Oklahoma celebrates its centennial year in 2007

Much like now, 90 years ago, young men from Cimarron County were preparing for war. In Alma Cryer's Willowbar and the Dandy Town of Keyes, two Cimarron County soldiers write home of their experiences as they prepared for the trenches of Europe.

October, 1917

Dear Thomas:

I will write a few lines to let you know the boys are getting along. We are all well as could be expected. The drilling we got was pretty hard on us the first three or four days but we are standing it fine now. It is awful hot down here.

There are 46,000 of us boys in Camp Travis and the boys are all used to the heat and drilling.

I will tell you something of camp life and what we have to do each day. We get up at 5:30 , wash and get ready for breakfast at 6:00 and then clean up the barracks until 7:30 . We fall in line ,at 8:00 and drill until 11:30 and come and have dinner at 12:00 . We fall in line again at 1:30 and drill till 4:30 . We come in then and shave, shine our shoes and get ready for Retreat call at 5:45 , and after that supper. When supper is over we are at liberty to go anywhere on the Reservation without a pass. We have to be in bed by 11 o'clock . We get to go to town twice a week but have to get a pass from the Captain to do so, then have to get back by 11 . We drill only 5 days out of the week. We lay off Wednesday afternoon, Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. So you see we do not have so much work to do and the boys all seem to like it down here.

We have all kinds of sports, baseball, football, bowling, foot racing. Tell the boys out there that they are missing something by not being here with the rest of us.

Sixteen of those who came when I did are together in the same barracks. John Harmon, Frank Artley, James Enlow, and Wm. C. Brumbelow were assigned to the field artillery.

If anyone wishes to send anything to the soldier boys tell them to not send anything to eat for we have all we want to eat, but to send towels, needles, thread, buttons, handkerchiefs, or anything along that line. While we are not asking for anything, I merely mention this so they will send something useful to us if they send anything.

M. M. Wallace

Co. F. 357 Inf. Camp Travis

October 5, 1917

 

November, 1917

From Camp Travis Camp Travis , Texas

November 2, 1917

Dear Mother and folks at home:

Received your letter this evening and will now try to answer it.

I am getting along just fine, as well as the rest of the home boys.

I am still acting Sergeant but haven't got my stripes yet, but expect to get them next week.

Our work is sure interesting. At present, wish you could see us drill, Uncle Sam will undoubtedly have the best army in the world when we get thru training. Our Regiment passed in general review today, for the first time, “just practicing.” Tomorrow we go into review to Ft. Sam Huston, that is the Company is, I won't for I am Sergeant of the guard tomorrow.

As we were marching today I was left guide of our Company and I walked beside the flag bearer, it was the most beautiful flag that I ever saw, such heavy silk with a gold fringed edge.

As I walked along, Old Glory waved above my head as the wind would blow her folds. I never really knew until then how I loved our flag. It seemed I could hear my heart beat as we marched along to the air the bands were playing. I said right then, as I looked at Old Glory and thought of the loved ones at home, I would spill the last drop of my blood before old Kaiser shall tread that flag down under his feet, and our country come under Kaiserism, and I am sure that all the boys are of the same opinion, and you would think so if you could have seen how they bought Liberty Bonds.

Our motto is, “ America first, last and always”.

I don't know as we will get to come home before going to France , I suppose that depends on how soon they will need us but if we don't we are going to come back victorious, for I feel that God is on our side and if He is we have nothing to fear.

Well as it is time for school I will close.

With lots of love to all at home.

As ever your son, Jefferson A. Slimp

 

From Camp Travis October 30, 1917

Co. F., 357th Infty.

 

Dear Editor,

Thinking that the folks at home would like to have a line on us boys now and then, and so our captain has requested that I should send in few items, I will endeavor to let you know what we are doing.

At present we are having platoon drill. I am Sergeant of the fourth platoon, which consists of fourty eight men. Only part of us have rifles at the present time, so while we drill with the rifles the others take drill in facings and marchings. We also are having bayonet practice, and grenade throwing.

We often see areoplanes from Kelly Field flying over our camp sometimes as many as three at a time. Today we saw two balloons.

The boys all seem to be satisfied and we are doing good work. Many of them were enthusiastic over their work, and “The fairest daughter of the west”, Oklahoma, need not fear for her sons are true Americans and when we come home from the trenches, Old Glory will be heralded as a lamp and guide to a people down trodden by militarism, and Kaiserism will be no more.

Some of the boys may be seen going to the parks every Sunday, and I am wondering if the attraction isn't some of these dark eyed Spanish maidens, but as for me they don't compare to my Elkhart Dimple.

I have been through the Alamo and saw the rooms in which Dave Crockett and Gen. Bowie were killed. It is sure a building of interest, as they have all kinds of cannons and old fashioned fighting arms that were used in the early days. On entering the building gentlemen remove their hats and everyone is requested to converse in low tones in honor of the dead heroes.

Camp Travis is about five miles from the business district of San Antonio, and again we must thank Henry Ford for a means of transportation It costs us ten cents each to go to the city.

We have a fine lot of officers we think the best in camp, and of course we think Company F is the best company, of which the Cimarron county boys are leading men, and when we get back from France we will be marching in the front rank with a lock of the Kaisers hair in our button holes as a trophy of our victories.

From Camp Travis

Yours Truly Jefferson A. Slimp

 

November 12, 1917

Dear Editor,

Since writing you last I have visited the Alamo , which is built of the native grey stone and is about 60 X 48 feet. Here I saw many of old fashioned firearms and bayonets, as well as a collection of flags and pictures of the patriots of Texas .

Last night several of us boys went to Ron-de-voo Park . The latest modeled and most dangerous submarine is on exhibition here. It can come to surface, fire a shot, and again submerge in the short space of sixteen minutes. When completed the submarine will be 350 feet in length and have a speed of 24 knots per hour at surface and 15 knots submerged, and is non-sinkable. The Government is supposed to have this machine in operation with in a month.

The drill is about the same as it was, as we are only perfecting ourselves in what way we have already learned. We are told that we are completing our course here, and if that be the case we may start for France within the next four to six weeks. However, some of our officers predict that we will be till January.

Yours Truly Jefferson A. Slimp Co. F. 357th Infty.

December

 

From Camp Travis November 22, 1917

We are quarantined for mumps this week so news is scarce. We go ahead with our drilling just the same but are not allowed to go to town or go around camp.

I am attending a bayonet school every afternoon and we have English officers to instruct us, or rather they help our officers in teaching bayonet warfare.

We have spent 2 half days digging trenches this week. I wish the folks at home could see the way trenches are constructed. It is a wonderful system, and until I saw these I always wondered how they were joined. We have French officers overseeing this work too. We are also learning the different methods of sighting and shooting from different positions.

All of the Cimarron county boys are getting along fine and have all escaped the mumps and measles so far. We are taking the best of care of ourselves and never felt better in all our lives. We are having ideal weather here, almost like summer. It gets cool, tho, at night. Last week we had a nice rain.

Well, as news is scarce will close, and besides it is time for the lights to go out.

I remain, Jeffie Slimp