My father, having been refused a return to active duty in the Army Medical Corps, was then turned down again when he tried to enlist as an infantry private (he made the mistake of showing his separation papers. .. which showed his 1852 date of birth), and then tried to enlist in St Louis with a claimed date of birth of 1872 but was tripped up somehow - and finally did manage to enlist in the Seventh Missouri, an infantry militia regiment formed to replace Kansas City's Third Missouri, which was now the 110th Combat Engineers training at Camp Funston and about to go ‘Over There'.
This new home guard, made up of the too young, too old, too many dependents, too halt, or too lame, was not fussy about Father's age (sixty-five) in view of his willingness to accept a dull job as supply sergeant and the fact that he needed no training.
I greatly appreciated Father's decision to live with us for the duration. For the first time in my life I had to be the head of the family, and it's really not Maureen's style. I like to work hard and do my best while the key decisions are left up to someone bigger, stronger, and older than I, and with a warm male odour to him. Oh, I'll be a pioneer mother if I must. My great-great-grandmother Kitchin killed three hostiles with her husband's musket after he was wounded -and Father did teach me to shoot.
But I would rather be a womanly woman to a manly one.
Brian was emphatic that I must http://www.bookstravel.ru not let Father dominate me, that I must make the decisions - that I was head of the family. ‘Use Ira to back you up - fine! But you are boss.
Don't let him forget it, don't let our children forget it, and don't you forget it ‘
I sighed internally and said, ‘Yes, sir. '
Brian junior did nobly when he suddenly found himself in his father's shoes - but twelve is young for that job; it was well that his grandfather had agreed to stay with us. Brian junior and his brother George kept on with their jobs, delivering the Journal and lighting street lamps, and still brought home straight A's. When the summer ended and the weather turned cold, I started getting up at 4. 30 a. m. as they did, and served them hot cocoa before they started out. They enjoyed it and it made me feel better as I watched them start off to work before daylight. 1917-18 was a bitter winter; they had to bundle up like Eskimos.
I wrote to Betty Lou every week, and also to Nelson. My beastly, lovable cousin Nelson came home on the Monday following the declaration of War and told Betty Lou, ‘Hon, I've found a wonderful way to avoid going into the Army. '
‘How? Castration? Isn't that rather drastic? '
‘Somewhat At least I think so. Guess again:
‘I know! You're going to jail:
‘Even better than jaill. I've joined the Marines. '
So Betty Lou was managing our mine. I had no doubt that she could do it; she had been in on every detail from the day we acquired majority ownership. She was not a mining engineer but neither was Nelson. The minority owner was our mining superintendent - not a graduate engineer either but with over twenty-five years of white metals experience.
It seemed to me that it would work. It would have to work. It was ‘Root, hog, or die. '
During those war years people all over our beloved country were doing things they had never done before - doing them well or doing them badly, but trying. Women who had never driven even a team of horses were driving tractors, because their husbands had gone to ‘Hang the Kaiser! ' Student nurses were supervising whole wards because graduate nurses were in uniform. Ten-year-old boys such as my George were knitting squares for blankets for British Tommies and buying Baby Bonds with money earned from newspaper routes. There were dollar-a-year men, and four-minute speakers, and Salvation Army lassies (loved by every serviceman), and volunteers for every sort of special war work, from rolling bandages to collecting walnut shells and peach pits for gas masks.
Meanwhile, what did Maureen do? Nothing much, I suppose. I cooked and kept house for a family of ten, with much help from my four oldest and even some from my eight year-old, Marie. I never missed a Red Cross bandage rolling. I saw to it that my family observed all meatless, wheatless, sweetless day and other economies of scarce foods decreed by Mr Herbert Hoover. .. while learning how to make candies and cookies and cakes with sorghum and com syrup and honey (all unrationed) in place of sugar (rationed) as Corporal Bronson's buddies appeared to be capable of eating a whole bakeshop of such things.
Shortly Carol took over this attempt to fill hollow legs; she considered Corporal Bronson ‘her soldier'. We all wrote to him, in rotation - and he wrote back, to all of us but especially to Father.
There arose a church-sponsored movement for families to ‘adopt' lonely service men. Carol wanted us to adopt Corporal Bronson. .. so we did, subject to Brian's approval, which came by return mail.
I wrote to my husband every day - and would tear up a letter and start again if, on rereading, I found in it bad news or a flavour of self-pity. .. which meant that I tore up letters again and again and again until I learned how to write a proper Lucasta letter, one to lift a warrior's morale, not drag him down.
That early in the War Brian was not far away, at Camp Funston, adjacent to Manhattan, Kansas, about a hundred miles west of Kansas City. After three months of not coming home at all Briney started coming home about once a month for short weekends - Saturday afternoons to Sunday evenings - when and if he could arrange to ride with another officer. It was a practical distance for a 44 hour pass (noon Saturday to 8. = a. m. Monday) by automobile, but not for travel by train. In those days trains were ordinarily much faster than automobiles, as there were so few paved roads - none in Kansas that I can remember. There was a direct rail line, the Union Pacific. But on all railroads troop trains had first priority, freight trains heading east had second priority, other freight trains had third priority - and passenger trains could use the rails only when nobody else wanted them. Wartime precedence - Mr McAdoo was strict about it. So Brian's trips home were infrequent as they depended on duty schedules of brother officers with automobiles.
I sometimes wondered whether or not Brian regretted having sold El Reo Grande. But I did not say anything and neither did he. Count your blessings, Maureen! This is wartime and your husband is a soldier. Be glad he is able to come home occasionally and that he is not (yet) being shot at.