Daniel Fox’s Letters, 1921
Dear old Sister.
I hear you are safely moved. Thank goodness! Elsie said she had been a witness to the fact so I have to accept it. And now I hope you will like your new location and be able to defy all comers. Bless you! I think you will, when you get used to it for Elsie says it is a pretty location. I should think you can have a real garden now and grow lots of things and perhaps chickens. Oh no. Don’t do that for chickens do not pay. I never think they do. I just keep 80 or 100 to pick up after the stock so nothing is wasted. But if I had to buy their feed they would fade away. I counted the roosters a few days ago and found 16. I thought it looked like we had a surplus, so I cut the heads off eleven and canned them. Had 13 quart cans of solid meat without any bones also two cans packed in joints with bones in, just to try how we liked that way, and 10 quart cans of soup. I helped Mama dress them one day and canned them the next. Days are short now and we only get 3 or 4 hrs in the middle of the day for work as the rest is taken up in milking & feeding and other chores for me.
We had a good Christmas. You all remembered us with letters and cards. Think we had 23 letters one morning but no one here. Cyril couldn’t get off for more than the day and he could not get home in that time so he went to Kansas City and got there in time for dinner at Lillian’s and went back on Sunday afternoon. So Harold and Cyril were together for a day with Lil & Dorothy & their husbands so they all had a good time together. Mama sent a box from the farm, a dressed fowl & plum pudding. Fruit cake, mince pies, apples, etc. We invited three neighbors and waited dinner a little while but the weather was too inclement for them so we spent the day alone. Mama trimmed a small Christmas tree and we had lots of packages to open and had a good time.
Hope Hubert got home O.K. so as to insure you a happy day together. He sent me a holly leaf which was the center of our decorations. Had to show Tom Pringle it and the Punch Almanac. He has now got the almanac, he dropped in last night to borrow it.
Hope you are having as good a winter as we are. Just a nasty kick at Christmas, snow and zero. But generally mild but Jan & Feb are our bad months.
We are having hard times here. Many of the large employers of labor are closing their factories. Ford shut down putting 50.000 employes [sic] out of work and many more works are closing down. I am thinking the boys may get out of a job and be glad to come to farm. H. C. of L. [high cost of living] is coming down but wages are being reduced also. Farm produce is cut in half, i.e. the price of it.
Will write more next time. Have 20 letters to write today and this is the first so good bye dear old sis o’mine and a good hug & kiss for the new year. Wishing you may have it full of prosperity and happiness.
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My dear Sister and H.
Your dear letters and pkg of 57 photos arrived yesterday, bless your dear thoughtful hearts. To do all that for me on my bthdy [sic] I want to hug you. It wasn’t raining, in fact I was busy threshing, but when Mama came from mail box and said there’s a pkg from Hubert, I hopped down and said to the boys, “So long” you don’t need me. Mama & I went down to the house and I forgot the threshing until dinner time. You ought to have seen me trying to count them. Ha! Mama had lots of fun out of me. I would begin to count and lay them in a pile on the table. And when I got a few counted I would stop to look at one & tell Mama what I knew of it. Then I would say “how many was that?” I don’t know, she would say. Then I’d begin again & couldn’t resist doing the same thing over again until finally I put them in piles of ten each & found them O.K. at last. That’s me when I enjoy myself I enjoy myself all over. Just a big old boy. Time and troubles never could sober me.
Hubert if you are going to be at home a little while I will write you for we talk about things that wouldn’t interest Mother perhaps. I have some mining magazines to send you with some articles in them by Lawrence and his picture, for he’s great on advertising Lawrence Bothwell. The violet is not the national flower of the U.S.A. you know, but Lawrence is doing well has an office in town and will soon have all the law business he can attend to. They had a man murdered there a couple of weeks ago. Officer arrested murderers and Lawrence was sworn in Deputy District Attorney and questioned at the inquest. Also conducted the preliminary trial. No one in town who could take the evidence in shorthand but Frances so Frances officiated as she was a law stenographer before she was married. So she made 50 dollars pocket money and Lawrence was retained by the dead man’s brother for $500. So I told them if business got dull just get someone to kill off the whole town (there’s only 300 there). There’s money in it.
Lucky I addressed that Lit. Digest to Lincoln. You said in your last from Erdington that things looked dull so I thot I had better send it to 54.
Cyril was also “let out” and he went to Kansas City and enrolled in the same school Harold is in, to learn auto mechanics. Bob Eley is also out (Jo’s husband) or was but I see that Ford has started up again with a reduced force so Bob may have gone back. I tell the boys, nothing beats farming, no bosses to fire you. One may work all the time even if he fails to make any money. As you say it takes money to farm. I tell the boys they will work & save all their lives to enable them to resume farming when they are old, when they might have enjoyed it all their lives and have been independent of any boss. But it came too easy they didn’t appreciate it. I offered to divide the farm into three.
Many thanks for the holly leaf. I did think of putting it in the circuit letter so they could all see it but it might have got lost.
We are having a reasonably mild winter. Have been sitting two days with no fire in the house and the doors open. No damp walls here but I am so nervous I can scarcely write for the wind is blowing I should judge about 50 miles an hour and the air is so full of smoke one can see but a few yards. So we know that fire is coming but how far away we can’t tell and it is simply impossible in this wind to help ourselves. If it comes our fences & probably buildings will go. We can only hope for rain or the wind to settle. These forest fires are the bane of our existence. The wind has just picked up a 3 gallon galvanized iron bucket and carried it out of sight.
Many thanks for your good wishes. Mama and I are well and get along fine. Won’t be long before thinking of another crop. We send you our love and I again thank you for the best present you could have sent me. I would be glad to pay duty on such photos.
[illegible writing in margin]
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Two mining magazines to you this mail
Willow Springs, Mo
Apl [sic] 10 – 21
My dear Hubert & Sister.
I am out of note paper I find, but no wonder, for I’ve never been to town since November 1st, when I laid in a supply of every necessity and bade the shopkeepers goodby for the winter. I’ll have to go again pretty soon I guess now the weather is improving. This paper is a sheet the boys sent me to see their school so now I’ll pass it on to you. It is quite a school. Harold graduated several weeks ago or months rather, and got the job of overhauling a number of trucks for a construction Co. in Kan City and is still working on them but Cyril is still at school. He didn’t enter until January. It would be simple work for you Hubert, but they feel it to be quite a trade. They go thro blacksmith shop and machine shop & learn to make parts etc. They also learn Oxy-acetyline [sic] welding and vulcanizing & tire work, and electric starters & the whole biz. And also learn how to drive in a crowded city and Sweeney has a large farm outside K.C. where they go and learn how to plow with tractors. They average about 2.000 pupils, entering & leaving every day. The boys say it is well organized and you sure get practical instructions in everything. The tuition fee is $175 and Harold said he go thro’ on $450 counting his boarding expenses and he said he would save enough on this his first job to pay for it all, so the education was a good investment. Have you these kind of schools in Eng. If not you might start one & make all kinds of money. Sweeney started on a very small scale. I remember him starting, but the war gave him a big boost. Our gov’nt [sic] paid for a many soldiers to learn who was in the transportation service.
I received your letters and photos a couple of days ago. Also a Punch and Agricultural Gazette a few weeks ago. Many thanks for all. I shall grow quite scientific in my old age if I can only remember the names of those microscopic “varmints.” But the trouble will be instead of speaking of diatoms I’ll call ‘em dinosaurs or something worse. But I’ll try to look wise & say little when I’m showing these pictures. No fear Sis o’mine that I’ll paper the walls with them. They are so precious I have to handle them myself, especially “sweet seventeen” bless you. That’s a peach. Send me more when you can spare one Hubert. That is a fine picture of Father & Mother on Northumberland coast. The girls want to see them and when I have two of a kind I’ll risk it, but otherwise I tell them to come and look at them all they want.
I expect you have your share, like us, of these startling fads such as “Millions now living will never die.” For in the announcements they say the lecture has been given in all the large cities in Eng. Also we have articles innumerable on Einstein’s theory of relativity. I understand Einstein says there are not more than 12 men in the world who can understand it. That lets me out. But I would like to know how space ends & what stops it. Can you help me.
I take a bucket to gather the eggs every eve and then sell them for 16 cents per doz. Can’t use them all so have to sell. Everything a farmer has to sell is very cheap now. I saw in my paper today where one of our farmers sent a cow hide to market and after paying transportation charges he had two cents left for his hide at the price he was paid for it.
We had a splendid showing for fruit. The trees were loaded when on Easter Sunday the weather turned cold. Down to 20º that night and 18º the next nt [sic] and it killed everything. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries & grapes. Hope for a partial crop of strawberries & blackberries, but it’s going to be cold tonight & may finish them. We are never safe from frost here until May 10. Good thing we have a big supply of canned fruit.
Will be milking 5 cows pretty soon. Had one calve today and what we can do with the milk is a puzzle. I would sell them but 3 cents per lb is all I can get. They keep saying business is picking up but I fail to notice it. Thousands on thousands out of work, and I notice your miners and transportation employes [sic] are on strike & that will thoroughly paralyse [sic] all business. It makes me hot to think men will fight to protect their country from a foreign foe and then turn round and ruin it themselves. Germany will be on its feet before the Allies if they don’t watch out and then the bother with Ireland & unrest in India. But I’ve faith in old England pulling out of the mud. She’s never been beat for a long time. Hope Eng & U.S. will keep close friends then the two of them can hold their own O.K. I think they will stay together. There is a good feeling in this country for England and I hope Eng will foster a good feeling for the U.S. then we shall be safe.
It’s bed time. Have saved a lot of things to write you about & then haven’t begun but if I write more I’ll have to tear leaves out of a note book so goodby to both and a hug & kiss for my dear old Sister and a “God bless you Hubert.” It will do you both good to rest up a bit. Think it kind of you to call on Ollis [?]. I told him he was a lucky boy to get an English girl.
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My dear Sister & Hubert.
Your dear letter of May 10th came thro’ O.K. with its inclosure of pictures. When Mama handed it to me I said, “Don’t you feel pictures?” And say! H. the girls picture is another of your happy successes. It’s great. Why don’t you pitch a tent in your yard and paint a sign “Artistic Photographs.” There would be money in it and you are certainly qualified. But I know it is hard for an Englishman to change his biz’ if he is an engineer or an efficiency expert he hates to change. It’s different here. A fellow is all right if he turns his hand to any old thing in emergency. Josephine’s husband Bob Eley was in the engineer’s office at Ford’s and was let out five months ago. When he closed down, he made $250 per month and had about saved up enough to buy them a house. But when his wages stopped to save drawing on his savings he went to selling insurance on commission. He’s a good talker and what he sold helped. But when Ford started up again he tried to get his old job back but failed as they did not want a full force, but would soon, so he waited in vain. But when they offered him a job in the machine shop he took it at once. But he says he has to stand on a cement floor all day instead of sitting at a desk. But he also says “I’ll have my old job back pretty soon.” Isn’t the world idle just now? We have 5½ millions of unemployed men here and Eng I suppose is still worse off, being paralysed [sic] by that coal strike which affects every man, woman & child in the country. You of course are better judges of who is to blame, but it looks to me that the government made unreasonable concessions to the miners during the war to keep them satisfied and now the miners are unreasonably demanding that these concessions continue instead of conceeding [sic] something themselves to help start up business & manufacture and find employment for all. But I may be wrong for I know I always am inclined to look at the labor question from the employer’s side for I’ve been on the employer’s side nearly all my life and I remember how I had to kill time in England in order to hold my job. When I tried to show what I could easily do I had a delegation of workmen wait on me to inform me that if I wanted to work there I must slow down. And I think the British workman should realize that England cannot hold the front rank in business unless the workmen will give an honest days work for the wages they receive. A square deal all around is all that England requires to lead the world and I hope she’ll get it both from employer & employee. And that very soon every machine will be humming and every man & woman employed & every child in school. God bless the old country.
The boys are O.K. Harold still at work and Cyril was to be thro school May 31 if so he’s either working or hunting a job. Haven’t heard from them since they said in their last that they were going to buy an auto and start over land to hunt work unless Cyril got work in Kansas City. I told them to hold on to Harold’s job as long as possible. Cyril should be able to get work in K.C. and save up a good stake before they left a good job. They think they can pick up a job anywhere. I know they want to head for California. But they are good managers, they never call on the old man for help so I guess I had better let them play the game alone.
We have had 30 days of blistering heat. From 98 to 102 in shade and no rain. Grass fields burning brown and all crops suffering badly. Ground so dry & hard that we can’t plow or cultivate what is plowed. Things sure look bad, no fruit, no crops. We hoped for blackberries but they are drying up but it is early yet & if rains come we could still raise lots of feed.
Yes! I write a lot of letters. I tell Mama our stamps cost as much as our groceries, but I derive the most pleasure from writing. First, I don’t write to anyone where it is a task. If I don’t like them I drop them but I just enjoy writing to loved ones. I always liked letterwriting [sic] and more so now we live in a lonely place.
Bless you I wish you were both here, to see the fireflies & hear the whippoorwill and every morning at sunrise you could “listen to the mocking bird,” who sits on top of the highest tree. Or I wish I was with you & we could all stroll down the fields to Tapton Grove pond. Oh, my! The old days come back & I’m a boy.
Goodby. Fond love & best wishes.
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My dear Sister & Hubert.
Your welcome letters of July 8th received. You certainly had a drouth [sic] over there. It beat ours last year and I thought that was bad enough. We had 77 days while you had 86 according to the enclosed clipping from my daily paper. How hot did it get? We had 32 days drouth [sic] this year with the thermometer 100º to 103º every day. It damaged our crops some but we are getting rains now and little cooler, 96º nearly every day, and crops doing better.
While I think of it, a “calico” pony is a “piebald” pony, or what the westerners call a “pinto.” I think pinto is Mexican for piebald. A large proportion of the wild mustangs are piebald. So, many of the cowboys rode piebalds, but they wouldn’t know what piebald ment [sic]. They would call them pintos and others “calico” ponies. To make it clearer to you why they call them “calico,” I would say what you call a “print” in England, for cheap dresses, we call “calico” here. So when a pony is marked with a pattern he is “calico.” What you call calico we call “muslin.”
Many thanks Hubert for your explanation of the theory of relativity. I seem to catch on to what they are trying to get at, but conclude it doesn’t matter much to me. Some of these men seem to think Einstein played a joke on them according to the enclosed clipping, a second Dr Cook. But I guess he was honest in his convictions at the same time he may be wrong in his conclusions. I haven’t figured it out. Ha!
They are talking of increasing our postage to three cents again.
Russia seems to be getting into a pretty bad hole. I agree with feeding the children but I wouldn’t feed a grown person until they went to work. When the farmers quit work famine will surely follow.
Thank you for the wild roses. They still have the delicate perfume. We have wild roses here but I can’t get any nice buds. Things seem to burst out in full bloom so quickly and for the pictures too I thank you. I always look for mother in them somewhere, for you are together so much.
I have to announce the birth of another grandson on the 8th at Detroit. Jo’ & Bob are sure proud, they wanted a boy. Have named him “John Fox Eley.” Eley is their surname of course. So I hope Ford will soon give Bob his office job back. There’s a little more money in it.
You’ll soon be getting in the collar again Hubert. Business will be starting up. It will have to if England is to keep her place in the world market. She will have to manufacture.
They are building a good automobile road from Willow Springs right by my farm. It runs alongside my farm for a mile. When it is completed I figure on getting a “Ford” then I can go to town in half an hour instead of 3 hours. They have a 30-[?] gasoline engine with which to pull down the forest trees. When a tree is too big or breaks off they dynamite them. They clear about half a mile per day. It sounds like a battlefield. The road will increase the value of my farm considerably. We have voted sixty millions of dollars in Missouri to be spent on good roads. It will take 10 years to complete the work they say. There is to be at least 1500 miles of concrete road. Our roads have been a bad feature as sometimes it has been impossible to get the mail brought out from W.S.
Family here O.K. Just rec’d circuit letter, everyone on vacation nearly. Alice has visitors and takes daily drives to coast or motors to mountains. Winifred & family at their mountain cabin for 3 months. Frances living in a tent house 5800 ft above sea level in the Rocky Mountains a grout stream running in front of house. A “tent house” has wood sides & floor with a tent for roof. Lillian & husband at an inland resort. Dorothy at home, husband too busy to “vacate” this year. Boys threshing wheat in western Kansas. Mama & I as usual milking cows & eating watermelon.
Goodby. Write when you can. Always thinking of you and wanting a letter.
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My dear Sister and Hubert.
It was nice to get a letter from you again. I should have written you anyhow not waiting for you to write but the boys came to see us a month ago and are still here so I haven’t done much writing and am afraid I’m going to make a poor attempt now on account of poor ink. Have only some stuff that has been frozen and it acts like as much soot & water but must make the best of it I guess.
The boys surprized [sic] us of course they always do. Wrote us a letter & never mentioned coming but had already started home when they mailed the letter. But as they were about 500 miles away the letter beat them home by about two days for they came across country in their Ford car. Mama and I were sitting reading one dark night, rain was pouring down but as it was warm we had doors & windows wide open and as I am a crank about having a good light we use a 300 candle power lamp. All at once someone called at the front gate Hello! “Why!” I said “That is Harold,” and we ran out in the rain and found both boys in their car. “That light looks like home,” they said. And they were soon enjoying a good supper after a hard days drive over bad Ozark roads. Came all the way without a mishap until they arrived at the corner of our farm where the road builders were working & had blasted out some large trees — had not filled in the holes & the boys ran into a “shell hole” and nearly turned their car over and were stuck for a time in the black drenching rain. But they were only half a mile from home & the tho’t helped them to get out. They came to harvest my crops and now we have everything in the barns and stacks so I am afraid we shall lose them soon as they are eager to return to Kansas City to get to work again. We want them to stay all winter and enjoy a vacation & hunt and trap, but they want to get back to work. They want to leave us the car and I’ve been driving it to learn how. I can drive on good roads but am a little nervous on some of these steep rough hills. So I told the boys I would give them a good hunting dog if they would take the car back with them before I killed Mama but I’m afraid they will leave it and I know I’ll run it spill or no spill.
There is a girl here we are very fond of, perhaps I’ve mentioned her. She’s so daring, shoots, rides, skates, swims, drives her own car besides feminine accomplishments. About 3 years ago we had a very clever riding horse, which she wanted so I sold it to her, and about a week ago it threw her and broke her leg, so it doesn’t do to be too daring especially when one is getting old but if I have a car I’ve got to run it.
Mama has just called to me, telling me to tell you that she sees a humming bird still here is spite of us having had two frosty nights.
Many thanks for pictures Hubert they are very interesting. I tho’t a bee sting was pretty large and now I can prove it. When we began to fill one of our barns last week, we found a colony of Humble Bees [sic] had taken possession and wouldn’t let us in. So we had a fight and got badly stung and it took us three days to get possession. Harold’s face was swollen until I told him he looked like an Esquimau. I’ve been stung so often I’m immune to swelling.
The clippings were also interesting, you seem to have quite a revolution in the attitude of ministers to what used to be orthodox.
Jo’ has one girl 8 yrs old so now she has a pair, all well with her.
I have planted the wheat and hope it can stand our winters. Many thanks for giving me a start.
You sure had a record breaking drouth [sic]. Our heat runs up to 110 & 115 sometimes tho’ am glad you escaped such temperature.
I spoke of you and wondered if you saw or heard the R.88. Too bad poor fellows. Looked to me to be a foolhardy devotion to the ethics of their profession, knowing it was defective.
I killed a rattlesnake the other day and would like to send you its skin for a curio, but I haven’t invented a way to pack it yet. It will crease & break if I fold it and to roll it might slip the scales, but I may get an idea soon.
We are all well, and send you both all our love & good wishes.
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Willow Springs, Mo.
Dec 1st, 1921.
My dear Sister & Hubert
Your welcome letter of 13th ult [?] arrived yesterday and reminded me to hurry your snake skin off. I jumped right in and wrapped it up and it will go with this. You may have to soak it in warm water for awhile if it has become hard again. I had to soak it in order to not break it with rolling up. If you use it for a belt you might apply a little Neatsfoot [sic] Oil to keep it soft. I just hang them up on the wall for specimens, am afraid the scales would rub off to wear it. The girls tried several & that was the trouble. If you soak it before unrolling it Hubert stretch it while wet on the back of a door or on a board and when it is dry it won’t curl up. Put a few tacks in around the edge.
I killed the snake right on our porch one eve about dusk. We have two large porch chairs one for Mama & one for me where we sit & read. I had been reading and quit to go to milk. Went in house & got milk buckets and when I came out again there was Mr Snake coiled under my chair. I don’t suppose I’d have noticed it only for my little dog making such a fuss. She’s only as big as my foot but she thinks she’s as big as a lion. She kept the snake engaged while I found a stick, but I couldn’t hit it under the chair so I finally landed a blow on its tail as it was striking which made him come out & fight and I soon gave him a knock out blow. Then my little dog jumped in & grabbed him and bit about six inches of his tail off before I could pry her loose. I’m sorry for I wanted to leave the rattles on but I’ll put them inside the tube. A fellow often damages them for he can’t “pick & choose” much. He’s got to hit ‘em where he can, for they are like greased lightning when they strike. This has only 8 rattles Cyril killed one once with 14 he was a veteran.
Soon be Christmas. Have a good time. We shall think of you and wish you were here. Frances and her boy are here also the boys still here, so we have quite a family. It was Thanksgiving day last Thursday. We invited a bunch of young folks to make it pleasant for the boys. Had a big old fashioned Thanksgiving dinner and afterwards cards & dancing. Seemed like old times. Hope they will all stay for Christmas.
I must run off to mail this, excuse scrawl have been chopping and my hand shakes, just writes in gerks [sic].
Thanks for clippings. I know now how Lincoln got its name. You always send me something interesting.
We are well. Will try & write again before Christmas. If not you have our best wishes for a happy time and our thoughts will be with you.
Fond love. — If there is any duty to pay don’t receive it. The skin isn’t worth anything.
Again my love to both.
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My dear Sister & Hubert.
I feel like I want to drop in on you a little nearer Christmas and wish you a happy time. Hope you are better of the flu so you can enjoy a good time. I seem to have had the flu for 3 years steady, but I believe I’m getting the best of it.
My last had so much snake in it that it wasn’t like a chat with you. I read with pleasure Lord Hugh Cecil’s speech and with your notes on it I think it good. If the large countries really want peace as they profess I think it can be accomplished. But there’s Russia & Germany to be reckoned with some day, but I think we shall be at rest before then.
I do wish business would start up so Hubert can get into action again. I suppose he is insured against unemployment, but that doesn’t do a fellow as much good as work does. He couldn’t do any better here for there are millions out of work here. I noticed in yesterday’s paper where several thousand packing house employees had struck and the paper stated there were two men applied for each vacant place. I can’t sell any farm product. Cattle are selling for one cent per lb delivered at Kansas City, so the freight would cost more than that. Am waiting for weather cold enough to butcher a beef for our own use. It will be quite a job for we shall have to can most of it as we have so small a family six of us now but the boys will soon be leaving us. I suppose I told you that Frances & her boy was visiting us for the winter.
I can drive the car on good roads O.K. but oh! these roads. The folks all went to town today. I told them they had better take a pair of big strong horses and buggy. But no! the car would go quicker and the consequence was they got in a mud hole with mud above axle and were stuck for half an hour and landed home finally with mud all over themselves & car. Had to run car in pond to clean it and I told the folks they ought to be dipped too for taking the car out. For one can scarcely get to town on horseback. It has rained for days and the new graded road is just a long stretch of soft mud where in many places a horse sinks in to its knees. I’ll not be able to use the car this winter.
Yes, I received the newspapers O.K. thanks. Always forgot to mention them.
I wish I could furnish your fuel. You shouldn’t have cold fingers. No expense here except cutting and hauling. Just help yourself to all the wood you want so we always have a big fire in the old fireplace. The lightning struck the chimney the other night and came down the chimney and blew a hole in the fire place breast [?]. Blew two wheelbarrow fulls of stone out. It took us all day to build it up again. Lightning also came in on the telephone wire and exploded like a gun in the room. I had the switch outside turned to ground it but it jumped the switch. It struck a large oak tree and left it a pile of splinters and the telephone wire passed close by the tree so when it was struck the wire rec’d a heavy charge. It was a severe storm. I never got up to see the fun tho’. Hardly awoke.
Merry Christmas. Good bye and best wishes for the new year.