For me, the most interesting items are to details about life in 1912. From her first letter, dated May 5, 1912, with a Tooele, Utah, dateline, she acknowledges receiving a letter from Dave. Then she writes,
“… I am going to attend Vie’s [who is Vie?] Graduation Exercises tonight. Tomorrow Lilias [who is Lilias?] and I will go sightseeing. Friday convention [what convention? An education convention?] begins and will close Sunday.”In the travel journal, she records:
“After supper I pressed my silk dress, then we went up to the Odeon to Vie’s Graduation Exercises. We couldn’t hear the speakers but the music was fine.”Later in the same letter, she notes, “I went to four dances in St. John. They have such small crowds. Last night and the night before I went to a show. It was vaudeville entirely but it was pretty good. When I get to Salt Lake I’ll see the good shows.”
In a letter dated May 20, 1912, she makes reference to another letter she got from Dave, containing this tidbit:
“Was glad to hear you could almost put your fingers together. You’re improving wonderfully. You’d better be careful, though, with that razor or you won’t have any fingers left.”Also in these letters, she mentions endless family names. This is where, I’m thinking, we could really use the help of our McIntosh cousins to fill in some blanks. For instance, she speaks of going to the “Dymock ranch” – obviously of the Dymock family our Great-Great-Grandmother Caroline Elizabeth Caldwell McIntosh Dymock married into late in life. Grandma talks of going to the ranch and staying there for a couple of days.
By July, she’s back in Wyoming and writing from Basin (the town where I grew up). It’s obvious she never meant for anyone but Grandpa to read these letters. Using this letter as an example, here’s what I mean:
“Bert Mortensen and Leon Lewis were there visiting. I didn’t hardly know Bert; she is so fat. Fatter than I am, even. We had a good time down there.”Or, this paragraph, which in my reading of it implies a little smooching? Or, perhaps, a lack thereof?
“I haven’t taken the mumps yet so I think there’s no danger, now, of me having them. Lilias tried to make me believe I’d sure take them from you but I told her she didn’t know quite all about the mumps.”As you can see, her sense of humor is pretty dry, sometimes, and sharp. In this Aug. 20, 1912 letter, she talks about going to a dance:
“I couldn’t find a beau. I smiled hard as I could at Sqintus but all for nothing. He evidently doesn’t like me as well as he does Caroline. I had a good time anyway.”As with any dating relationship – and especially one conducted over long distances, relatively speaking – Mary and Dave didn’t always get along. Look at how she opens her Aug. 22, 1912, letter:
“Whatever have you been hearing that made you think I was angry? I just got your letter about two hours ago and was quite surprised. If I had you here for about a minute I believe I’d ‘box your ears.’ Why, I haven’t a thing on earth to be angry about, and I hope you’ve decided by this time that I’m not.”About a month later, on Sept. 24, she tells him the story of another suitor and how she spent her Sunday afternoon dodging him. Later in the letter, we learn his name is “Willie.” She doesn’t seem too keen on him:
“Sunday after church ‘my bargain’ was right on hand to walk home with me. I thought I would never get rid of him. After we got home he went to help Sister Sprague feed the pigs and Tella and I slipped out and went down to the river. He went up to the store and got a horse and followed us. We started back home and he took the horse back up town and came back to Sprague’s. We saw him coming and went down to the garden and stayed a long time but when we went up to the house he was still there talking to Bro. Sprague. Then we got Lois to take us for a ride. About sundown we came home and Willie was gone, for which we were truly thankful. He’s sure a stayer.”Willie [Tolman] turns out to be something of a pest. I guess they had stalkers then, too. From Oct. 1, 1912, she writes Dave there is to be a Democratic Party rally and dance, and she wishes she would have known about it earlier so she could invite him to Otto, where she teaches school, to go with her. She worries that Willie may show up:
“If Willie Tolman comes for me to go with him, he may not get out of the house alive He worries me awfully. He was up here again Sunday and I asked him if he wouldn’t go home and stop bothering me but he didn’t. He was back again Monday before I had breakfast.”We learn, too, that the primary mode of transportation in 1912 in the Big Horn Basin was still by horse or horse-drawn carriage. Grandma is always writing about going one place or another if she can get a “team,” or about waiting for the “stage” to come through town with the mail.
And, as we noticed a little earlier, she mentions political parties from time to time. From Oct. 23, 1912:
“They had a Socialist Rally here last night but I didn’t go to it. Mr. Iliff and Amasa Tanner were down in the car. There are quite a few Socialists here.”Once in a while in the letters, we get an echo from one of Grandpa’s letters to Grandma. An example in the Nov. 7, 1912, letter:
“I don’t agree with you. I think school teachers aren’t hard customers and that you aren’t simple; so there.”I take it Grandpa must have been teasing her a bit. More of the same in the Dec. 3, 1912, letter:
“You said you pitied Willie if I went to conference with him. Shame on you! You know he would have enjoyed the trip; so would you or most anyone. Ha! Ha!”She also swerves into politics again – or at least democracy:
“Who did you vote for? I voted, for the first time. I told them when I got through that I felt like a citizen now.”I also get a kick out of the way she turns a phrase:
“I felt bluer than indigo Tuesday night at the dance.”She’s not above being a little mischievous, either. In the Nov. 25, 1912, letter, she’s writing from Basin, where she’s gone for a teachers’ conference. But, she explains:
“The Worland High School Basket[ball] Team is here and are going to play with Basin tonight. I think I’ll go and watch them instead of going to the lecture.”That’s my grandma, all right. Must be where I got my love of the game … or my aversion to education.
Finally, in the Dec. 16, 1912, letter, she writes of trouble at the dance:
“Some of the ‘wild bunch’ got smart in the Hall and broke up the dance. I guess they acted horrid. Some of them were shooting around last night. [I assume she means gunfire.] They are talking of having them arrested. I hope they, for the way they act is a disgrace.”Well, that takes care of 1912. Next week I’ll skim through the letters of 1913.
That’s what strikes me in the letters. I’m interested to know what jumps out at you?