Somewhere Along the Rio Grande, 7/27/1916

Dear Em.

Now I will explain about some of the trash I hustled together in my last letter, which I didn’t mail until I got back today, and which I wrote while on post.

You see the Fifth Regiment, which is doing great work here, have been patrolling all along the border in this vicinity for the last fifteen days. This means, that they broke their camp at Camp Cotton and each company was detailed to a sertain place to releave the regulars, who have been doing this since the trouble with Mexico started. Now we are doing nothing more than releaving the Dandy Fifth. Now this camp where we are now is just (Gee I get a lot of nouns in my letters don’t I? the same as the Camp at Cotton only each company is separated anywhere from a mile to twenty miles, and we have a great deal more work than at Cotton. For instance Co. M is about seventy miles from us. Company L from Laurence is here with us for there are a lot of railroads and bridges at this point, which, by the way is a cement factory, and a big one too. Well picture two lines of tents, one for each company, in a small strip of land between the Rio Grande river and the main road to El Paso.

A view of Smeltertown, El Paso Texas

From where we are we can count two very high trestle R.R. bridges and four other railroads that run along side of the river and are finally lost winding off through great gourges. I think I explained our experience in crossing one of these bridges to get to our post. Just below us on the banks of this brown muddy stream is a settlement of Mexican and say, the rottenest family that lives in the North or West end of Boston live like kings in comparison to these poor people of Mexico. The most of the Mexican families that I have seen, live in what is called dobe huts, a substains that is made from the soil here mixed with water into block about one foot square and about four or five inches thick. Of coarse they use a little straw to make it hang together. These are placed flat one above the other, and a hole is left for a window, a hole in the roof to let smoke out, and a place in the middle for a door. I haven’t seen one yet that was more than the size of the kitchen in which you are reading this letter (some guess what.) and they are never more than one storey high. In this room for that is all the most of them consist of, they cook eat, bathe, sleep, and I have seen pigs and chickens being fead. Now this is the average mood of living of a Mexican family. But, oh this settlement here is terrible. We are not allowed to talk with them, and to go near any of the dwellings, unless so ordered, by an officer, in line of duty is a military offence. It is said that ninty percent of the population of this dump has tuphus, a desease most dreaded by an army. We are forbidden to drink any water whatsoever unless it is brought to the kitchen twice a day.

I looked into one of these holes and in one corner there was an old woman all bent over, looking at, I dont know what, a girl about seven years old was playing with a baby on the floor, and there must have been two feet of empy cans, old clothes, paper, and filth thrown up in one corner, the children rolling around in some other dirt, that I guess hadn’t happened to blow up into the corner where so much had been collected. You would hardly beleive this but it is only what Ive seen. Some of the other fellows have more wierd stories of which I will not relate.

From this camp, one of the two companies are sent out in different directions, in small detachments and are stationed, some place, (like I was yesterday about one and one half miles from camp, others are farther. One company does this one day, the other doing it the next. When we leave it is to stay for twenty four hours, and are given rations for three meals. A fire is built on which we cook our bacon potatoes, warm our beans and corned willie, and make coffee. This cooking buisiness sure does make a fellow hungry, and we eat more while doing this duty than we do in camp but it seems we don’t get half as much. (Part of the game.)

It is very strict here as far as getting out is concerned although I could get off all I want to if I want to, that is on the day that we are not on duty. I just went to the gate with three of the fellows to get them by for no man can leave his company street with out a sergeant or corporal being with him. We have shower bathes here and an electric light for each tent. (Some class I tell you) We also have a mess hall, which is a square shack put up with benches and long tables on which we can eat out of the sun and flies, it being all screened in. Some better than Camp Cotton beleive me. We are getting an awful sand storm even here, but say if we were in Camp Cotton the air would be as dense with sand as a heavy fog.

I have read many stories of this country, and places like it but you can’t get the full benifit of any book the way you can if you climb one of these small mountains and gaze off over a valley of the Rio Grande and low rising hills running up from it and in the distance still larger and larger mountains. I ran across some cactus bushes yesterday and I cut up one of them with the idea of carrying it back to show the rest of the fellows but the fellows on the post with me tried to get some water out of it and spoiled it. I expect to get another one soon for I am a great one to roam around in the vallies and hills. I have the excuse that I am observing my surroundings if the officers of the out gaurds should visit our out post, and ask for me. Well Ill write again as soon as I find time. Hoping you are all well I remain

Sam.

P.S. How is every body? I am tip top.

 © Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

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From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/27/1916

Dear Sammy.

Your letter recieved and I’m glad your feeling good. Uncle Al is coming tomorrow to take Pa to Lawrence to see Mr. Snell a cousin of theirs. Pa goes back to work Aug. 1. Lena sent you some stamps and mailed her letter before yours was recieved telling us not to send any more but I guess you can use them. We like to send them because sometimes some other fellow might need them and you could give them to them. Some fellow might want to write a letter home but not have a stamp and I would be glad to know that you and I helped him out. For instance. A girl in the shop goes with a fellow who is down there and his mother hasn’t heard from him since he left and I told her that maybe he has no money or stamps. She is worrying now because she knows that I hear from you most every day. So if a fellow wants a stamp give it to him.

Have you seen Jimmie Coyne yet? I think John wrote to you telling you he was in Co. H. of the Fifth. I think he must be crazy because he wrote home and told his mother not to believe the papers because he could go anywhere he wanted to at anytime and do anything he wanted to. Can you imagine that Bull.

You told me in one of your letters that the Non Comps had some pictures taken and I’m still waiting for them. Say will you tell me if there is any fellows down there who did not take the Federal Oath as I had an argument in the shop. There was a piece in the paper that 600 men who didn’t take the oath have to return to Framingham and these 2 who are against me in the argument say they are at the border and I say that they must be in their homes. The paper didn’t say where they were but only that they must return to Framingham.

As for the City of Somerville I think is all graft. I didn’t hear or see about any one getting any help as yet. They had fire works and charged admission and I saw them selling ice cream Tue. night but I fail to see where any one got any thing from it. They ask for money to buy underwear and goodies etc for you fellows and as you say you don’t nead it what is the money for? I fail to see where the families are getting it. Its all Graft I think.

Bill who works with Pa got a Texas newspaper from his son and I would like you to send Pa one as I know he would enjoy reading it. As I wrote to you yesterday and Lena wrote today there is not much news. I will ans. your letters all right and send mail every day but some of it will be postcard as I don’t have as much news as you.

Everyone is well and Pa is still enjoying his vacation. Lena and I have been alone since Mon. and the house is very quite. You say you like ice cream and as long as you don’t want paper and stamps I will have to send you a gallon of ice cream and a bottle of ginger ale. Hoping this finds you well I will close

With Love from all

Jane Smiley.

P.S. If you see Jimmie Coyne and he starts to throw the Bull just show him where he gets off. Get me. Em.

© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.