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Letter, August 18, 1918

[Letter addressed to Miss Cecil Rife, c/o Emery Dry Goods Co., Danville, Ill., on color stationery of the American Y.M.C.A. Received September 20, 1918.

Aug 18 1918

My dear little Pal -

First time Ive got a chance to write for weeks it seems. My pen feels so queer in my fingers. has been so long since I used it to write a letter with. always have been using a pencil on account of ink being very scarce article where I am.

I havent rec. any letters in the last week or so but yours, so you can imagine how glad I was to get it - and especially from you. Am having a hard time keeping the picture tho. When any one gets a glimpse at it they want to glom on to it, I dont know what a fellow wants with another ones pictures, but they seem to want it just the same. This is by far the best picture Ive seen of you. And am still wondering how one girl can make juch an improvement in so short a time.

To see pictures from home like that, can you wonder I want to come back all the more? But if a shell drops a few feet closer to me than the one did last evening - well I guess it would be all off - me ever coming back. It dropped within 50 ft of where I was standing, but none of the pieces I heard whizz by happened to find me - so I make a dive for the closest trench, & just get in side when another lobbs down just about where I was standing. About 12 or 15 was all that came over and those were the closest ones to me. They were not large ones & did no damage.

You said in your letter you were glad I was getting to see so many interesting things. Well that is alright in a way, but some times it gets too d- interesting, and exciting, as not long ago when I was out about 1 oc. a.m. one nite & got lost, strayed pretty well into - where - I haden't ought to be - before I found my mistake, so you can imagine how I felt for a while until I got located & started back the right way at least.

It sure nuff is not so quiet here. plenty going on all the time. Of course it is not so enjoyable as being around where there are young ladies & all that you know, for it is a man's game here and a pretty grim business, when you see some sight Ive seen.

Well dear little girl - it was not long ago when I fired my first shot at the Germans. It sure was a big one too, the shell was 9.2 inches in diameter and about 28 inches long. You see they let me fire the big Howitzer once - and that was enough. The concussion is something terrible. Takes more nerve to do the thing than I first imagined it would. It is deafening to be so close when the charge explodes. And that is all the shooting at the germans Ive done as yet. Our work does not take us where we come in conflict with Jerry.

So you say Carl is still window trimmer. I guess tho he wont go to war for some time yet. Unless the age limit is somewhat changed.

I sure am more pleased than you may imagine, to know you are having such a nice time this summer. I know when I was at home you did such a little bit of getting out and having a good time with the rest of the girls. and you were much too quiet, so you say they have to tell you to be quiet now. You must be making as big a change in disposition as you are in looks and the whole lot all to your benifit.

Well a person may just as well have a good time while he has a chance, for you sure are young only once in your life, and it don't pay to take things to serious. I expect the girls at the store are right in saying you don't act or look like the same girl you did for I know from the picture you are not the same girl in looks and from the tone of your letter, - well a year ago you would not have written a letter that would be like this one at all, so I can guess how much you have changed in actions. But you did not look like a tramp at the depot that nite I came thru there and no ammount of arguing will ever make me believe you did either.

So you say the boys that are left are only seventeen. They are rather young to think seriously of, I'd imagine, but just the same I'm afraid these young fellows are going to get quite a few of those good looking girls from us over here, unless we soon come home, so pleas do keep your common sense as you say you will until I get home for I do not want to see you a married woman when I get back. for you are much too young yet yourself to think seriously of getting a steady fellow.

I cant speak enough French to get interested in French girls, so it is the good old U.S.A. girls for me as yet and always will be I am sure.

So you can run a ford now. I see quite a few of them over here with a red cross on them.

There has been a number of bets that we would be home by Xmas, but nearly all the boys now have given up that idea. I never had the idea to begin with.

You must be a busy little girl, if you have all to do you mentioned. Am surprised to get as big a letter from you as I did, but it was a very pleasant surprise, hope you surprise me like that very often, letters & pictures of any kind from you are appreciated to their very highest value. and do write oftener to me than I am able to answer, I have no trouble getting all you send me, and am sorry you have not rec. all Ive sent you, for it is so seldom I get paper & ink to write with. I dont know how soon I will get to mail this letter. Always when you write give date of letters you rec. from me as you did in last one so I can tell what letters you are getting of mine.

-- just got back from doing an hours work, a big shell lobbed down within a few yds of us, we flopped down on our faces just in time, I picked up some pieces that fell by me, let go right quick tho, for they were hot as hadeas. They are pretty darned careless where they drop those big fellows - if they are not careful some one's going to get hurt.

Well I will close for this time, if I am real lucky I may get to see you and you may get to talk to me for months as you say you feel like you could. I hope as much at least. With best of wishes from your Best Pal.

Paul B Hendrickson. Hdq. co. 129 Inf. A.E.F. via

New York

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August 1918