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Friday, March 20, 2009

Letter 133 ~ January 30, 1919

A raised sentry post at the Nitro, W.V. powder plant

I write Minnie while on late night guard duty and tell her of an amusing incident.

Letter Heading: YMCA, Army & Navy Young Men’s Christian Association, “With the Colors”
Addressed to: Miss Minnie G. Frey, Stockdale, KS

Sentry Box #14, Area “N”
Nitro, West Virginia
January 30, 1919

Dear Minnie,

I am again on guard at Area “N” & as it is a four-hour post, I thot I would pass away the time writing letters. I can do this so long as the officer of the day or the officer of the guard doesn’t come around. I am in a sentry box about twelve or fifteen feet up in the air right over a high wire fence which surrounds this area. From here I can see along the fence & stop anyone who has no business in the magazine. I also have to make a patrol around some of the powder storage houses to see that there are no fires.

I saw a rather good picture last night, “The Hoosier School Master.” Perhaps you have read the book. I have. I go to the show nearly every night as that is about the only thing to do.

From my [sentry] box here I can look over to the Kanawha River where a steam boat passes once in awhile. Piled out on the ground inside the fence are tons & tons of cotton. It is used somehow in the manufacture of explosives.

An amusing incident happened at the barracks the other evening. Just over one of the pool tables is a knot hole in the floor & some of the fellows in the squad room upstairs kept dropping stuff down on the table & bothering the players. One of the players jumped up on the table & held his cue ready & when he saw an eye at the knot hole, he jammed it thru. It hit a man right square in the eye. One of the men upstairs was looking down & he saw the man with the cue but another pushed him away & said, “Let me see.” He saw alright. We felt sorry for him alright but we would have had to laughed if it had killed him. He went over to the infirmary & had it dressed. He said, “I wouldn’t have cared only it was my best eye.” One of his eyes is a little crossed. It will hurt him for some time but I don’t believe he will lose it. He is marked “quarters” & doesn’t have to stand guard. I have been in [the service] about five months now & have never been marked “quarters” nor even gone on sick report.

If I am in another month, I suppose I will be entitled to a stripe. If you get home and are ever over to our house, you can see the company roster which I sent to the folks.

The sentry on [Box] # 15 came down & we sneaked a little visit. Anyone to see or talk to helps to pass the time wonderfully when you are on guard. If you wish to find out how much fun guarding is, just borrow Mr. Parkerson’s shot gun, fasten a belt around your waist, go up to the schoolhouse at nine o’clock tonight & walk around it until one in the morning. It will be lots of fun & you will wish you were in the army & could stay in all summer.

The last time I saw you was that night when your folks were all over at our place for supper. That was over two months ago, wasn’t it. I wonder if it has seemed as long to you as it has to me. I wonder too if you have sat & yearned for the time when you & I could again love each other as we used to, until you couldn’t keep still & had to get up & do something.

Every night before I go to sleep, I lie there & think of how I am going to walk in on you sometime. It will be spring & you will be home from your school. You will be sitting all alone in the parlor with your back to the door. It will be just twilight & we can smell the apple blossoms & [hear] the frogs croaking down on the well. I will come up the road & nobody sees me. I sneak up on the porch & see you in there. I then softly open the door so you won’t hear me & then I go up behind your chair, & thennnnnn I, you, we, ahem, I suppose we shake hands & you say, ‘Oh! Why it is Mr. Griffing” & I say “Yes, Miss Frey. I just dropped in to see your father on my way back home.” You say, “Let me see, you have been in the army, haven’t you?” [And I say,] “Yes, I’m just getting home. That’s nice isn’t it?”

Do you suppose it will be anything like that? It would be lots of fun if you would write how you would like to have me come [home]. That’s of course if you have ever thot about such an occurrence.

I know I told the folks but I don’t believe I have ever told you about the bear I saw. A bunch of us fellows saw a black bear about half grown the other day.

Well, Minnie, I will close with a little seasoning *************** you know what I mean. Yours ever, Ward.

I love you little
I love you big
I love you like a little pig
-- Shakespere

When a fellow gets to quoting Shakespere, it is a sign that he is deeply in love with some fair damsel. I hope I make myself understood.

  • The Hoosier School Master was a silent movie released in 1914 based on Edward Eggleston’s book by the same name.
  • The process of producing black powder required cellulose which was obtained from washing, bleaching, and drying raw cotton linters and hull fibers. The town of “Nitro” actually took its name from the word “nitrocellulose” rather than “nitroglycerine” which is what many people assume even today.

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