Addressed to Minnie G. Frey, Manhattan, Kansas
Smoky Hill Flats
Saturday, October 26, 1918
Rain & Mud! Rain & Mud! Gee Whiz, it rained nearly all night & cold! Oh no it is not cold. We are sitting around waiting to be called out any minute so I will start a letter & if I don’t finish it now, maybe I can tonight. It is raining now & we are ordered to be ready to go into the trenches at 1:15 with rifle, bayonet, gas mask, blanket, shovel, etc. Doesn’t that sound like fun? I’ll bet the water is knee deep in some places in there. I wrote you a card last night & said that maybe we would get into D.2. Sunday. Today we have heard that we won’t go until Tuesday. That means 3 more days in this nice, warm, clean, dry & perfectly grand place. But 3 days is about 1,000,000 times better than six weeks. That is what the order was when we moved camp.
The last letter I wrote to you I sent to Stockdale because I supposed you would be teaching. That very same day I got your letter saying that you would be home. I am sorry because you won’t get it for so long. I haven’t gotten any mail from you for 3 days now & none from mother for 2 days. I sure want to hear something pretty soon.
This morning we had to get up the usual time 6:15 & slop out in the rain to stand reveille. Then we lined up for mess & stood & shivered in the chow line for awhile till they said that there would be no breakfast for an hour & a half. The water had run into the kitchen & put the fire out. When we did get it, it was bread, potatoes, corn flakes, pet milk, prunes & coffee. The coffee out here is simply terrible but it warms a fellow up.
Oh joy, I’ve just been up to the supply tent to buy me some candy (at least that is what they call it) & I heard that the battle is to be postponed. Sometimes the officers show a gizzard if they haven’t any heart. Now it can rain as long as it wants to because I expect we will not have to go out at all today except to get our fodder.
Thursday afternoon about five o’clock, we went into the trenches. We carried 1 blanket, gas mask, helmet, raincoat, rifle & ammunition & mess kit & cup. Before going in, the 25th Company boys had their picture taken. I think I can get some prints & if I can will send you one. We had quite a lot of different kinds of trench fighting & came out about 10 o’clock. We had supper in the trenches. Then Friday morning we went back & staid until about five o’clock. It was sure raw out there yesterday, standing on the fire step looking out towards the other set of trenches over “no man’s land.”
I got those pictures [you took of your school children] the other day. They sure were interesting. It looks as tho Sherman [Township] could furnish her quota of soldiers judging by the male members of the district school. I would like to see some more pictures of you & the folks. I am still hoping that I can get a pass some time but it won’t be for a little time anyway. We have heard that the quarantine is to be lifted today at Camp [Funston] but I don’t know whether that is true or not. It would be just my luck to get a pass on a real stormy Sunday & you would be up to your school. But believe me, I won’t turn down any kind of a pass – just so it’s a pass. I would give a lot just to get a pass to Ft. Riley.
This is Saturday. Let me see. Guess I’ll go over & see Minnie tonight. It is rainy & cold; she will have a dandy fire in the fireplace & maybe some popcorn to pop.
Smoky Hill [Flats]
Well here I am again instead of being in a big chair in the parlor of a certain house on the Blue Valley road. I expect Martha will have told you about that fellow calling me up today at noon. He called up & the first thing he said was, “I’m afraid we are caught.” So we arranged to meet at the hotel & get right back to camp. When I found him he said that he was eating in the College Inn & another man from College Hill recognized him & said that he had heard that they were moving camp today & that it would be best for us to be there. Well we fooled around town a little & then got on the trolley & went to Ft. Riley. We caught a jitney & went out to [Detention Camp] No. 2 & found out out there that the camp wasn’t being moved so we didn’t hurry back over. We fooled around at No. 2 & had mess there & then caught a jitney back to Ft, Riley. Well we thot that we might just as well be hung for sheep as lambs so we went to the Ft. Riley [Post] Exchange & filled up on sundaes etc., & then walked on out here to camp.
The fellows here in the tent had the dandiest fire going. The little stove was red hot & they have a can of water against the side of the stove that is actually steaming. I am going to shave tonight so as to have hot water. Gee! But it is fine in here compared to what it was yesterday. There wasn’t enough stoves, nor pipe enough to go around so we sure are lucky.
The boys said that no bugles blew last night & none this morning, no formations at all so we will get by like a streak of lightning. They say that we are likely to go in tomorrow without pulling off that battle because the trenches are in awful shape. Shucks, after we get a nice fire & then move us out. Guess I’ll ask them to let us stay longer. Another thing I heard while at No. 2 was that very likely the whole Depot Battalion will be transferred to [Camp] Funston about the 5th of next month. I won’t mind that a bit, will you?
You might phone to Mama as soon as you get this because I may not get to write to her for awhile. I must shave & get ready for bed, so Good Bye. Hoping to see you again soon. As ever, -- Ward
- Jitney was originally a slang word for a nickel, or five cents. The word then came to be used for a bus that carried passengers along a regular route, since the fare for these rides were five cents. Buses like this continued to be called jitneys long after the fares rose. The word's first known appearance is in 1903, in the 'nickel' sense. The 'bus' sense is first attested in 1914, but seems to have become popular very quickly, since we have a number of pre-1920 examples of the term. The ultimate origin of the word is unknown.