Oh Boy, if Washington and his gang froze at Valley Forge, then we are being petrified. Say folks, give the stove an extra hug for me and tell me how it feels, will you?
Today we just hung around and hung around reading (I the Key Notes) and writing. All day long it poured so we fixed up our remorques [trailers] a bit with tarpaper, etc. Anyway I was glad to huddle up in my coat and read for I was comfortable after a fashion.
Went to bed at 9:30 and after getting to sleep, was awakened by the offensive which started after an interlude of an hour's seance of heavy cannon fire. The sound as it came to us seemed just like a heavy dump-cart rumbling over cobble stones. It lasted all night, this dull continuous rumble, and I could imagine what fun the soldiers must be having with cold, rain, sleepless nights, cannon shots and hand grenades coming around them, making their life extremely, pleasant---ly miserable. That's war though, and I hope it'll soon be over so that the dog Germans will be retreating so fast that their tails may pull them into the North Sea."
Gee! but today was uncomfortable. "Rain came and winds blew and there was ne'er a square inch on our bodies where warmth reigned." Anyway we had to leave with 12 camions [trucks] at 3 P.M. for a night trip to V. and this was the first time I ever came so near getting nipped. We were just outside this beautiful town (in ruins now) but it must have been wonderful before the war with its chateaux [castles] and arbors, when the guns started thundering and as we were sitting in the camions [trucks] eating our suppers, brought to us by the chef, an arrivée came over and crashed out its light about 200 yards ahead of us up on the hill. About ten minutes afterward four or five more, a big French camion came joggling backward down the hill right side of our convoy. The car had been hit by the first arrivée we'd heard but the driver, a Frenchman, miraculously escaped. A piece of the shell had gone right through the hood and cut in two the water pipe leading into the sylinders. The rest of the engine was untouched. Right side of the seat, two inches below where the driver's elbow was placed steering the wheel, a piece of shell weighing about 8 pounds almost rammed its way into the man's thigh, piercing his clothes but not touching him. Then the side of car was pierced like a seive. Imagine our feelings when we twenty minutes later went over his same route and I ran right into the shell hole on the side of the road but got out without any trouble or delay. You see the offensive is on and the artillery is going full blast "clearing" ground for infantry charges.
Coming back the roads were crowded with soldiers being brought up ready to jump into Hell's Hole and conquer a few inches of territory. We made fine time on this trip so got home just as the moon was coming up with a "slant on". If you ever look at the first or last quarter of the moon, you can imagine just what a clean hole these German shells can make through things. We covered 52 kilometers, or 32 1/2 miles in 8 1/2 hours so you can see how slowly we have to pick our way through these deep-rutted roads with enough "force" behind us which, once "tickeld" would issue us a roundtrip ticket to the moon free of charge. Bed 12:30."
On account of yesterday's trip I didn't get up till 10:30 and I was some tired believe me. After dinner Dowie and I took off No. 6's "pants" or drip pan and washed the engine up fine. We worked all afternoon and finished up just before supper---the car smiling in its cleanliness.
After supper Busby came down to the Y. M. C. A. and we played for the boys. It seemed good to please the gang and also to be pleased by having a piano to play on. After we returned I read the Key Notes for an hour. Bed 10."
Was awakened at 4:15 and pulled out at 5 with 6 other camions [trucks] to make a double trip. We loaded at B. and took fusses [fuzes] to S. at 11 A.M. where is a training school for artillery. It is south of us located at the foot of a high plateau. On going up, we had to get out and put on chains for the slope was the steepest I've ever seen an auto try to climb, and also the mud was so thick we would advance ten feet and slide back five. Anyway we got to the top finally and then descended on the other side. S., the town we passed through is the most beautiful little French village I ever saw and it is untouched as the Germans I guess were short of ammunition or incendiary bombs. At the unloading place here I had a long talk with two fine looking French officers and I also saw their men, the newest recruits 19 and 20 years old who have answered France's latest call for troops.
After we left S. we loaded at C--S, a loading park about one-third of the way home again on the same route. Here we loaded 3 camions after sending 3 home and went north to Fe.P. Here we had to climb some more hills also passing through towns that were crumbled to dust. Well, we got through here at 2:30 and started back through S. and took a new route home passing through the country. The road lead over a long flat plateau and we could see the distant dips of purple on the horizon that pointed out streams and rivers. The sky was clear except for the distant on-coming storm clouds and believe me, it was just like "touring France" except our Packard 12 was only a Pierce Arrow 4. We got home just as it started to pour and had a cool supper of greasy carrots and cold coffee, but we didn't mind as the boys with us said they had had one of the best and most interesting trips yet. Of course there are a lot of details in this trip that will be interesting to you when I get home but the censor will have a right to cut them out if I mention them so I'll play the game safely and squarely.
After supper we went down to the Y.M.C.A. and played a bit but came back early and went to bed."
Got up at 8:30 this morning and gee, it was cold. You see the winter winds are now starting and these remorques [trailers] are full of cracks that draw in the cold like a sponge does water, but with my big coat and blankets I am warm enough.
I spent the morning in the atelier's [mechanic shop] and after dinner took a hot shower and then finished tuning the piano so it is in fairly good condition now.
After supper started raining so didn't go down to the Y. M. C. A. to have concert as planned! Instead we pulled up the tailboard of our remorque and tried to keep warm and dry. I read a lot in the Key Notes to the Scriptures and it is wonderful. In fact, I read every day. Bed 9:30."
Up at 10:30 after a poor night's sleep. Some of the boys had a call for 8:00 but they overslept (because the guard overslept) and didn't get away till 9:30. I was lucky and didnt have to go. I had breakfast and dinner at 11:30 then took the car down to the atelier's [machine shop] to be fixed. Then I went over to the piano and really tuned the Y.M.C.A. piano, so tomorrow night we ought to have some music. Really, tuning a piano isn't such a hard job, but it is straining to the nerves. It took me just 4 1/2 hours to get it in shape. Not so bad eh?
After supper, Busby brought over his banjo and I played the banjo-mandolin one of the boys has and we entertained the bunch for a bit.
Tonight I received my Christian Science Key Note to the Scriptures for which I sent an order to Paris last week and they got it to me so soon. I finished the first chapter by candle light, before I went to bed and it truly is wonderful. Ab Street, Roy Youmans (catholic) and I are reading it, --lots of it which is very interesting and helpful. Finally I closed the book and went to bed feeling a different atmosphere which is wonderful.
Must leave for now. Have received all mail surely will get more soon. Love and kisses.
I didn't wake up till 8 this morning as I was tired and cold from last night. Bill Clarke was on guard from 12 to 3 A.M. (or supposed to be) and he was to wake me to guard from 3 to 6 but he went to sleep again after the 9 to 12 guard awoke him and as he slept right through, I didn't have to guard. We didn't get reprimanded so its all right, I guess.
In the morning Dow & I cleaned up #6 and after dinner the chef had all of us gathered around his remorse [trailer] while he questioned us about future service. The greater part of the boys are uncertain what to do and for the most part don't care a darn. But there are a few of us who having sensed this present state of affairs, looking into the future and caring, now all have good places.
At 4 I left with 4 of our cars to go in convoy with Sect. I to a new station only a little more than 1000 yards from the trenches. Here we lugged up heavy logs and as there were about 70 of our camions [trucks] we had to wait a long time before we unloaded. We waited about 2 hours up on the hill and how the arrivees would whistle about us and the departs would bang over our heads whistling a trail of discord into the air and dying out of hearing as they approached their mark. Believe me the sunset was beautiful as it sank out of sight through a vale of rising mist. Then after it was dark we proceeded.
It was a long trip, dusty and nerve-racking but we could see clearly as the full moon gave us a mellow light even through the winter mists. We got home at 3. A.M. and when we puled the car into place even the car complained of its long trip as a grinding squeak was audible in one of the cylinder heads.
I was dead tired out but I couldn't resist reading your letter Mother of September 6th and another from Mattie, September 14th. After I read them I climbed into bed some tired."
Today is Bob's birthday, I believe. Well, Bob, I've got all sorts of presents for you when I get home, May it be soon!
Today we got a call for M s.P again so we left at 8 A.M. and got back at 5:30 P.M. after a disinteresting trip. However, I took some great pictures, --one of a house with a shell hole in the corner of it, and others showing munition bases to batteries in the woods. After they're printed I'll show them to you.
Well, folks, I got some might welcome mail tonight, --Mother's, Sept. 14, Mattie's Sept. 6 & 13, Wilda, 6 & 14, Muddy Marsh, Sept. 14 and Marje Humphries, Sept. 11; also your song-book Mattie, and the Sunday paper of Sept. 9. Roy Youmans [Dartmouth class of 1920] came back from camp yesterday so the quartette christened the new song-book and extends its heartiest thanks to Sister Mattie. After singing our throats sore, we all went to bed."
Was called at 7:00 this morning for Dowie and I had to go to Braine to get some water for the camp. On the way we met a large brown towing car full of American officers who were on their way here to enlist men in the camion [truck] service of the A. F. S. into the camion service of the U. S. Army. When we were coming through the town "en retour" I saw Chet Shaffer. He has joined the army and now is on the captain's staff car (orderly) Capt. Andrews of the camion service in the U. S. A. He came up to the camp for a few minutes and then after I ate my dinner I went down to the Y. M. C. A. where Capt. Andrews made a speech to all the camioneers. Chet had to drive the cap. over to Compeigne so I saw him for only a few minutes but was glad of the opportunity, believe me. In the P. M. I hung around reading etc. I have started a collection of french books all in the same binding and all classics in French literature which cost only 30¢ apiece so you see I read as much as I can. It is very interesting too. Then too, I am making a collection of all interesting photographs in papers and magazines of places in France that I have seen and am familiar with. Some day, I'll make a scrap-book.
After supper we played cards but the chef came up on the hill so we had a bull league about the service. You see Andrews in the American Field Service has "balled" everything up so the service is in a very bad management and the French officers are sore at him, and so is the American Army so the French Army doesnt care whether we stay or not, nor does the American Army want to keep the service so you see we're up in the air. However, I am not worrying as Mr. Marshall who came over on the boat with me has offered me a fine position in the Press & Photographic Division of the U. S. Intelligence Bureau. My job is one in a thousand and I'll describe it in my next letter to you. It is more important than aviation or artillery and just as important as trench fighting, for I shall have to go into the trenches at certain times for special services. Anyway, don't tell anyone till you get my next letter in which I'll describe it fully, tell you how I got it and just how important it is. I feel at last I have earned my reward."
Today, got up at 7:30 and took Car #6 down to the atelier's [mechanic shop] for repairs on the carburator and here we wasted all morning. You see these mechanics are poor, I should say, rotten in their work and they are as independent as hermits, so if one wants anything done he must handle them with gloved hands. After dinner Dow and I went down and exchanged the empty bidons or gas cans for full ones, so we were all afternoon on this job lifting those heavy bidons again but it wasn't so hard this time as we are hardened to the work now. After supper England, Ab S. and I went down town again and listened to the records again. Back to bed soon, however, after a long talk with Ab."