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Letter, January 1, 1918

Camp Logan Houston Texas. Hq. co. 129 Inf.

Jan. 1 - 1918.

Dear father and mother.

Well muver dear, I will answer your letter or at least start to this evening. We are a pretty busy lot - but get some of our evenings at least.

Well first of all and most interesting I got to see Uncle and Aunt last Sunday. Well you know how Aunt Laura is and she sure hasn't changed - seemed tickled to death to see me and I know I was to see her and Uncle is same Uncle Gib of my kid days. Aunt sure looks good and seems to be feeling fine. She seems to be so happy now she is in the sunny south again. And I guess Ethel is just as glad to have her here as she is glad to be here her self.

I thot I would get to see them Xmas but they did not get started soon enough. I went to Ethels the evening before and stayed all the next day. We took dinner at Smiths (Audies mothers) and spent rest of day there. Mrs. Smith certainly is the finest women I've met in the South I know. And she just thinks the world of her boys - The one just younger than Audie was drafted and got to come home for Xmas day. They just nearly eat him up. Southen people are different to northern people in their ways seems to me. And their expressions too. And she just treated me like I was one of her boys and I coulden't have been any place on Xmas where I would have felt more at home outside of being at home itself.

I guess Pearl says quite a bit to her about me and she was teasing Pearl about how dissapointed she would be when she did not hear from me when she would be expecting to. And Pearl (Audie's Sister) there simply couldent be a nicer girl any place. She had a fellow in the Army that was in Alvin for Xmas, but she told me if I could come she would rather see me than him. So can you wonder I think her a nice girl. We sure have some great times together. she is so southern and I am so absolutely northern. she is a perfect blonde and, well you know what color my hair is - and we are so different in our ways we hardly know if we understand each other yet. She thinks I'm so wise, but its just because she don't know me like I do. for I'm as perfect a dub as I ever was only the people up north know how to take each other but down here they don't quite savy me. I get to see her quite a bit now as I can get away every Sunday afternoon and go down at 1:30 and come back at 9:20. It really isn't half bad considering I have to be here Sunday mornings and every day else during the week. I have some pictures taken of her and Ethel and Mrs. Smith, and of most all of us for that matter but have a hard time keeping prints as every body wants some and they are all gone before I know it. I will send some first oppertunity I get tho.

Well I will tell you some of my presents. I got a box of candy and a couple of kerchiefs from Leah Longstreth - she is still writing to me and writes the most interesting letters for a girl I've never seen.

Good people in Quincy sent me a pair of sheep skin moccisons - all wooly on inside sure are fine to sleep in and be in tent with they are more like a shoe tho. lace up. Got a Red Cross package from Danville Had a card in it from Mrs. Dand Cunningham, 722 Bryan Ave. I wrote a little word of thanks to her. And another red cross package from some where. The one from Danville had candy, figs, rasins, cake, cookies, chewing gum, kerchiefs (3) - and 3 pencils and many other little things. The box of cookies from you and daddy and from Maude the Sweater - pr of knit wool sox (from her mother & Ruth) and a box of candy. Audie gave me a nice box of stationary. So I guess I didn't have such a bad Xmas after all. and got such a good dinner Xmas day besides having such a good time. But even at that or any thing else I keep remembering my own cozy little home on the corner and even if I do try to keep my mind off of it as much as possible I just think about it any way.

And jove - how the quiet little place does appeal to me sometimes, and especially when I am not feeling just right. And mam I know you cant want to see me much more than I want to see you. And I hardly think our quiet little home would be monotonous at all. I am too much to be alone, and I think being in the army is a good things, makes me mix more with other people, and I guess I would hardly feel right to come back now until the war is over. I would not feel right to be at home and so many gone.

You certainly had a fine little Xmas feast and how much I would have loved to be with you.

Well I get to see Longstreth and Tommy once in a while for I go and see the boys occasionaly. No, Tommy is not in our signal platoon - he is still in the band.

I could have taken my camera along to the range - would have had to smuggled it there tho - but the weather was quite a bit cloudy and I did not think I would be able to take any good pictures so did not take it. am sorry tho for one day it was very good for pictures and I sure would like to have some pictures of us on the range.

Well I don't know how dangerous our work will be - but I do know it is in all the trenches. While it is not expected of us to make any charges yet we have to know how to defend ourselves against an offensive movement from the Germans. That is the reason we have rifles - bayonets and are drilled in the use of both of them. We are being drilled in the use of gas masks now. Well mother dear I am going to close for tonight and write some more tomorrow if I have time and then I can tell you some about our gas instructions.

There has been an areoplane flying over camp every afternoon for over a week now. Today he came down close and was doing some pretty fancy flying for what you generally see around here.

Well good night ----

Well this is Thur. evening. One of the fellows rec a box from home so we had supper in our tent. Had a whole roast chicken, sweet pickles - cake, sauce - and fruit and nuts and some other things. We sure had a good time.

Well our gas instructions stopped this after noon. I had a picture taken of me in my gas mask and will send a print in my next letter. It is a mask that fits under your chin and against the side of your face and across your forehead, the edges are bound and elastic and fit tight but leave rest of the mask in front of face loose. Mask is a rubberized cloth. has two big eyepieces of glass, a spring with two rubber pads that close on your nose so you can't breathe thru your nose and a rubber mouth piece that fits between your lips and teeth with two little lugs of rubber to hold your teeth apart so you can breathe freely thru your mouth. You inhale thru a tube that leads to a bag with a can in it that contains chemicals that purifies the air as it comes thru. You carry the bag on your chest in front of you. After you breathe the air in thru this bunch of chemicals there is a valve that wont let it go back the same way but forces it out side of the mask in to the open air. and there is a valve in the outlet that keeps the air from coming in that way, making it always come in thru the chemicals.

Yesterday we took off our masks while in the gas room - they had it filled with tear gas - it made tears come in your eyes when you took off the mask. it was not dangerous. But today it was filled with poisonous gas and about thirty times as strong as we would ever get it in the trenches. We could not tell if there was any gas there until they said "test for gas" then we pushed our finger under side of mask letting some of the gas inside the mask. You take out your finger then and release your nose piece just the least bit and the gas would sting your nose or you would sniff it up, almost shock you as it would take effect so sudden. Gas like that would strangle you in a half of a second if you would remove your mask in the room with it and sure would be fatal as it is so poisonous.

It is hard to get used to the masks as the nose piece keep you from breathing thru your nose, holds it tight shut all the time. And your mouth gets so dry breathing thru it all the time. We would drill in these things, run - play games and every thing - just to get used to being able to use yourself with them on. My record in putting it on, placing the mouth piece and adjusting the nose piece is 6 seconds. You see they yell gas and you jerk the mask out of the bag and put it on and to do it all in 6 seconds is moving. And after the warning "gas" you don't breathe then until your mask is all placed and you leave mask on until given command to take it off.

Sure has been two days of interesting work for me. And the Officer in charge of the instruction was such a jolly fellow, sure made it fine for us. I don't know just what our next school will be on now. Well mother we are not come down on as hard as I was expecting it and we are still treated pretty much as human beings, but your desires are not thot of and they give you very little privledges.

Out work in war is to put up wires and connections that communication between the first line trenches to officers quarters may be had at all times so the officers will know just what moves to make - so you see the importance of our platoon. I am a wire chief and inspect all work and put in terminals and things of that kind. I guess under heavy shell fire our work would be hard and very dangerous as the exploding shells would more or less destroy our communications. Altho they are in trenches, but those big shells destroy trenches and all. And fixing up lines under conditions of these kind of course would not be the safest job going, yet I guess no more dangerous than the rest of the fellows have. Fact is we hardly ever think of that part of it.

You know that discharge I sent home - well on the other side you see I am drafted. Well they call us the drafted fellows and the ones that were drafted are called enlisted men. This is done in Washington D.C. and our officers here feel just as bad as we do about it too. It is just the looks of things that hurt and to think after doing as we have done and considering some have been serving for 16 years, yet by public opinion they are the drafted ones and the ones that had to be made go. looks rather ridiculous.

Jove I sure am sorry to hear of Cecil being so bad. It certainly is tough luck on them. I was in hopes Cecil was about to get over being poorly. I sure hope something can be done for her, for it seems she has been sick enough for a girl her age.

Well mam you can write between lines on anything or any place, just so you write and was glad to hear you thot I was looking so healthy, for I do sure feel good and am getting fat almost. I eat like a pig.

I enjoy the part of your letter you say is of no importance as much as I do the rest. So just sit down and visit with me every chance you get for I certainly would rather hear from you than any one - (every body included).

Well I will close tonight and write some more soon. I guess we are doomed to stay here for some time yet alright. Well hoping you have had a very happy hollidays - considering of course. and send me one of those pamphlets you spoke of. Please write when you have time, from your loving son

Paul B.

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January 1918