BY ANNIE PIKE GREENWOOD
H—, IDAHO, 4, 28, 18.
MY DEAR MARY, —
When your belated telegram reached me, I was engaged in taking off hens from eighty new-hatched chicks, looking after one hundred and ten more, making over a dress to save the money for Liberty Bonds, baking war-bread with oatmeal, potatoes, bran, and a mere suspicion of wheat flour (surprisingly good, too), cleaning the house after the men’s batching in it all winter, getting ready to receive a new hired hand and hunting anxiously for a hired girl, attending a lecture on food-conservation (where your telegram reached me and nearly scared me to death at first sight), making soap, and planting my war-garden with the aid of a Symphony Orchestra violinist, descendant of the Russian nobility on his mother’s side.
You see, my violinist has come to invest in farm-land, and he has taken a notion to get some first-hand experience at farming. He is M— G—, of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and you may remember his visit to Provo, when he played in the tabernacle. He is much amused to think they had to build a platform especially for the eighty-five men in the orchestra, and called the tabernacle the Mormon church. I was simply flabbergasted this morning when he showed us his advertising matter, with the press-notices from all over the world. He had just been praising my corn-waffles, and I was plumb skeered to look him in the face. All I could do was to murmur mournfully, ‘Now I can never cook for you again!’ But he ate my plain oatmeal mush, cooked under pressure in my steam-canner, with lots of cream, for supper, and we all forgot that we were entertaining a celebrity in disguise.
What a pleasure it was when he resurrected his fine violin from his trunk and played for us! I shall not eat a thing out of that sacred garden — but I suppose we shall have to, in spite of the sacrilege. Shades of his noble ancestors! I wonder what his mother, or those past enthusiastic audiences would think, if they could see his long, artistic fingers poking my onion-bulbs into the ground! He is a close friend of Mischa Elman, played for Galli-Curci only a short time ago, etc., etc., until my head whirls, and I wonder whether I am dreaming, having labored too hard at my various tasks.
How did we come by him? His uncle has a shack just below us, and he came unexpectedly there one day, and we took him in the next, ignorant of his musical worth.
Yours as ever,
P.S. I am much amused at my Symphony artist being my gardener; but it is n’t much stranger than me being a farmer’s wife, now is it?
H—, IDAHO, 5, 13, 18. DEAR FOLKS, — In the midst of my rush I am trying to write to you. I have been cook and general houseworker for family and four hired hands, two of them sleeping in the wagon on some hay. Two are now gone, but with the two left I hardly know the difference. Thank goodness, it is against my patriotiotic principles to bake cake and pie. That word ‘patriotiotic’ shows the state of my mind. It is a wonder I did not write ‘idiotic’ in its place.
For some time Jim was on the verge of insanity trying to farm a hundred and twenty acres alone — get the crop in and irrigate at the same time. Then it rained hired hands. We have been farming with the aid of a Russian Bolshevik, an English conscientious objector, an I.W.W., and a man from Arkansas who never saw an irrigationditch before. The Russian Bolshevik is also a quite wonderful violinist, playing in the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He wants to buy land, and thought it would be agreeable to help out some farmer who would board him for his labor. And then he wanted to choose what that labor should be, and just how much time he should put on it. Also, he was not giving the farmer any symphony music free of charge.
I revered his genius, but I reached the point where even Paderewski would have been able to irrigate the garden right or go to a hotel. He thought we were quite hard on him when we did n’t want to keep him on just for his board, for, like the average city man, he has the opinion that it requires neither skill nor brains to farm, and that he could do it at a moment’s notice if so inclined. I tell you, it takes more brains, courage, and endurance to farm than to do any other work in existence. I consider myself a brave soldier in this world’s war, with my uncurled hair, my tired face, and my broken fingernails — down below the quick, so they hurt. That does n’t mean that I am the most efficient person for the job. It simply means that I am doing all in my power.
So our Symphony violinist left today. Our conscientious objector left some days ago. Jim sent him to another farmer, who found papers in his coat which pointed to his being an I.W.W., and of course the I.W.W. isnot allowed in Idaho. So the farmer turned him over to the sheriff. He was a redheaded English boy, and we were all certain he would be deported, but it turned out differently. We had been suspecting his companion who worked for us of being an I.W.W., and I dropped a few remarks to lead him on. His answers convinced me that he was one, and one day my Bolshevik violinist, and my Polish hand got into quite a noisy argument as to which was the better Bolshevik, and Trotsky’s name was thrown from one to the other, when I banged on the table. ‘Now, look here, boys,’ I said, no matter about your old-world affiliations. What I want to know is, what organization you belong to right here in America.’
I asked the violinist first, purposely.
He answered, ‘None; I am an American citizen.’ (He has taken out his first papers, but he is anti-English and antiAmerican.)
Then I turned to Gus, the Pole, born in Russia, but raised in America, ‘And to what do you belong?’
He looked me frankly in the face and answered with a little smile, ‘I am an I.W.W.’
‘That is what I thought,’ I answered quietly. ‘You had better tell Mr. G— as soon as you can.’
So Gus — that is his name — ‘ ’fessed up,’ and Jim told him about the arrest of his partner, English George. We should have turned Gus in, I suppose; but we both like him and considered that, in spite of his violent principles, he was really less harmful to this country than the anti-English, antiAmerican violinist, who talks against the Liberty Bonds and other methods the government has of maintaining the war. Gus was unusually intelligent and well-read, a splendid worker, and, I have no doubt, an agent sent out by the I.W.W. to spread their propaganda. Gus and I had a great many talks, during which he failed to convince me of the right of sabotage.
When Gus heard of George’s plight, he went to the rescue, though we assured him that it meant a prison sentence; but both George and Gus were lucky, for George had been released, and Gus ‘talked’ his way out, as he expressed it in a letter.
>Now we have left the man from Arkansas — a quiet, efficient farmhand, and American, thank heaven! We don’t want the ‘melting-pot,’ as America has been called, to boil over and spill any more aliens on our farm.
I have n’t a girl, for the man from Arkansas costs a hundred dollars per month, and we cannot afford the added forty dollars which Mary asks. So, with house, garden, and chickens, you can well imagine that I have my hands full. We go absolutely nowhere. We work from dawn till long after dark, and are never rested. There are times when it strikes me as a terrible life to live, and, like Gus, I ‘long for the Open Road.’ I wonder, when the city person is guying the farm hayseed, if he realizes what a life the farmer and his family live, and all for a mere pittance.
I had the fright of my life a day or so ago. It was my first experience with fire, and when I tell you that five minutes more would have meant that Joe and Rhoda — it is too horrible to dwell upon. When my Symphony Orchestra man failed me as an irrigator in the garden, I seized the time right after dinner, when both babies had been put to bed, to go out into the garden and set the water myself. I had just got it set when the violinist came out of the kitchen-door and called, ‘Your baby is crying, Mrs. G—.’ And in spite of the fact that he can’t farm and is anti-B. and A., I shall bless him all my life for calling me. I went into the house and could hear both Rhoda and Joe shrieking at the tops of their voices. I could smell something burning, and stopped to investigate my stove. Finding nothing wrong, I opened the bedroom door. I was choked by a gush of smoke, and could see beyond that one of the beds was on fire, and that in the other Joe and Rhoda were sitting up, screaming in terror. The flames were rushing up, but I beat them out with my hands, and dragged burning bedding and mattress out into the yard, where I poured on water. Remarkably, my hands were not burned.
I went back three times to bring out things, and each time nearly suffocated. The fourth time I brought the babies. The corner in which they were sitting was almost free from smoke on account of a partly opened window beside their bed. White and trembling, the three of us sat on the cellar-door, and my heart was full of thanks as I gazed at the ruined bedding and mattress. Rhoda was almost too frightened to tell me how it happened; but I was so glad to have both of them alive that I was very gentle with her. She had found a match in the pocket of her papa’s bathrobe, which happened to be lying across the foot of her bed. She has always been praised for bringing every match she finds to either her papa or me, so she called and called me to come and get the match. As I did not come, she decided to light it, and because it burned her finger, she dropped it. Thank God, it did not fall on her cotton dress, but falling on the cotton comfort, it immediately burst into flames, and she was so alarmed that she ran over and crawled in bed with Joe, who woke and began to cry. The violinist was in the next room, but Rhoda was so frightened at what she had done that she did n’t dare call him. Then, when the room began to fill with smoke and the flames to climb higher, both children cried aloud in terror.
If I had left them alone—or if I had stayed to set water five minutes longer —
I have been sick about it ever since. Other people have had to bear such things, and why not I? Nothing shall take me from the house again unless Walter or Jim is with them, even if the garden produces nothing. A.
H—, IDAHO, June 9,1918.
MY DEAR COUSINS, — We are having real summer days now. The boys have gone up swimming in the weir, flies are droning about, myriads of birds, such as we never had before, are here, and the mountains and the valley are a vision in blues, browns, and greens. The boys are really going barefoot for the first time in their lives. They have tried it several times, but failed; but now Jim tells them that they should be ashamed to wear shoes in war-time, and that the Civil War started the fashion of shoeless urchins. And since the war is a real issue with the boys, they are bravely treading, if somewhat gingerly, the cinder-path, the alfalfa, and the rough ground.
There must be thousands of families in the United States living as we are — almost planning our very breathing according to the war. Both boys have milk customers whose pay goes into war-stamps. Each child now has a Liberty Bond, though some of them were contracted for with only faith to show where the money was coming from. We are eating strange breads that make us sit down with apprehension at the table. Most of it looks inedible, resembling masonry, roofing, etc., but tasting astonishingly good if you shut your eyes.
But if the bread looks more like the results of an adobe yard, there is no objection to be made on any score to my barley pancakes and barley waffles, corncakes and corn waffles. I use two thirds wheat in my bread, but no wheat whatever in biscuits, waffles, pancakes, and muffins. Besides, we eat lots of oatmeal mush.
A few days ago Jim came home from town and said, ‘I turned in the flourhoarders to the government.’
I turned to him, shocked. ‘Why, Jim, that means your friends around here.’
‘I have no friends during this war,’ he answered. ‘The government man asked me if I knew anyone out here hoarding flour, and I said I did. He asked for their names, and I gave them. They have no right to hoard flour during this war, and I have no friends who must be sheltered from the government.
' I agreed with him. I, for one, would be ashamed to have a piece of white bread on the table — unless it were made of white cornmeal. My conscience kicked up a dreadful row when I wanted to buy a dress this summer for best. I have n’t had a best summer dress since we came to Idaho, and that’s five years ago, and I have had one summer hat — $1.40, from Sears & Roebuck, or Roars & Seaback, as Jim calls them. Conscience got the worst of it, for I sent away for a simple white dress and hat to go with it. If I had been able to get into my five-year-old white dress, I would n’t have done so; but I cannot go about with a dress in front and none in the back, even to save for the war. I might if I were beautiful, — might even dispense with the gown entirely, — for modesty in my opinion should be used principally to hide imperfections. The beauty of the human body is not wicked when exposed, but only when suggested.
How some of the people here do try to escape helping the government! It is n’t because they are farmers, it is because they are ignorant, and know nothing of the labor-pains that are now throwing the world into agonized prostration. I would rather die, cut off in youth, having pulsated with the heart of a world-ideal, than live forever, — hibernate, — shut off in thought and sympathy from highest resolve of the human family.
We have our troubles with our work. A deep community well has been driven at the schoolhouse, and we are looking forward to having some of the water. Jim, being a trustee, was at the bottom of that well — oh, no, I don’t mean that literally. I am afraid that, if the well had been driven and only Jim found at the bottom, the community would have been ungrateful enough to be disappointed. As it is, they are kicking, many of them, because he was at the bottom of the plan that gave us the deep well — and yet we are to be without water of any kind for three months next winter, and they know it! I believe they would go around with their tongues hanging out with thirst rather than owe their drink to someone who had the brains to think of driving the well with public funds for the benefit of us all. But farmers are no more jealous of each other than business-men, doctors, lawyers, teachers, or actors.
I forgot to say that our troubles consist of that which frequents the kidneys. Jim had just made some exclamation to that effect when Rhoda made the startling announcement, ‘Joe dropped one of his kidneys.’ ‘Is that so?’ I heard Jim say; ‘and then what did he do? ’ ‘ Oh,’ answered Rhoda, ‘he picked it up and swallowed it again.’
We greeted this answer with laughter, Charles joining loudly, whereupon Walter, the sophisticated, challenged, ‘Charles, you don’t know what a kidney is.’
Charles was equal to the occasion, however. ‘Yes, I do,’ he said, ‘it’s trouble. Don’t you know papa always says, “kidney trouble”?’
My trouble, of course, is the incurable caused by Joe’s birth, and I work and pray at the same time. But what’s the use of complaining? I can bear things as long as I can, and when I can’t, I can’t. And my bearing period usually lasts from sun-up till long after dark. The pain is not so bad that I cannot sleep through most of it. But it is a very foolish and useless trouble to be carried about by a farmer’s wife.
Jim is irrigating one hundred and twenty acres as fast as he can, I am irrigating a half-acre garden, and the kids are irrigating everything on the place except their hands and faces. Rhoda fell in the canal this morning all over, and yesterday Joe sat down in a muddy ditch up to his waist. Oh, the joys of wash-day on an irrigated farm!
I get up an hour before anyone else in the house and work in the garden. It is the only time I can squeeze out. And yet the weeds are trying to smother things. But I have my reward, for the world is very beautiful in the tender early morning, with a mist over her waking eyes. And the little birds twitter, while the insects begin to awaken. The smell of it, too — the good, fresh, green earth just waking to another day. And nobody but me and God fully awake there in my garden! The feel and the thrill of it is worth forcing my tired body out of bed to experience.
Don’t know when I shall have a chance to write again, so am making a book of this. My love to you all. Think of a green farmhouse on the top of a hill, with the green valley all round, circled by beautiful blue mountains, the blue sky above, with floating white puffs of clouds, and me standing in the garden taking breaths and just soaking it all in. Good-bye.
H——, IDAHO,July 4, 1918.
DEAR COUSINS, —
I am heart and soul for the Non-Partisan League which has just come to Idaho. The farmers are the most patient class in the world — partly because of ignorance. It took educated farmers to start the Non-Partisan League, and it is the educated farmers that are making it ‘go.’ I have been a victim, as a farmer’s wife, of so many abuses by those more powerful than the farmer, that I am ready right now to vote for the League candidates. Senator Borah is to be one of them, and I think the League is apt to favor the Republican ticket more than the Democratic, because Senator Borah was the means of getting a plank into the platform in favor of state-owned water and other utilities. Of course, you know that the League does not put its own ticket in the field, but just supports the men it wants on either ticket, unless there is no good man to be had; then it runs a man of its own.
Returning to our haying, I told Jim that I knew at last that he really loved me, when he came home and told me that he had told the men he asked to help him that ‘there was nothing doing on the supper.’ I expected them to refuse to help him, but most of them have hay themselves this year, so they did n’t balk. That supper, after a big dinner, and mountains of dishes at noon, has always been the straw to break the camel’s back. I consider this one of the bravest, most thoughtful, and loving acts that a farmer ever did for his wife, and entirely without precedent. I hope, for the sake of the other women here, it will start a new fashion. The poor woman next to us had ten men to cook for — they have an old-fashioned hayderrick— noon and night for about a week, and was so sick she was hardly able to be about at the time. Her husband was afraid to squeak, and those helpers did n’t care. There is nobody on earth, I verily believe, so utterly heartless with women as some farmers. They regard them as work-animals, and have become so used to seeing them drudge with a burden almost too hard to bear, that they think nothing of it — think nothing of anything except their own convenience and a dollar saved.
Jim had the unique experience of hatching out a batch of chicks with a mowing-machine. True, he cut off the mother’s head at the same time, and the operation was not quite delicate enough, as it killed a number of chicks; but the children carefully gathered up the others, and I finished getting them out of the shells, and placed them under a pullet that had been broody for three days. She would n’t accept them at first, but I put her in the chick-pen with them, and she had a chance to size them up. She seemed very much distracted. She felt certain that she had not sat on the marked nest-egg long enough to hatch out six chicks. At last she seemed to turn it over in her mind and become resigned. ‘Perhaps,’ she seemed to think, ‘this is just some more war-time efficiency — instead of taking three weeks to bring out my chicks, I have been allowed only three days. I expected to get a good long rest, but I suppose it’s a case of work or fight, and I don’t fancy the trenches, so here goes.’ Whereupon she adopted them.
The casualties are very great on the farm — mostly wild things. Every day the children bring in dead birds and rabbits, and we mourn over them. The farm is overflowing with birds this year although there are hardly any trees. They nest in the earth, with alfalfa waving above them. They are around our doors every day — meadowlark, red-winged blackbird, mourning doves, purple martins, pheasants, orioles, hawks, canaries, mocking-birds, killdeer, and up above, passing over our heads, the sandhill cranes, wild geese, and ducks. The rabbits are very bad this year, and are taking the crops on farms at the outside of the segregation. There have been several rabbit drives. Did you ever see one? To me it is terrible. The men and women chase the rabbits with clubs, and as they club the pitiful creatures to death, the rabbits scream like babies.
The men pile them in ghastly mounds — long-eared, velvet-furred, glassyeyed. I suppose there is no help for it, as the warm winter has caused them to propagate so freely, and the grass is gone from the range. Also, the farmer got it into his head that the coyote was his enemy, and killed them nearly all in these parts. The coyotes seldom troubled any of us except with their weird cries, and they kept down the rabbit population within bounds.
With much love,
H—, IDAHO, July 12,1918.
MY DEAR SISTER, —
When I read of the fruit you have been ‘putting up,’ I feel like saying with a former neighbor of mine that it seems ‘hardly impossible’ that you should be able to get fruit so easily. Here it is the twelfth of July, and I have n’t been able to get my hands on a quart of fruit, that is, excepting a few red currants that grew in our garden. That will be the extent of the fruit-crop on our farm this year. We usually have a few strawberries — not enough to can — but some to eat with shortcake to make them go further; but the frost got them this year, and next year the alfalfa will have them in its all-embracing grasp, having invaded the garden in the solid ranks of an enemy army.
I have just written for seventy-five pounds of cherries, but have not yet heard whether I shall be successful in obtaining them. Have just heard of some dewberries at $3 per crate. Way out of sight, but feel that we must have them, as I hear on all hands that the fruit crop here is short, and that the merchants in Twin Falls are buying up everything and shipping it out of the country. A fine patriotic thing to do, considering that the local women are frantic for fruit, that the government is urging using home-products, that the railroads are congested with necessary freight, and that by sending these products out, the merchants will be enabled to sell to the women here, who cannot obtain fruits for canning, their own high-priced canned goods next winter. Talk about profiteers!
We simply camp in the summer-time — not an unnecessary thing to catch dust, not an unnecessary thing that must be cleaned. I used to look at your house last winter, with all its china, bric-à-brac, fine furniture, and silver, and try to picture it after one week on an irrigated farm with you taking care of a garden and chickens — but my imagination broke down. I had white spreads on the beds until last week, but I could n’t stand the washing — they had to go in the tub every week. You see we have no room for a couch downstairs where the beds are, and some of us want to lie down every day. The beds are the only place to rest. I will not deny a tired father or sleepy boy the use of the bed just because he has on overalls, and overalls are never clean. So the beds have sage-colored covers on that answer the purpose of comfort if not of beauty.
What housekeeping I do is done under four decided disadvantages, namely, Walter, Charles, Rhoda, and Joe. I had just papered the pantry shelves when I was horrified to notice a dribbling of molasses all over their otherwise clean surfaces. Could I have dripped it in an absent-minded mood? But no, as I gazed upon its varying trail, I decided that I might be absentminded, but I was not crazy. At least, not in my own opinion. Investigation showed that Walter thought it would be a worthy object to get rid of the flies, which have begun to come. He decided that molasses was the way, and since the flies were coming to the pantry shelves, what could be more natural than to catch them there with molasses?
My gardening is done under the same conditions. All the family camps joyfully on mother’s trail when she goes forth to garden. Rhoda carefully nurtures a milk-weed under the guise of ‘thome nithe lettuth,’while uprooting all the young beets around it to give it room; Charles thoughtfully pulls the heads off the young beans to help them through the ground; Walter makes dams in the irrigation corrugates, which his mother later vehemently ‘damns,’ internally if not externally; Joe walks without distinction, treading down young corn, tomatoes, lettuce, etc., and leaving ruin in his wake; and to cap it all, the dog, who adores me, comes in affectionately, with his head cocked on one side, tail waving jubilantly, to watch me thin turnips, and sits down on my biggest, most promising tomato-plant. Of course, the tomato-plant is no more. Then mother rises in wrath. It was the dog that broke, not only the tomato-plant, but the camel’s back. Mother grabs a baby in each hand, and forces the two young hoodlums on ahead of her, with the dog slinking, tail in, at the rear. Oh, well, babies and dogs are more important than gardens, but we do have to provide for the eating on the farm. In fact, the eating problem is about the most important one. I hope to can several hundred quarts of fruit and vegetables before the summer is over, salt down some vegetables, and dry others. Dried fruit I cannot endure, but if we had the fruit to dry, I would gladly do it, so that there wouId be plenty on hand.
I have a chicken hospital on the back porch that is always ‘full up’ — every bed taken. After they are well enough to turn loose, my heart is wrung by the fact that they usually die of one thing or another within a day or two, hospital life having unfitted them for meeting the cold, cold world. A few days ago Rhoda was with her father, who was milking, when a beautiful white hen came staggering out of the toolroom, turned up her toes, and proceeded to die. ‘Boys, one of you has uncovered the poisoned oats. Go see to it. Rhoda, don’t you tell your mamma about that hen,’ said Jim.
As soon as Rhoda reached the house, of course she imparted the horrifying news. I went immediately to the scene of trouble and found the hen dying, her head purple. I took her to the house, poured tannic acid solution down her, cut her crop open, having boiled all necessary instruments, dug out the poisoned grain, sewed her up inside and outside, nursed her on the back porch for three days, and she is now hopping about and singing her laying song, which appeals to me as much as that of any grand opera star, this time of year, when eggs are scarce.
We nearly lost our little Joe in the big ditch — a canal — that runs in front of our house. We had had two scares, and then the awful thing happened. Walter just happened to notice that the little fellow had slipped down the muddy bank and could n’t get out. Of course, each of us thought the other one was watching him. I never let him out of my sight now. I can hardly believe that we really have our baby still, after seeing him led to me dripping and shaking from the ditch. That ditch has been my nightmare with three babies. I keep Joe in now unless I take him with me.
Love from your SISTER.
H—, IDAHO, 10, 15, 18.
My DEAR COUSINS, —
Just at the time that the checks came for Rhoda’s and Joe’s birthday, the rush season had begun, and it has never slackened a moment since. Now, while I write, the tomatoes and string beans are waiting to be canned, and a rooster is walking placidly about the yard, who will within the hour be occupying an aluminum kettle. It is cook, cook, cook and can, can, can.
We had twenty-six men for our threshing. I did all the cooking, with a woman to come and help serve and wash dishes. Not having any help has kept me Loo busy to breathe this summer. Mary wanted forty dollars a month, and of course I was to do all the cooking. As our hired man costs us one hundred per month, we could n’t see much profit in that.
The view from our house would be worth any amount of money. We are on a rise of land overlooking the valley, with the sweeping mountains all around the horizon. They change in color from hour to hour, pale blue, steel gray, deep purple, and our heads are in the clouds, giving a magnificent sense of space that almost amounts to wings. Many times, as I have been hanging out the clothes, I have stopped stock still with a sense of elation, as I gazed at the wonderful breadth of sky full of puffy clouds gliding gently along, and I have lost all earth-sense, and have felt that I, too, was gliding along with them, freed from all that hampers one on this globe. I may change my mind, but at present I feel that I could not bear to spend my life anywhere in the world but on this rise of land, facing this clean, mountain-embraced valley, with the clouds and the blue stretching in one vast eternity above me.
I have been laughing to myself about my innocent discussion of politics in one of my letters to you. I understand better about the Non-Partisan League now, and while I am just as good a Leaguer as ever, I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor Democrats. I won’t ever dare tell my father that I belong to a political organization that would play the Democrats such a mean trick. You see, all we did was to go into the primaries and steal their ticket. Our candidates were all ‘Democrats,’ — some of them temporarily so, — and since we are a strong organization, our candidates swept everything before them. The state will undoubtedly go Non-Partisan. Thank God for that! We have been robbed of everything but our false teeth, and the business men are just waiting for us to get them, so that they can pry them loose from us. All farmers have to wear them because they never have any money to get their teeth fixed. Oh, the hopes that the farmer lives upon! Oh, the dreams that his daughter nurses! Oh, the despair that his wife dies of! It’s a dog’s life, Cousin J—, and there are only two reasons that keep human beings living it — ignorance and love of nature.
For there is a thrill about ‘raising’ things that is not found in anything else in the world. But why should the farmer and his wife be underpaid for enjoying that thrill? I am raising some of the most delicious fall lettuce that ever angelized a cheese sandwich. If I tried to sell that result of my patience, perseverance, and care, I might realize five cents a head, though it is more probable I would have to sell five big heads for a dime. When this lettuce finally reached your and Cousin L— ’s table, it would cost you three or four times that much. That is the sort of thing the Non-Partisans are going to change. Oh, fie! that was n’t a good illustration either. But you understand what I mean.
Charles came in this morning with the announcement, ‘Mamma, I know what makes the sea salty.’
‘Is that so, Charles?’
‘Yes, mamma; the reason is that our ships keep taking salt over to the English and the French, and the Germans keep sinking them.’ While I was recovering from this disclosure, he added, ‘ Don’t they pay people for making discoveries, mamma?’
‘Sometimes,’ I answered.
‘Well, then, mamma, don’t you think I could get paid for making that discovery? ’
When I considered how many thriftstamps he had probably bought in imagination since making his ‘discovery,’ I hated to disillusion him. However, he went on his way happily, and to-night he will come home from school with other wonderful discoveries, for which there is no money-value, but which are invaluable to keep his mother amused and well balanced.
Love to you both.
H—, IDAHO, NOV.2, 1918.
DEAR COUSINS, —
The mountains are so beautiful now! They stretch in a long, graceful, undulating line, generally cold blue, with the snow shining in pearly veins. We are on such high land that we look down toward the mountains on all sides; for on clear days we can see the Sawtooth Mountains to the north. The valley is so big and we are so high, that we have no sense of being shut in; rather, we have the soaring freedom of the mountain-tops and the clouds whose intimates we are. I feel selfish when I see daily our gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, for I realize that we are so few out here compared with the thousands that never see such awesome illuminations.
H—, IDAHO, 12, 1, 18.
MY DEAR COUSINS, —
The war is over. We are like runners who were speeded up to take several laps more, and who have suddenly and unexpectedly reached the end. It is no wonder that I cannot believe that it is over, for I have not participated even in the fake celebration. Echoes of the real thing came to us only through the newspapers and letters. We went quietly on, baking our bread and milking our cows. But it is like that poem which says, ‘But, oh, the difference to me!’ Life has lost its savor. The paper is a dull squabble about indifferent topics that concern us but little. Glad I am that the war is over. Gladder than I can say. But I suffer slump from longsustained excitement.
Jim was elected to the legislature on the Non-Partisan ticket — that is, on the Democratic ticket. But we lost the state. It was the farmers’ own fault. The men are trying to say that it was ‘flu,’ fright, etc., but it was just plain farmer ignorance and indifference. The farmer deserves all he is getting. And I am caught in the web with the rest of them. I am not nearly as useful as most of them, though I work as many hours, for my mind will lift itself up in dumb rebellion, to ask what all this long labor is about that brings so little return in the things that make life more easy to live. While the world is in the grip of famine, three fourths of Idaho’s potatoes were left to rot in the fields because the farmers were required to grade their potatoes for market to a certain size. For these graded potatoes they received less than a dollar a hundredweight, and paid twenty-five cents for the sacks. Would n’t you think that they would make three grades, small, medium and large, and sell the medium at a higher price? The reason for this waste is that the farmers held contracts for all potatoes at ninety cents a hundred. If big and little were taken, the farmer could have made a fair profit. When the contractors saw this, they worked a little political scheme and had the rule compelling the farmers to supply only the high-price potatoes at that price, leaving the others to rot. Chicago buys these same potatoes for four dollars a hundred. Someone may say that this is all legitiniate dealing with the farmers, but they’ll have to prove to me that it is not only a square deal to the producer, but to the starving millions who would be glad to eat those great big baked potatoes that have become famous on the ‘diners.’
Last year the farmers received about fifteen dollars for their hay. This year the sheep-men have refused to pay more than twelve, measured their own way, which, according to the government measure, means only ten dollars per ton. Yet wages were twenty per cent higher this year, and labor one hundred per cent harder to get, with machinery and every necessary supply fifty per cent higher in cost. Jim refuses to sell at this price, so our hay stands in four monumental mounds — monuments to the farmer’s long-suffering patience. The sheep-men have the money, and have combined against us, so there is no help.
In spite of what has been said in the paper, we have received but $1.90 for wheat. This gives but small profit to the farmer. That reminds me, one of our neighbor farmers was anxiously telling Jim that he had read in the paper that next year wheat would be ‘a drudge on the market.’ I thought the only drudge on the market was the farmer’s wife. The idea of wheat occupying that place amused me greatly. Another man was in just as the paper arrived. He seized upon it and began reading about ‘Choss in Berlin.’ This awful thing captured my imagination, and I heard him no further. I was consumed with a desire to know what this ‘ Choss ’ was, and decided finally that it must be some famous general who had hitherto evaded me, particularly as he seemed to throw the people into great consternation. As soon as possible I laid hands upon the paper and read, ‘Chaos in Berlin.’
Things are so beautiful as I look out upon them from my hill-top! Last night I gazed upon the world wrapped in her moon-veil mysterious, and said, ‘How perfect! ’T is like heaven.’ But — is heaven like this? Or do the dead gaze out upon heaven as I upon the world, and say, ‘How perfect — ’t is like a higher heaven’? Always and always reaching on and on, beyond perfection that is no longer perfection, to that perfection which, too, ends in a doubt? Fools! for the moon-veil hides the earth — the good brown earth; the good green growing things; the trees, the birds, the clouds; enough of joy to fill a heaven full, and that, having not learned to love and use to the uttermost, will make all heaven seem empty when it comes,— lacking,— through lack of power to joy it forth.
We send our very best love to you all. May M— soon join you is our hope. A.