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Letter, October 8, 1918

[Letter on color stationery of the Y.M.C.A., Union Franco-Américaine.]

Oct 8 - 1918 -

Still in France -

Well mom - do I remember what happened some twenty two years ago about ten oc this morning. well I guess I don't quite remember the incident myself, but perhapps you do, quite well. And how sorry you were that I was not a girl; tough luck just now that I wasnt. what you say? Well everything considered (I have gotten into the idea that the easiest way to get along is to take everything as it comes and make the best of it.) I cant complain. This is a cold rainy dissagreable day and not too much excitement going on. feeling very lucky to be alive and well, doing the best I can to celebrate my birthday without any vin blanche, Champagne, beer or any good wines, for they are not obtainable at present. So I am realy celebrating in a decent quiet way: no other way being possible. Just as well for me I guess. Well I had another hair raising experience with those big burly brutes, the trench rat. Jove I went into a small building yesterday and on one side I noticed what looked to be the entry to a dugout, but on examination, discovered it to be a rat hole. Cold chills chased up and down my spine, when I thot how close I may be to one of the terrible beasts and unarmed. I chased back and sooned returned with my flash light and pistol, and it cocked ready for business in a moments notice.

I flashed the light down in the hole and immeadetely after the entrance it made a turn to the left. I had not the nerves to go in and look past the turn for fear he may not be in there and come sneaking up behind me unawares. Jove that sure would be tough luck. Well I got an armload of straw and placed in the entrance, lit it and started fanning it with a board in one hand and the revolver in the other.

Soon my blood stopped with a chill. the straw gave a mighty heave and I jumped for the door. Next instant the blinded beast dove out into full sight, eyes watery on account of smoke and quite angry on account of being disturbed. Then was my chance. so I up and shut my eyes and pulled the trigger. There was a blinding flash followed by a roar of pain. I winged his left hind leg. The fury of a cyclone was before me and of all the noise. I did not fire again, for he was coming toward me - and I had a hunch if I wasted time shooting and would miss, which more than likely I would in my excitement, it might be unlucky for me. I ran - for I cared not to run chances of being dragged by him into his other tunnel on opposite side of the room - where he headed for and have to suffer the agonies of torture his furous nature would probly cause him to inflict upon me for my foolishness. The bullet I fired at him being one of half an inch almost in diameter, and all lead, caused quite a serious wound as lead spreads to quite a size on impact with flesh & bone - so I have hopes that the prevailing bad weather and poison of the lead bullet and the shock of it all has been too much for his steel like constitution. Ive never gone near the house today and am going to keep away for fear he will recover and be waiting for me to come nosing around again.

Last night I heard a noise close to me. At first I thot some one was stealing my shoes. But it wasn't someone, it was a rat. You see I keep my shoes quite oily on occount of mud and other things, so I suppose he thot them a piece of meat. Believe me I hardly breathed for a spell. Then I set out on an idea. I did not want to lose a shoe as it is only one pair I have at present, so I flashed the light on him and I never knew before I could make so much noise by my self. Well he could not see I was so small on account of looking into the light and the noise being quite extensive also quite uncanny, it must have throwed a fear into him, so he dropped the shoe and run, and as he had only tasted the shoe, it was left quite alright for wear for only a small portion of the top edge was missing. No use hanging them up on a wire, for they would climb up, loosen the wire and let them slide off onto the floor.

Its my own personal safety I am concerned in. The jerries are not half the danger these big fearless brutes are. you sure dont want to get one sore at you unless you have a good means of escape for he sure as hell will wallop you. There is another pest less in size and with six legs that cause quite as much loss of sleep as the bloody rat. I don't know if it is a an animal, reptile, foul or something else. I think its some thing else. we call it a cootie. I guess you have read a number of articles about them, for they are quite popular over here amongst the soldiers. Its great sport hunting them. each hunt I take down the seams of my trousers or across the plain back of my under shirt, is rewarded by at least six & seven. maybe as many as twenty & thirty. Lately Ive been going hunting quite often and I now have them down to a minimum.

But the only thing that worries me is how long is the war going to last. As many soldiers as is over here one would think they could soon kill all the cooties, but you see they hatch or manufacture some way and are full grown in twenty four hours and the rats keep growing all the time, so Im hoping for the speedy peace the kaiser now says he wants.

Well hoping you are all as well as I am and a damned sight happier. I close with more love than ever for father and mother. Your son

Paul B Hendrickson

Hdq. Co. 129 Inf. AEF via N.Y.

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October 1918