposed in going to school in a country like this. The school is in session six winter months only, when the days are short & cold and wild animals get hungry. Our school is in a small clearing surrounded by forest and the parents blaze the trees from their isolated farms to the school house probably 2 miles in some cases so the children won’t get lost & those poor kids have to take chances of being hurt or eaten up in order to get a little education. But they grow up with such experiences & think little of it & grow up fearless & self reliant like their fathers & mothers. The school house is at one corner of my farm but is the only school in the district of 12 square miles, 4 miles long and 3 miles wide. In this whole district there were only 22 children between the ages of 6 and 20 years. I’m the District Clerk and have to ride to every house and take an enumeration of every child of school age each year.
Hubert asks abt telephone. In the first place I am President of the company, but don’t monopolize any special privileges on that ofc. When I first came on the Farm there was a telephone line extending about 4 miles my way from Willow Spgs and I tried & tried to get the owners to extend it to my farm. They promised but never did it, so finally I bought their line & Franchise and built 7 more miles on to it extending abt a mile beyond my farm after it was completed. There were a number of people applied to me for phones so I figured the expense to me for the whole 11 miles and divided it into shares and formed a Mutual Company and whenever I sell all the shares I shall come out even. Until then I am the biggest stockholder and have been President since we organized. We each have a call letter and ring it in “Morse” alphabet, long & short rings to represent the Dashes & Dots in “Morse.” We are connected with “Central” at Willow Springs, which connects us to the whole country. But we can talk with each other on our own line without calling “Central” so have no restrictions as to length of time we use it, always understanding that business takes precedence of chat. A fellow has to take hold and do things himself very often if he wants them done. — When I bought the Farm there was no Rural Mail Delivery out this way at all. Had to go to W Spgs. But before I came to live here we had a daily delivery installed.
Ha! I wasn’t selling the Farm just because I wanted to come and see you, but because I would have made $2500 on the deal. I’ve a bad habit of selling the house over our heads. When in town I would buy a run down house with “possibilities” and I would remodel it and Mama would say just as soon as we got it real nice, away I w’ld sell it and buy another and she would again have to contend with painters, plumbers, Carpenters &c. — It was annoying but I was making money on each deal. And so I’ll sell my farm someday & buy another and we will move to new scenes and if I come to see you I bet you won’t be sick a day. You will meet me at Lpool and in ten minutes you will forget I ever left you. You’ll feel so good and chummy and I’m not going to think anybody’s slow except myself. I’ll be a little afraid of Hubert, but I’ll carry a pocket Dictionary to “head him off.” And I’ll use slang that he won’t understand & so get even with him. And when I begin to stiffen in my joints thro’ inaction, I’ll find someone who wants a horse broken, for altho I’m 60.
“Give me a bronco that knows how to dance
Buckskin of color & wicked of glance.”
I always liked horses, and naturally they like me. When I lived in town I had a stable of as many as 8 trotting horses at once. We have 15 horses & mules out here and they all answer their names. I strolled out this morning before 5 o’clock while Mama got breakfast ready and the horses were eating on the other hill across the valley. I called my favorite, “Kit,” had to call louder & louder until my voice carried the distance. Soon as she heard she raised her pretty head and “nickered” back and started to me leaving the others. We never “break,” but “train.” So patiently. — Harold began to train one last week 3 yrs old. Nervous & high strung. He turned it loose without any bridle in an enclosure & went in and in less than an hour he walked out with the horse following him anywhere like a dog and he had never had a rope or harness on it. This is what we call the “confidence” lesson and is our first one before we attempt to teach anything else. Harold has the patience of an Indian. He & I were coming home the other night by moonlight and we descried a large Hawk or Owl right on the topmost branch of a tall tree. We kill these birds because of their depredations on our chickens. So I held his horse and he started to get within shooting distance. I waited & waited to hear his gun. The horses were restive wanting to go home, but the leaves underfoot were dry & Harold had to move cautiously. I believe he was ½ an hour before his gun spoke & the bird toppled off its perch. Old as I am I haven’t his patience.
Harry came for a few days has returned. Dot feels O.K. but not yet fully fattened up. Want to send her back sleek & fat like the other animals, but believe she must take after me. We are busy plow, plow, plow, Harrow & plant. Teams & men are now toughened up after their winters holiday & are making long hard days but we plant the seed in “hope” of a bountiful harvest later. Jo’s back at her home and she & baby getting along nicely. Letter from Winifred yesterday all well there. Also letter fm Alice. Had been spending few days at the sea coast and sent me box of Sea Weed, shells & sand. My! They smelled good. Must be nearly 20 yrs since I bathed in the Surf in the Gulf of Mexico. — Lil & Frances both well.
You said write you a “Home chat” & I think you are getting it. Ha! I’ll be telling you abt the Dogs & Cats next I guess, and my garden. Wish you could see the flowers. Have always a big bunch on the table and my bees are sure busy. — You don’t know what “bugs” are over there. We have hand shelled bugs 3 inches long and when Father came to see me he wanted to see a mosquito so I caught one of these big beetles and took it to him & said “here’s a mosquito” Father. Ha! He said “Oh! My boy, my boy. Never saw such a thing in my life.” Ha, then I got him the real thing. But we have two insects here that make life miserable day & night. A “wood tick” looks nearly like a bed bug. The out-doors swarms with them. They bury their head in your flesh and when you pry them loose their head often pulls off & remains in the flesh & the poison from the bite lasts for days itching intolerably. And then there is a microscopical insect they call a “Chigger” so minute as to be almost invisible to the eye. They bury themselves in your skin and cause intense itching & puffing up. You just have to bathe with aqua ammonia to kill them & for weeks you only have to rub the spot to start it up again. I was an immune to both when I smoked but the last 2 years have bothered me. Told Mama believed I’d have to smoke again. Fondest love dear. I’ll write you a good letter some day. Hello! Hubert.
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R.D. #1. Willow Springs, Mo.
June 8th 1913.
My own dear Sister.
Am just going to write a little note tonight to tell you I am thinking of you & loving you. I wanted to write you last Sunday as we had no visitors but it was so intolerably hot, I took my tablet & pencil up to the grove where there is always a cool breeze under the trees but I couldn’t bring myself to writing with pencil to you. So I let it go as the thermometer stood at 98° after 6 p.m. and next morning I rec’d your dear letter. The best one yet, and the boys their P.C. so I was glad I waited.
We have had visitors today a neighbor farmer, 5 miles away, brought his wife and 2 married daughters. All 3 ladies are fine pianists. Play good music & one Daughter sings. So we have had a pleasant, enjoyable day, our tastes being congenial and they took home a book or two from my library to enjoy at home, and have just phoned me that they arrived home O.K. I wish you had been with us.
Your dear letter did me so much good I have read it & read it. How broad you have grown, how tolerant. You seem to have developed on the same lines as myself. I could never lead Burton to talk on the subject, somehow he would never come close in & trust me. Now with you it is different. You are willing to talk it over and whether right or wrong, you give me credit for honestly seeking, “more light.” I expect I have told you sometime or other that I am a “Mason” a 32nd degree one. When I first joined and began to receive instructions, I told Mama I believed I had found the religion for which I had been searching, for Morality is the foundation of its teachings. I studied for several years and advanced to the highest degree attainable the 33rd degree is bestowed only for some special service in the cause of Masonry. I was near attaining it when I came to the farm, and forfeited my opportunities of performing such services as would merit it. But my studies led me to the perusal of the books I mentioned and which I will send you, and I will say that I was thoroughly skeptical of their teaching when I commenced to study them but after two years I seem to find the teachings in them more reasonable & logical than anything else with which I am acquainted. The “Great Work” is usually at my elbow to refer to when my thoughts need it. And my copy is pretty well thumbed.
We have had a scorching May 95° to 100° every day for 3 weeks (in shade) and not a drop of rain, damaged our early garden & hay crops. But have had 2 good showers in June so are feeling better, will have wagon loads of peaches and lots of all other fruit. Strawberries are about over and cherries are picked, early peas & potatoes have been using for 2 weeks. Early apples & peaches toward the end of this month. This is a pretty good part of the country for fruit. But too rough to be a good farming country like the prairies where you can use Engines to plow with. They can plow 30 acres per day with a tractor. Has a headlight & plows at night too. I have a traction Engine but have never tried to plow with it but may do so some day. — We are still rushing. Up at 4.30, breakfast 5.30, to work 6. Big bell on top of a high tree rings at 11.30 for Dinner, have two hours rest at noon, to work at 1.30. Bell rings again @ 5.30. Teams fed, cows milked and we sit down to supper at 7 then about 9.15 we sing our evening hymn, and retire. Later we take it easier and pass the winter leisurely rising about 6.30 & retiring 10 to 11 p.m. Sundays we suspend all rules. We are never in a hurry but steadily aiming at accomplishing so much. — Have rec’d another bunch of little photos, so will enclose them in case Alice wouldn’t send you all. Send them to B & welcome if they care to see them. Another bunch passed us in the circuit letter last week. But had to let them go forward. They were from Lil.
And your dear old Cuckoo. You can describe a scene so I can see it all so plain & hear the soft flute like Cuckoo & then in awhile he will begin to stutter. We have none here, nor any skylarks. We have the Quail (like your partridge) which calls “Bob White” & later on “Old Bob White” and after dark the Whippoorwills begin their harsh unmusical call just as fast as they can say it for an hour at a stretch. The crickets all chirp until the air seems acquiver, and the frogs in the pond join in their chorus. And the Fire Flies illumine the forest with millions of little incandescent lights. And if you could only sail over our little farm ¾ mile long & ½ mile wide cut out of the forest about 9.15, you would hear our voices rise in “Abide With Me.” And as the last note sinks away you might hear the bark of a Fox or the Yelp! Yelp! of a wolf, as the night prowling animals took possession of the woods until daylight. And the boys went to bed under the trees with the stars overhead. Dorothy & her baby also sleep out in the open waking up at daylight bathed in dew.
But good night dear, & Hubert, I know he’s O.K. Never doubted it. — Fondest love & a good hug & Kisses on your forehead & your eyes & your lips my dear Sister.
* * *
My own dear Sister
I’m thinking of you and loving you but oh! so busy. Frances is here for her vacation and we are giving her a time so she will come again. The Milwaukee folks wanted her to spend her vacation there but the farm won out. The boys had to go out on the range and bring in some wild young horses for her to ride. She sure enjoys running wild. Dorothy & baby still here and well. Lillian is coming in a couple of weeks, has been spending a few weeks at “Excelsior Springs” with her husband on his vacation. This is a “health resort.” Everybody in the circuit O.K. Nearly all our neighbors have their friends from the cities visiting them and they bring them over to our ranch to have a good time for we have boat & music & everything necessary so we are enjoying the days & neglecting our crops but nature is bountiful and we always have enough and to spare of everything except “Time” and we make long days too. Up at 4 a.m. to bed at 9.30. But they are too short. We have oceans of fruit. So much that we can’t possibly use it or give it away. We just shake our Peach trees & pick them up. Great big luscious fellows and press them into “Peach Cider,” sauce with apples & plums. We make fresh cider every other morning and barrel the old for winter use & vinegar. Our house smells like a Fruiterer’s with a bowl of Peaches always on the table. Wonder where you will spend your vacation. You always seem to take one or two per year. I never get one. I say mine is a continued vacation every day. I don’t know where I could better myself. Mama is busy cooking fried chicken & other grub for the crowd. Tho’ we all help her so she can have a good time too. Our garden furnishes a big variety of vegetables. Several of which would be new to you but you would learn to like them. “Sweet Corn,” Squash, Tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, Parsnips, Beets, Carrots, Musk Melons, Watermelon, Mango peppers, Egg Plant, besides potatoes, lettuce, Radishes, Onions, Endive, Okra, Vegetable Oyster &. So we have lots of variety. We also have Horse Radish & Rhubarb & asparagus. Say! do you like vegetables? Ha! Then we have big [illegible] Hams, buried in boxes of wood ashes to keep them sweet. And chickens galore. Our guns add Young Rabbit & squirrel. We never shoot partridges (Quail we call them) [illegible] of their being so useful to the farmer. But we can go to the creek a mile away & get fish. Bass, Crappie, Cat Fish, suckers & but none so good to me as sea fish. But you’ll think I’m advertising an Hotel, wanting summer boarders. Ha!
Keep thinking everyday I will send you the books I promised but when I get home I forget, but you will have them for winter study. They are too heavy for hot weather.
Forgive this scribble. Just scrawled it while they are putting dinner table, so that accounts for filling it with eatables. Ha!
Good bye. Just wanted to tell you I loved you every day.
Just read over my letter & it doesn’t seem worth wasting a stamp on but it will pass ten minutes for you & it may be a wet day when it arrives & you can’t get out. Mama says she thinks I’ve two brains. I can switch one on and chat about little insignificant subjects or I can switch the other on and discuss something worth while. Ha! I think the simple half is the biggest. But you’ll get used to my moods by & by.
Now I’m going to the cross roads to meet the mail carrier & chat with my neighbors who come to meet him.
I love you.
* * *
My own dear Sister,
Rec’d your card from Yarmouth yesterday and the package of books a few days before and your dear letter a few days prior to that, and thank you very much for all. Have read Lodge’s book and five of the Lectures and am so interested in them. Will study them when I have read the other four lectures. I enjoyed Prof Peake’s lecture best of all I do believe. He’s a fine old fellow, doesn’t dodge the question at all. Bet he is brave and a good fighter. Sir Oliver is a very advanced physical scientist. Have read some of his writings, and have always admired them as far as they go, and he always seems as tho he would like to go into the psychic if he could only prove it. But it is impossible to prove the spiritual by the five physical senses. However he is doing good work. I just enjoy his kind of books. I could scarcely leave it, have neglected my daily paper & magazines since receiving your package.
I’ve had a pretty rough life. You know a little of it, not much, for it isn’t worth room in our precious letter space to recount it. But thro’ it all I have been trying to learn something, it has been hard work, for I haven’t many “talents.” I think I’m the man to which one was given, but I’ve kept “digging” when I could. You say you hardly know what my belief is. It would be hard for me to say, at 60 I’m just in my A.B.C’s. I regret that I have not advanced more. I could enumerate a number of excuses but they would not exonerate me. I never make excuses. I am “guilty.” But I doubt if even Sir Oliver could clearly define his belief, after a life of investigation in the heights & depths of Knowledge. I might perhaps give you an inkling of my efforts to gain “more light” by giving you the titles of a few books on the shelf of my book case just in front of me, for my desk opens in the lower half of it.
Journal of Researches Darwin
Origin of Species ”
Descent of Man ”
First Principles Spencer
Data of Ethics ”
The Microscope — Gosse
Electricity in Modern Life — Tunzelman
Fragments of Science — Tyndall
Sound — ”
Science & Education — Huxley
Other worlds than ours — Proctor
Philosophy of History — Hegel
Critique of Pure Reason — Kant
These will kinder (sic) give you an idea of the lines I have been working on with but indifferent success. At the same time saturated in a business exacting & fraught with responsibility, amidst a lot of men to whom my aspirations would have been entirely unintelligible had they known them. Mama, altho being well educated does not lean to anything scientific. She is just naturally good and is satisfied to let well alone. Ha! So I have had to plod on alone, and didn’t get very far but I’ve enjoyed it all, and look forward to my advent into the Spiritual existence almost eagerly hoping there to advance more quickly. Meanwhile I am having a pretty good time in the Ozark Hills of South Missouri. The smell of Peaches is in the land. We eat peaches, talk peaches, sleep peaches, and wish there wasn’t a peach in the country, at least we say so sometimes these hot days. It is 106° now, Sunday afternoon, and I have lost a number of Dollars by not picking & packing & hauling to town the peaches which will fall today & those that will be over ripe tomorrow. We began to ship this last week and will haul a wagon load to town every day now until the Elberta’s are all shipped which will be about two weeks more. If you were in Willow Springs today you would view a busy scene and the aroma of peaches would nauseate you. We pick them carefully, and pack them in small chip baskets, and then pack six baskets in a crate. A car holds 500 crates and they expect to ship one thousand car loads so you see there are some peaches around just now, and, Hot! Gracious if we were not acclimated it would kill us. I hauled the load to town Friday & Sat’day and the way the sun beat down was something fierce and yet we perspire very little, but if you place your hand on your bare body it nearly chills your hand the evaporation is so quick. The horses too don’t sweat & lather as you would expect. Juicy Peaches are heavy but they haul them up these hills without much trouble. I’m a fellow who favors my horse more than myself. And we go slow and give them a cool drink every time we reach a Spring. We remember it is hard work and fearfully hot, and try to make them as comfortable as possible for they are our faithful helpers. We will have mules old enough to do the hot hauling next year. They can stand the heat better than horses. We work them now on the farm but they are not old enough to take a heavy load 10 miles over such roads as these.
Frances took some snap shots on the farm when she was here and she enclosed samples in the last circuit letter but I had to let them go forward. But will get her to send me a set & will send them to you. Lillian is here now, for 3 or 4 weeks. She will can fruit & ship it to her home for winter use. She will take some pictures too I expect. They all have small cameras and I like to encourage their use. The last circuit letter contained 32 pictures from Win & Jo & Frank. Then they enclose samples of their new dresses & trimmings etc & we all keep posted as to what the others are doing. Must ask you to excuse Alice not writing this summer. I have to be satisfied with an occasional card, in her whole life she has made but one close friend a girl of her own age. They were chums when young and have always remained so. Alice schemed & planned for several years to marry her to Jim. Whenever Jim went to see Alice, Edith was invited to meet him. She is a splendid good girl, pretty & highly educated but Jim would never “bite” and it used to annoy Alice terribly for she was always singing Edith’s praises and I believe Edith would have accepted Jim. But finally Alice gave up in despair after giving Jim a good rating for being so blind & indifferent. Ha! And then went & married him herself and Edith has never married, and is spending the summer with Alice this year. So when I heard of it I wrote Alice and bade her goodbye until Fall when Edith returns to her teaching in Kansas City Schools. And instead of writing letters they are climbing mountains & bathing in the Pacific and having a good time together for Jim has not been home since May 6th. He is busy on a big job in Arizona.
Was tickled at your description of the old judge going to church with such a medieval retinue. Different from the judges in the Ozarks. Did I ever tell you of the time I was arrested. One evening a big fellow rode up & asked if my name was Fox, he said I am Sheriff of this County & have a summons for you. I said why I haven’t killed a man for a year. It’s worse than that he stated & read over the summons to appear at the County seat on a certain day to answer the charge of perjury for making a false statement in my tax assessment declaration. They had found where I had a mortgage on a farm for $2000 I had loaned on it and failed to put it in my statement of what I owned, so I invited the Sheriff to put his horse in the stable & stay all night with me which he did. I told Mama afterwards that I watched her close so she did not put poison in his food. Ha! We spent a pleasant evening together & next morning the sheriff rode away & when the day came along I appeared at the Court house. Didn’t even engage a lawyer. In the Court room everybody was talking & having a good time the judges with the rest of them dressed in rough clothes. The Chief Justice and two associate Judges. I was introduced to them and chatted until Court opened. I had asked them to put my case early as I wished to return home. They kindly called it the second one, and I explained that my affidavit was made according to law a full list of everything I owned & all my investments on June 1st which is the day stated in the law. And the mortgage I made to secure a loan of $2000 was dated June 3rd. One fellow as soon as he heard this spoke up & said “You have ’em skinned.” Ha. I showed them the proof and the Judge said, “Mr Fox, I’m sorry you beat us for the county needs the money.” I said, “So do I Judge.” And it was all over & the next case was called as I left the room. The Judge had on Corduroy pants and a blue wool shirt, and I suppose a gun in his pocket. He farms between sessions of Court.
Wouldn’t I like to accompany you & Hubert on your rambles to think of your long summer daylight. It goes dark so much earlier here. When the sun sets you have to hurry for it is soon dark. I must come & spend a summer month with you some day. You make me so hungry to see it all again. Lois you are a born poet when it comes to describing country scenes and sounds.
Cyril has killed two rattle snakes this summer but one was a small one, the other a big fellow but Cyril spoiled its skin in the fight. There was a fine specimen killed on the road that runs by our farm a few days ago. But we want the one we send you to be killed on our farm by one of us. Cyril kills most of them. But he’s so crazy when he gets in a fight that he often ruins their skins. But a fellow can’t always choose just where to hit them, for they are pretty quick.
Well it is bed time have finished since some neighbors have left who came in this afternoon and stopped my letter.
We are all well and lean & bronzed and I hope when I next write that we shall be over our rush. Those bloaters on your card made me hungry, bet they would taste good after so long. We will have some when I come.
Fondest love my darling Sister.
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My own dear Sister,
Here’s for a chat as it is too hot for even our seasoned physiques to work in the field this afternoon and for many afternoons past. We work until noon and then hunt the shade until near sunset. It is 106° in shade this minute and has been above 100° every day for weeks. Can’t remember when it rained weeks ago. Fields brown & burnt up. If a spark set fire to the dry grass and herbage I should lose every crop & fence and building on the farm that is if the wind was strong enough to fan it. About 3 weeks ago I was up a tree picking peaches and saw a volume of smoke across the farm (my farm is ¾ mile across) and I called all hands, Mama & Lillian coming with the rest. Fortunately there was little wind. We hurried to the scene and had a hard hot fight before we overcame the flames that had started in the timber and were coming across a field. (We beat out the fire with young pine trees) Oh! for rain, rain, water, something liquid. Not the least fleecy cloud to be seen. Nothing but the sure piteously burning up every vestige of vegetation. Our greatest wealth is in our spring which still gushes out from under the rock, cool & plentiful. Most of the neighboring springs are dry but ours was never known to fail in the memory of white man or Indian before him so tradition has it, for which we are thankful. The day after I last wrote you I went to town with a wagon load of peaches and tho’t it was pretty hot as we forged along the road with the heavy load. I did all I could to help the horses with water wherever available and when I returned home found it had been 110° in shade that day, which was the hottest day of the summer here altho other places have had it 115°. However we are all well and feel no ill effects from the heat. We live on fruit and light diet, drink lots of fresh cider or water, spend a day at the creek about once a week and irritate the fishes & feel as vigorous as in cooler weather. I notice in the papers that England is dry too. But you are cooler anyhow.
Lillian has returned home to St Joseph. Dorothy still here, dare not return to town until the heat breaks, but will go soon as it does.
I forget if I answered Hubert’s question about “I’m from Missouri” have wondered several times but can’t recollect, but to make sure I’ll answer here. Most of the different states have a slogan or catchword to indicate some trait of its peoples character or peculiarity of its soil or climate and Missouri men have established a tradition of temperamental suspicion. “I’m from Missouri and you must show me” is the full catchword adopted to show they take nothing for granted, indicating business acumen rather than plain stubbornness. For instance, if anyone begins to yarn and exploit any unreasonable enterprise, one says in unbelief “I’m from Missouri” — they know the rest. So if anyone begins to tell Hubert how big a fish he caught he may reply “I’m from Missouri.”
The first thing I did after I got thro shipping peaches was to order the books sent to you. It didn’t take many minutes when I got at it, but while the rush lasted I didn’t seem to have a minute except for business. I hope they have reached you in good shape. I felt tempted to have them sent here so I could go over them and pencil the items which especially appealed to me, but thought that would be hardly fair, as I did not wish to intrude my personality or influence you in any way. The first and third vols interest me most. I seemed to understand the second after reading it a time or two. Florence Huntley had a great analytical mind. I have never been acquainted with as deep a thinking woman as she was. She died last year but her work will live. I study “The Great Work” most for it teaches how to “live the life” which I have endeavored to live for some time, much to my benefit & peace of mind. If at any time Anne Cutler evinces any interest in them I should be pleased if you would allow her to read them.
We received a photo of Winifred and her children a few days ago, will forward it to you so you may see how much she resembles her Mother. She also has her Mother’s disposition and ways. Her name should have been Kate. She has a big broad minded husband who is devoted to his family and they are happily mated. Am expecting a bunch of swap shots which the girls took when here this summer and will send all together when we receive them. I send so many that our English cousins & friends will soon know the crowd. But photos always interest me and I think others too.
The farm work just now consists of cutting Maize for the men and canning fruit & vegetables for Mama. Preserving, making pickles & ketchup and other good things for winter days. We have quantities of peaches ripening along but we do not ship the later kinds as we use what we can, give away what we can & let the hogs eat the balance as they fall off. Mama dries a great many, just halves them and removes the seed and spreads them on long tables in the sun covering with mosquito netting to keep off bees & flies. I suppose you can buy dried apples & peaches in Eng as they are a commercial product here, being dried in large quantities in evaporators but Mama uses the Sun’s rays which soon mummifies them.
Well Mama is putting our evening meal on the table and that appeals to me most forcibly altho’ I have not worked since dinner. You would call it “Tea” we call it supper, for we don’t eat again until breakfast. I hung on to my late supper at bedtime for years after I came here but finally got converted to the American custom.
Bye, bye, dearest old Sister of mine. I do enjoy writing to you. You are such a treasure & comfort to me to know that you love your brother after all these years. I wish I could step in as you read this and give you a good hug and tell you how dear you are to me, but it is coming someday. Hello! to Hubert and fond kisses for yourself.
* * *
Willow Springs, Mo.
Oct 19th 1913.
My dear Sister & Hubert.
This is Sunday Nt. Your dear letter arrived a few days ago was so happy to see it. How busy you have been. You are as popular as we are in these hills, visitors all the time. Have had seven here for dinner today but they left about dusk which gives us our evening for reading or writing. You sure tried hard to give me a letter it was like a Diary, bless you. I felt kinder[sic] sorry that you did not just let me wait until you had leisure. Don’t ever let me be troublesome. Rest assured that whatever you do or don’t do is always all right to the brother who loves you. That is my way of living now. I have perfect confidence in Mama and never question a thing she does or does not for I know she always does her best and I let her know that I appreciate it all. And you are in the same class & next to her and if you were here you would learn that I would much rather you would rest when you are tired or have a cold, than trouble about owing me a letter or anything else. I love you my dear old sister and that puts you away above any criticism.
To think, Polly Tomlinson is getting elderly, it doesn’t seem long since I went home with her one summer evening across the field to Chesterfield and tho’t what a sweet girl she was. How I should like to meet her again. Kindly convey my best regards to her sometime and assure her of my pleasant remembrance of her thro’ all these years.
Yes Lillian is a Fox, quick in action & wit, can handle a lot of business. Loyal & Honorable but quick tempered & high strung like I used to be before I learned my lesson. Her husband spoils her but she’s worth it. They are prosperous and happy.
You just keep any picture or pictures you wish out of the home pictures I send over. The instructions which apply to A.C. do not include you. I’ll send you a better picture of myself someday but I just hate a photographer. Frances stole that picture of me. She had been saying she would sure get my picture this trip. I told her I bet she wouldn’t and I was busy hitching up the team for the boys to take her to the station & never saw her sneak up until she had me focused & coughed to make me turn my head & there I was caught. Ha! she said “All’s fair in love & war.”
Will send another bunch soon as they come back here. Alice has them tied up amongst her effects. They moved from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, Oct 1st. but didn’t have a house until the 15th so couldn’t unpack. The girls are kicking because Alice didn’t forward the pictures around the circle promptly. I sent you Winifred’s photo a few days ago. I enclose a Trumpet vine leaf. Just a small one. They grow 18 inches long & completely thatch the house walls a foot thick keeping it cool and would cover the roof if I did not keep them cut off. The color of the flowers are flaming orange red. They are a gorgeous mass.
The “Shepherd of the Hills” describes conditions here 9 or 10 years ago. About two years before I came here the Missouri Pacific Ry for which I worked so long built the line of R.R. mentioned toward the end of the book. The Matthews home is still there and a little steam boat named “Samercy [?] Lane” plies on the river close by. The “White River.” But there is still a remnant left of the life described. The last week in Sept I was on the jury panel of the “circuit court” and we had one “Bald Knobbes” case where a gang of “vigilants” [sic] had taken a man from his home & brutally whipped him “for the good of the community.” We also had one “feud” case of shooting which is like the Vendetta of the Italians certain clans are at war with each other for years or until one family is exterminated one by one. If any boys are left they grow up with the one idea of revenge instilled into them and fanned by their widowed mother. This custom seems to be confined to the native Hill men, or “Hill Billies” as we call them, brought with them from the hills of Tennessee & Kentucky & Georgia & Virginia from whence they originally came, of English stock, and gradually spread west until they made their last stand in the Ozarks beyond which are the vast prairies where these men cannot live. They must be in the rugged hills. They are a peculiar race, despise we “Northerners,” Independent, lawless, shiftless, with their own code of morals, but the influx of Northern men are buying their lands and gradually pushing them South into the Arkansas Ozarks, and the Northern men are being chosen for Jurors in the Courts and they enforce the law against this class, who when they are on Jurys will not convict such offenders. Of course, it is an unenviable position to be on these juries. Not long ago a jury brought in a verdict of guilty which was the signal for a gun fight right in the court room & when the smoke cleared off the Judge, Sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney and one of the Jurors lay dead and many wounded. But law is prevailing and soon Missouri will be free from the Stigma which such lawlessness has brought on these fair hills. And I for one am always ready to do my part toward hastening that time. I’ll tell Hubert some yarns about these men when I come. Takes up too much room here.
Many thanks for the Yorkshire Post, our papers had column length extracts from Sir C.L’s address but I was very pleased to read the whole as printed. After reading I forwarded the paper to “Billy Giles” another Englishman living 25 miles further back in the hills who also is a student and when next he rides over to “swap ideas” I shall show him that bit of sea weed and enjoy its affect on him.
Good for Hubert, am delighted that he is being appreciated. He won’t have time to bother much with photos for the next 20 years then he will begin to slack up a little. I can’t make farming pay like that here. I’ll lose lots this year.
We’ll all go to Bardney [?] Abbey when I come. You won’t be able to express an opinion on those books for a year. Don’t bother with them until the Spirit moves you. You haven’t time to study them but you will sketch them over & see their drift & enjoy bits here & there & take exceptions to other assertions and I can refer you to the page if I want to speak of something in particular. Mama never gets interested in my books. She says “it rests & refreshes me to read a good story” and I answer “I have to study & work hard in order to near your equal in goodness.” So we each enjoy ourselves in our own way for I just delight in such books and when I have such reading to study I begrudge the time I have to expend reading the daily paper & magazines to keep posted on current events.
A bit of fire feels good tonight and warns us that cool days are coming. The late rains have made our garden like spring. We have green beans, lettuce, Radishes, green onions, Tomatoes etc in abundance. But frost may come any night & cut them down but our store room is full and the wood pile is high. We have enough laid up for man & beast until Spring shall come so when the proper time comes we shall just hibernate & read & have a good time together.
Dorothy is back home at Fort Scott with her husband. And Jo & Bob have moved from Canada to Milwaukee again. So we have a lot of new addresses but we are used to that. Bob couldn’t make enough money in Canada. Max is the fellow who can make the Dollars come his way. Jim & Lillian’s husband (Frank) make quite a lot too, but Harry & Bob don’t make so much. Here’s a card from Max who is the best boy in the bunch for keeping me posted. Just note his style, he’s breezy all right.
Well, my dear, it’s about bed time, don’t seem to have said much but you know I love you & hope your cold has vanished before this. Fondest love & a good hug. So long! Hubert.
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My dear Lois & Hubert,
Just a little note this Sunday night to tell you we are thinking of you in love. Have been away all day visiting a neighbor a couple of miles away. Mama & I rode horseback & the boys walked. Am afraid if I considered myself only I would not be very sociable, for it seems a waste of time to me, almost, to spend it in conversation that does not improve ones mind in someway or other. But I try to consider it my opportunity to improve some one else’s mind and fulfil the “Law of Compensation” as laid down in “The Great Work” and try and even up my balance by giving something to others for the great measure I have received and then, Mama enjoys visiting and as she says “tasting someone else’s cooking,” and they sure cook.
I wish you could have been with us last night. You would have enjoyed an American country experience which would have been novel & amusing. Believe I will describe it and let you enjoy that much knowledge of our ways.
The School House for this District is located near one corner of our farm. The District is 4 miles long by 3 miles wide, making 12 square miles for one School House, & we have 8 or 9 scholars on good days & when the weather is stormy, none, & on those days the young lady teacher comes to spend the day with Mama.
Our present teacher conceived the idea we ought to have a larger bell to call the children to school. So she decided to have a “Pie Supper” last night. Nothing original in this for it is one of the standard ways of raising money for churches & schools in the country. But you won’t know what a Pie Supper is so I’ll “put you next.”
First she had about an hours programme [sic] of Dialogs, recitations & songs by the scholars & herself after which came the main attraction the selling of the pies which had been donated for the occasion. Each had a ticket attached bearing one of the ladie’s [sic] names, usually the donors. But Mama made ½ doz & put her name on one & then added to the others any young ladies name who came without a pie, for the men buy the pies without knowing the name attached and eat them in company of the lady whose name it bears. Thus some young man who desires to have a particular young lady for partner will probably buy 3 or 4 pies before he gets the right one and generally returns the pies he does not want to be sold again. I was auctioneer last night and I sold pies 3 or 4 times over thus reaping more money for the cause. They bore the names of some old ladies whom the young fellows didn’t care to have as partners. & finally I had to buy them myself and eat with a bunch of nice old ladies & tell them how lucky I was. Ha!
But do you know what an American pie is? Not baked in a dish, but in a “pie plate.” This is made of tin and when turned out the pie just fits a dinner plate and is usually cut in four quarters to be served, so they are more like tarts that Mother used to make — mince, peach, apple, cherry, plum, raisin & such have an upper & lower crust. While pumpkin, lemon, custard, chocolate & such have just a lower crust.
The boys bid them up to 25 or 30 cents each usually but once in awhile the girl will give him a pointer where her pie is put up, then it is up to the auctioneer to “catch on” and make him pay for it, for to show his loyalty to the girl he will get that pie if it costs him a Dollar. Well! After the pies are auctioned off comes the tug of war. For Mama donated a cake with icing & decorations to be voted to the “prettiest girl” present, and another lady made one for the “homeliest man.” So we announce one cent per vote the voting to close at a certain time (10 or 15 minutes) & vote on the prettiest girl first. A bunch of young men from a certain settlement, probably 4 or 5 miles East will nominate one of the girls they escorted. Same with another bunch from the West. Sometimes 3 or 4 girls are nominated, but only two last night. Their names are written on the black board and the voting begins. 10 for Miss Black, 15 for Miss White each paying to the treasurer as many cents as he votes. First they tie, then one is ahead, then the other and as the time approaches to close the polls it grows exciting. Auctioneer calling 3 minutes only, two minutes, one minute, then it is disclosed that our bunch has been secretly making up a purse to be plunked down the last minute to overwhelm the other crowd who become reckless as they each desire to honor their girl. And as the figures are changed on the blackboard announcing each girl’s standing, Hurrahs from one side then the other, finally the auctioneer watch in hand calls “closed” & the cake is handed to the fortunate girl who cuts it later when eating begins and passes it around to all.
Then comes the “Homeliest Man” contest, never so exciting but if you can start a Rivalry it becomes interesting. The side that got the other cake may decide to win them both. The other fellows won’t allow any such thing and so the votes & cents pour in to the benefit of the School. Ladies may take a hand in this.
I don’t know if you have anything of this kind over there, but if not you might try something of the sort for a novelty. It’s a sure money maker here. We vary it with a “Box Supper” the ladies put up a nice lunch in a card board box all decorated up with tissue paper & ribbons. They each have enough for two persons. Fried chicken, pie, cake, biscuits each trying to be the daintiest cook and caterer. These are donated & sold same as the pies and the man who buys them eats the lunch with the girl whose card is in the box.
But Mama says “bed time,” we were late getting home and so have had a short evening. Could chat for another hour but have a hard day before me tomorrow we have to brand cattle. We completed our “round up” off the range yesterday [illegible] finding all except 3 head and heard of them so tomorrow we de-horn & mark all that need it. I hate it for it is the only cruel thing we ever do to dumb animals but it seems necessary, and the pain is soon over. We cannot well ship in car load lots with horns on for they injure each other. We endeavor to breed the horns off as much as possible and I suppose more than half my calves are born without horns & never have any. But the rest have to be cut off.
The circuit letter passed a few days ago and all the girls report favorably on their health & happiness. Hope your cold has left you never to return. Everything lovely on the farm. We got a good scare a few weeks ago, for when we awoke on the 19th of October there lay 6 or 8 inches of snow on the ground. The forest trees were all in full leaf and green and the weight of the snow on their branches made sad havoc with them. It was not safe to go in the woods, huge branches & whole trees breaking off & falling. Our Telephone line was put out of service & the boys & I had to be out repairing it as soon as snow ceased falling. Another case where the “oldest inhabitant” never experienced the like. I had 20 acres of hay down & buried under the snow. But it was gone in a couple of days & then turned warm & my hay is now in the stack & never seemed hurt a bit. I make most of my hay in November, everything grows good after fall rains begin.
But must kiss you & say Good Bye. Fondest love my darling & “Happy Days.” Hello! Hubert old man don’t work too hard & don’t worry at all.
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My own dear Sister & Hubert,
Have been holding back on my letter writing so it would strike you about Christmas and a Happy Christmas we wish you both. We shall follow this letter in mind and shall think of you and wish you all good wishes when the day comes. Suppose there will be High Mass or some special musical festival at the Cathedral, that is where I should like to go with you and hear music of worth. Instead of which I expect to be with a crowd amongst whom only one other appreciates good music, and fortunately she is a good pianist and 60 yrs old like myself so we shall get toward the edge of the crowd and monopolize the piano & enjoy ourselves. We were all together on Thanksgiving Day. (always the last Thursday in Nov) 24 of us sat down to dinner together for we celebrate with feasting & friends just like Christmas and we arranged to all be together again on Christmas Day. We are a sociable crowd haven’t much to do just now except try to have a good time. Mr & Mrs Davis own & live on a farm half way between here & Willow Springs & as I came back from town Saturday I called in to have a chat. Mrs Davis said she was getting hungry for Music, so Mr Davis said “put on your wraps & go along & I will come early in the morning.” So I brought her home with me and we had some good music that evening and Mr Davis came early Sunday mng and we had an enjoyable Sunday playing & singing. Altho she is 60 she is as young in her ways as if she was but 40. And Mr D is just as young & he & I were doing “stunts” like a couple of boys. Such as kneeling on the carpet with your hands behind you & picking up a pin with your teeth and all such fool things to show how young & active we were, while the women cooked dinner.
Just think. You have your mail deliv’d at 9:30 p.m. We think we do well to get it once a day. Your country is all right.
You returned the pictures before receiving my permission to keep what you wanted so I intended to return you the two Dans and the swimmers which you seemed to like but I can’t find the two Dans. Someone has mislaid it or taken it. We have moved house since receiving them back so it may turn up by & by. If not I’ll get Lil to print you another as she has the negative I expect. Yes we have moved. I leased a 400 acre farm which joins mine so now I have 640 acres, just a square mile of farm & the house on the 400 acres is more central to the combined farm. So we moved into it. It is just across the road opposite to the entrance gate of my own farm. We are going to try it for one year and if we find we can handle both farms to advantage I will buy the 400 acres but will try it first as we may find it too unwieldy, for it is a big thing. I started round the fence of one field at 9 a.m. to see if it was in good condition. Had to make a few reprs but was not delayed much but it was 1 p.m. when I got around. Had about 200 acres in it.
I intended to comply with your request and keep Mrs Paukhurst [?], even went so far as to find a man who promised to marry her, but she slipped away before we had our plans consummated. Am sorry to thus disappoint you.
Yes I remember James Barker. I always tho’t he was about the best & honestest [sic] one in the bunch of young preachers who used to come to Ivy Cottage.
So Hubert is learning German. Our nearest neighbors are Germans they are abt 1 mile away. And the old lady & married daughter can neither speak English so I have to sling “Duitch” [sic] at them. I used to have Germans & Sweeds & Switzers & Greeks & Italians & French men work for me so I had to learn to “cuss” in about seven languages. But had to have an Interpreter handle the gang of Greeks. I was working the Greek gang clearing a wreck one dark stormy night when I got my leg broken. If I had had white men I should have escaped the accident. Milwaukee is a city of Germans & Win’s two elder children learn German at the public schools. That little boy you tho’t so full of fun & mischief, which he is, can talk German & sing German songs while Margaret in El Paso learns Spanish in the public school. She writes me in Spanish occasionally. She is getting along fine. Jim speaks Spanish fluently & Alice has been trying to learn it for several years but makes poor headway.
Do not think I have to report any changes in the family except Dorothy has moved from Fort Scott to Hoisington, Kansas. Harry got a promotion so they moved to accept it. Everybody is well. The circuit letter came by a couple of days ago and the whole bunch seemed to be having a good time.
Our crops are now all harvested and we are busy sawing up trees into boards & plank. We have a saw mill, and haul up big logs & whole trees with our Traction Engine and then cut them into Timber with a 50 inch Circular Saw. Have been sawing today and this pen feels like a Toothpick after using a Cant Hook to roll Logs all day. Have a months sawing ahead, to cut enough timber to supply the farm for a year. Then we cut up all waste for Fuel and grind our own Corn so we are pretty good Machinists as well as Farmers, as we make all our own repairs on both Steam & Gasoline Engines. Have to be “Jack of all trades” out here. One day a Blacksmith, next a Carpenter, then a Miller, then a Saw Mill operator and most of the time a Farmer. I tell you my boys are getting some all round experience. They intersperse the Labor with hunting & trapping. I seldom crowd them with work.
Tis almost bed time. I was late home tonight but this ought to be mailed tomorrow, so will say good night & may every blessing be yours and Christmas and the coming year be the happiest to date. There is always much to be thankful for and rejoice over. The crowd around Thanksgiving dinner table were recalling the awful drouth [sic] of the past season which had nearly bankrupt some of us, and tho’t we had little to be thankful for this year. I arose & said in my opinion they had entirely lost sight of one blessing viz. the danger from drowning had been greatly reduced. Ha!
Merry Christmas, Fondest love. Big Hug & Fond Kiss.
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My dear Sister & Hubert.
Its just me again. You know I like to write letters, especially such weather as this when we are snowbound. We never got to go to the picnic dinner we had arranged for Christmas day. After all, it had been snowing intermittently for several days prior to Christmas and Christmas eve was so threatening that we carefully housed all live stock & prepared for trouble which came about dusk in the shape of a regular blizzard. High wind, snow & cold. Raged all night & Christmas day causing everybody to stay inside & burn wood. We had to visit by Phone which fortunately kept in working order and we had a good time. It seemed like we received letters or cards from everybody we knew. And to be so well remembered made us feel good & at night we all agreed that we had enjoyed a happier day together than if we had been with a crowd. We were not alone, for we had just finished eating our Christmas dinner when the Dogs gave an alarm and we saw a rig drive up thro’ the blinding storm containing two young men. We got them inside and thawed them out and they stayed with us until yesterday (Saturday) afternoon when it was fit for them to continue their journey. They were nice boys so we all enjoyed their company & I believe they will often think of the Christmas they spent in the Ozark Hills. They & our boys had games & music and Mama & I read some new books & magazines. (Many thanks for the ones you sent) I also wrote letters to each of the girls. Had written them all only a few days before, but letter writing is my relaxation. I love you all so much, that I am continually wanting to chat with you. The Mail carrier says I have more mail than anyone he knows. It all helps to keep me young and I enjoy every bit of it. I just enjoy living.
We tho’t of you at Brimington expected you were there and having a good time with them all. Hope you were all well so you could enjoy it all together. We figured you would be eating dinner when we were at breakfast and when we ate dinner you would be thro’ tea & be settled down for the evenings enjoyment and be in bed when we ate our 6 o’clock Supper but our thoughts clashed many a time. Wish I knew their house. You know it wasn’t built when I left & I have no idea as to its appearance or inside arrangement so can’t imagine the rooms like I could of Ivy Cottage.
No need to keep my old letters, dear, you will have plenty more at this rate. No danger of running out of reading matter with me at this end.
We rec’d photo of Frances as a Santa Claus surprise. I am going to send it to Hilda as she sent me her photo for Christmas which I tho’t was just splendid of her. She will forward it to you for return after they have all seen it. Guess she & Hilda are about of an age Frances was 21 Nov 18th. Hilda is a lovely girl & as I told Mama when we had their portraits side by side, Hilda has more brain. Just note the width of her head compared to Frances, & Frances is a pretty good Lawyer. Has been in a Law Office ever since she commenced work and knows enough Legal phraseology to turn me dizzy. But none of our kids are students. I don’t see how that is. Ha! I might look in a mirror & guess, but I’ve got along without it & I guess a light heart goes with a light head. You know I never did absorb trouble, I shed it. I don’t believe that you are of the melancholy kind. How is Hubert, does he worry. Hope not. It is all right to be prompt & particular and to see that your end is properly kept up. That is necessary to good management and I was drilled in that, railroading, until it was second nature, but when I had done my best & things went to smash after all, I didn’t worry but formed better plans for next time. Railroaders have a great weight of responsibility. Many lives depend on their management, and they realize it. And many of them can not support the burden. It kills them. There was about a dozen of us young men about 30 yrs who were promoted about the same time to positions of similar responsibility and when I left the service at 53 [?] they were all dead except one & he was a very nervous man & had been compelled to resign some years before altho 3 or 4 yrs younger than me. They worried & couldn’t stand the strain. I worried only when I had neglected something. I remember one instance when my hair came near turning white in an hour. I had taken a chance on the safety of a passenger car in a train rather than hold the train until repairs were made. The train got six miles and the whole train went in the ditch & 78 persons out of 85 were injured. I manned the wrecking outfit and rushed to the scene and before our Engine stopped I jumped off for I suffered torture at the tho’t I had been the cause. I met the Conductor and said “Jim what caused it?” “Broken rail” said Jim and I nearly lost my balance for joy that I was not responsible for those bruised & mangled forms which lay helpless on the grass. That lesson lasted me all the rest of my railroad life. I went & examined the defective car & the part had never moved since I had made the temporary repairs.
That is “Lil” with the pair of mules, or “Jacks” as she calls them.
Will think of you “Messiah” night & know you will want me to enjoy it with you.
Am glad that you are strong enough to overcome the sadness which attaches to Christmas time, and live for others and in the present. As reminiscing is useless, and young lives need your help to be brave.
I love you so much. Fond Kisses for you & a hearty shake for H.