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Letter, December 3, 1918

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

Rupt en Woevre - France - Dec- 3 - 1918 -

Dear Father & Mother -

Mother, I can't begin to express how I enjoyed your dear good letter of Nov 5 & 6 & 7. It was such a good long newsy one and as you said it was like writing to your old time boy - so the letter was just like the old time letters. And I could not find fault with any part of it even tho you did suspect I probly would, a certain statement you made.

I am glad for it all. For the more you tell me, the more I will know. You can learn from study, observation & lectures. I consider a letter a lecture or a good talk rather. And this one was sure a good motherly talk of 14 pages of very small hand writing. Now I'm not kidding you, only glad you write small for then you can tell me so much in one letter. I guess I don't write very large myself - for the fellows generally remark about it when they happen to be writing near me.

I know you were glad to know I had finally rec. your letters, for I was feeling bad and while I did not blame you, for I felt sure it was our mail service, yet I did not know until then just how loyal you were to me. You see we were on a hard push at this time. Every available bit of transport was used for ammunition and rations so the mail piled up and was neglected. Rain every day - roads so bad you could hardly go any place - muddy and conjested beyond description. So its no wonder our service was all shot. But when finally it did get straight, it has been fairly well ever since.

I know you have worried, probly more than worried about me while being over here. You can't help that. I've probly made the statement before that I never expected or even counted on living thru this war. I had made up my mind in regards to that, so to have it stop so soon and me still alive and not having rec. any injuries of any description - well its just about like being resurrected from what I had made up my mind to be sure death. Those areoplane bombs, a few times they gave me close calls, but shells, they gave me some bloody close ones, and gas, my resperator pulled me safely thru all the gas attacks I've been in. Weather has given me the hardest jolt of any. I was lucky enough to escape the other - but the weather, I got my share with every one and it has been - not any too good the past few months. Not cold now, but extremely wet & muddy ang [sic] very chilly. Gives us a frost occasionally.

At times I have been quite safe - you did not know it tho; and sometimes in more danger than you or I either could realize - makes me feel cold to stop and think of it now, so as you knew not when to feel concerned or relieved about my condition, naturally you have been feeling concerned all the time, worse than I've been going thru, I sure would not trade places or have been willing to at any time; only I wish it could have been possible to let you know when I was safe so you could have felt at ease at least a little.

Well, I'll tell you just when you could have felt that I was real safe - the first four weeks after I landed. From then on I have been under shell fire or areo raids until Nov. 11 - with the exception of the 7 days I was at school in southern France. I was 7 days traveling - making 14 days in all - But I have been reasonably safe quite a bit more than that. Have been on four fronts and our longest stay being 45 days without any relief during one of the hardest pushes any place. Forcing the line of the Meuse.

So I know if prayers count, you have done your part and what more could you do. Absolutely helpless, outside of your prayers. In a material way - your letters have done all that could be expected to cheer me up. news from home - valuable beyond price. I feel lucky to have a mother who can write me just what I want to know. I suppose that comes from our close association from infancy (for me) up and you can easily judge what I would want to know by writing to me just like you more than likely would talk to me if I were there - only of course in a sample fashion, so when I get home we will quit sampling (letters) and go to talking right. Will bring on the full fare.

Well mother it can not be many months surely until I do get to come home - and as unexpected as it was when I ask you about topping the trees it may turn out to be reality yet and this spring too. Many a statement - made in jest only has turned out to be a truth. I most sincerely hope so in this case. I notice the names of some of the divisions being started home but see nothing of ours. And we never hear anything either, so when ever it may be - we will not be among the first ones at best. We have been here longer than any ones mentioned and seen as much fighting as the best considering length of time over here - so we have no idea what system of qualifications are nessessary to put you among the first on you home ward bound journey.

I am glad to know my letter of advise to Cecil was appreciated and considered good advise - I don't like to give advise, but I don't mind expressing my honest opinion to any one who I believe realy desires it and may rec. some good from it, but for any one to criticize, and for that only - I don't care for their opinion and have very little desire to associate with them other than as ordinary friends. Not many people, Ill assure you - I would write to as I did Cecil - for I would be doubtful of their appreciation for my desire to help them. Its my desire to be helpfull to all my true friends - others are not interested in me - so why me bother about them. And this big game of life is appearing more and more to be like the old saying - "God helps those who help themselves." Its the only way you can live in the Army.

So Maude thinks my last letters sounded rather indifferent. Well it did seem she was not writing any more than some others who just considered me a friend and I suppose I expected more from her. I have an idea of the kind of atmosphere she is now in for I am well acquainted with the language used in connection with railroads & their offices. I was sure sorry to hear of her making the change but of course money talks and a person will endure a whole lot for it. I don't wonder and the work is hard on her nerves - being harder for one thing and the above mentioned too. Wonder what her old man will think of me when I get back. If I live up to my training and be in bed by 10:30 every nite - I suppose he wont mind my coming to see her. Bet it wont take long to break me of that habit.

Well mother I dont use tobacco any more than I did at home. I've eaten and drank every thing they make in this country I could get my hands on but have acquired no more taste for fine drinks than I had. They have as you may know, plenty of fine drinks, and as you have often read the remark that the only thing they use water for is to put it under their bridges; which I'll swear is more truth than poetry.

I'll be glad to get back where I can get decent water to drink. Coffee is all I drink now as it is all I can get outside of chlorinated water.

So Dale Jordan is now married. Of course I must not be surprised for every girl now seems to have but one ambition, to get married. But I don't remember you ever telling me of her being married and so she now has a youngster. Well thats nice, but such has never appealed very forcefull to me as yet.

The rats? And how big are they really? Well I did exagerate maybe but they are truly the largest I've ever had any experience with or ever want to see again. Big enough to be dangerous at least.

You mentioned the Xmas slip. I wonder if I will get the box now all O.K. as we are beginning to send troops back now. Our big hollidays seem awfully slim over here - days in name only. Nothing in action to remember them by. It is our inability to celebrate them as we wish to do, that will mark them in our history.

Did I mention before of Stella Dodd being dead? Her mother wrote me in answer to one of my letters to Stella and said that she had died 3 days before. She was a nurse & had contracted the flu from a patient. We have had very little experience with it over here. God - what we have been thru; and in very decent physical condition yet.

Have rec two letters from Bertha & one from Thelma in the last couple days. I could not ask for more than that.

Well in music I am improving slowly but surely. I know I can do more than ever I could before. I get more rehearsing or as much in one day as I ever did before in a week outside of concerts and all. Played a concert in St Mihiel yesterday.

I just rec. a letter - long one - from Leah Longstreth, telling me of her and Oral. She is having some experience down there. I hope I get to see her - for she has surely sent me the most interesting letters, to be from some one I've not the least idea of their characteristics and just letters to judge from. and my letters must interest her for she always answers and seems so glad to hear from me.

Well the grand subject & most discussed one is what all we are going to eat when we get home - sure would make you laugh to hear us talk. Its all pie it seems - next is cake - outside of that there is very little else mentioned, so it will be comical to see this bunch land in gods country and see some of the orders they will put in.

Well I never thot much of home until lately. And things were so exciting sometimes I had no time to think of it even tho I had wished to do so. But now: that it seems a sure thing we will soon be on our way or at least there is no fighting and pease seems to be a pretty certain thing and it can be counted on we will be home some time at least - time sure goes slow. And the uncertainty of when or where we will come in on the list to be sent back, and all, its more trying it seems than when we were at war and had real things to occupy our minds.

There simply is no place like home to this bunch. And the sooner the quicker as we say.

Well I will close and write again soon as we have a pretty good chance to do so now -

With love to all - I am as ever your loving son

Paul B Hendrickson

Hdq. Co. 129 Inf. A.E.F.

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December 1918