FIRST LETTER TO PAUL'S GRANDMOTHER WOODRUFF
I have been rotten not to have written you before but now I will try to make this a good one and see if I can’t make up a little for lost time. As I suppose Mother and Father have told you we came out to the front about the first of June and have until the last week been on the steady go ever since. I wrote Papa all about that and told him that he should show you the letter but if he happens to forget it remind him of it.
It was all wonderfully interesting, dangerous enough to make it exciting and something doing all the time. Since then we have been resting and getting repaired generally and will probably go into action again the coming week as that is about when our division is due again to go to the trenches. During the action tho that is past, a lot of things occurred which were rather funny.
There are two classes of wounded: “assis” who are too badly off to walk, and “couches” who can’t even sit up. One day one of the boys was taking a load of assis down from the trenches and stopped in a village to fix his car for a moment. When he turned around all the assis were sitting drinking in a café nearby. Another time we were taking some couches down and a shell burst near the car. All the couches, mind you men even too badly hurt to sit up, opened the car and got out and ran to beat the band. A lot of things like that took place and I can’t begin to tell them all. One of the best was to see us all one time run for the same small hole in the ground at the first sign of a shell.
I stopped writing here yesterday because I had to go out and in the meantime have gotten some mail from home. Four letters from Mother all written a week apart. It seemed great to get some news but as the newest one was nearly a month old, it took some of the glamour away. I hope my letters are not as long in getting to America but I rather imagine they are as everything from out here is gone over with a fine tooth comb.
You should see the place we are in now. I think you have been near it, but I can’t tell you where it is. It is a hillside village piled up like a Maxfield Parrish picture and only slightly ruined. We are billeted in the top of a barn, a place that I doubt very much if we would think good enough for the dogs and yet consider ourselves very lucky. It has rained the last two days and outside is a complete sea of mud. Moreover French mud is like no other that I ever saw, much worse even than the Auburn variety which I am frank to admit is going some. One redeeming feature tho is the food which is wonderful. Much better in fact than you can get in Paris by paying for it. They seem to send everything possible to the armies and Mr. Harjes himself does quite a lot for this section. The water tho is not drinkable and I don’t believe that anyone has had a drink of plain water for weeks. A red wine called Pinard is issued to everyone in vast quantities and between that and coffee we manage to keep fairly well flooded.
I am actually growing fat and have never felt better in my life. I have no hollows in my cheeks and with the embryonic mustache which I am attempting have a distinctly stuffy and well fed look that I never remember before having noticed.
Mother tells me in all her letters to cable her. It can’t be done, but if anything happens to me the authorities will cable, so assure her that as long as she doesn’t hear from me by that source I am doing fine. Any kind of correspondence except writing is absolutely forbidden out here and even in Paris you have to get a special permit to send a cable. They are, you see, very afraid that any news should get out which would be at all undesirable to have loose and more so now than ever as America has entered the war. Some of the articles in papers from America that I have seen are positively funny they are so far off the actual facts.
I have just heard that we are going into action again on Tuesday a little farther north than before. I am very glad as this “repos” had gotten to be a fearful bore and although quiet and restful gets rather on one’s nerves. Moreover the sector to which we are going is reported to be very lively so I imagine there will be plenty to do. There isn’t a great deal more to tell you now unless I go into details about the surrounding country which you probably know by heart as it is typical of this part of France. Good bye With love Paul