John is off again traveling the hills of Nebraska scouting students for Nebraska Central this summer and preparing to teach in the fall. Ruth is spending her last summer at her beloved home on the farm.
I certainly hated to leave Central Wed. On the way home I arrived in Columbus with and hour and a half layover, so I called up your folks and Edith came down and got me and I had lunch with your mother, Edith, and the kiddies. They are the cutest things. How could anyone help but fall in love with those eyes of Chester’s. It amuses me so because they all call me Ruthie. Your mother wanted me to stay over and come home today, but it is a good thing I didn’t because it has rained all day today.
I’ve been cleaning in my room today. Chester made me a bookcase so now I can put my books away. I collected all your letters preparing to put them away as I have been told to do, but I started reading them and didn’t get it done. It is so interesting to read again and compare those first letters to the ones I receive now. As I read them now I do not see how I could have failed to see how you loved me then but I didn’t understand. What a dear you are and always have been to me. Do you remember the picture you sent me called Love 50-50? You said your love was 50 and more and you asked if I would give the other 50. It isn’t a question mark now is it dear? You appeared to know your heart well even then and you were very young. Those letters were written in 1925. When I was happy you were, if not your letters showed the same. I do not know what I have done to merit it, but I am more proud of that love now than I believe I have ever been before. (Rachel’s note: and here we are reading these same letters 88 years later!)
Writing is such an inadequate way of expressing myself – there are too many things that can’t be formed in words. I am still reading, at odd times, your old letters to me. I am still in 1928. It is a continual source of wonder to me how one person can be so wholly lost in love to another person and then to think that those two people are you and me. In fact I don’t believe I could believe such a thing true if I didn’t feel a wholly lost in it myself. I would almost like to read some of my letters to you to see if my letters express as a whole as much love. (Rachel’s note: she’s obviously referring to the mushy stuff I’ve redacted!) Your suggestions of serving meals, ways of spending evenings together, our home – they are the lovely things that will bridge over the difficulties that might arise occasionally for I don’t suppose we are so much different from other folk that we will never have any troubles. Home with you I know is going to be wonderful.
I find I will have seven music pupils. Some are getting quite well along and can play quite nicely. One little girl is just beginning. Her hands are so small. Most of them are not very far along and it takes a lot of time and patience to work with them. I really enjoy it and only wish I were better prepared myself to do the work.
I believe my club work is going to be great sport. There is a great deal more to it than I had first realized. The girls are very much interested, but it remains to be seen what success they will have. I need to do some cooking myself to see what the results might be. If they ask me any questions I wouldn’t know what to tell them. I know when food tastes good but I don’t always know how it should look. Mary is a big help. She is very good at such work.
We have a house full since we are all home. The whole gang is here and it is like cooking for a gang of threshers.
I got my annual ambition to sew again last week and started to make over a dress. So far it has gone beautifully and hasn’t blotted my disposition a bit. While I was sewing Mother came in to talk. She is greatly concerned about Merl and his future. Naturally she wonders if he might be married. Then, speaking of marriages, I asked her how she wanted me to be married – at home or elsewhere. I told her you wanted Pres. Carrell to perform the ceremony. She said she thought we ought to be married at the Carrell;s home and after our honeymoon come home for a reception in our honor. I had always supposed she would want me married at home, but if that is her wish it will be less fuss and bother for us A wedding here would mean a lot of work for Mother but I think she thinks she couldn’t fix things nice enough for us. If I was sure she would be perfectly happy to have us go away it would be all right with me. I don’t think I would worry nearly so much about it myself. Anticipation will make enough nervous strain for me. You know how it is.
I hesitate to mention the thought I had the other evening for I don’t think you will like it at all. I was just thinking of a simple wedding in our little old church. I think it would be rather quaint and different. The trouble there would be to know when to stop inviting friends. I had the whole thing pictured out in my mind just how we would work the whole thing. Ceremony at 10, breakfast at 10:30 and we leave at noon. Just a thought you see. I don’t know of anyone who has ever been married in that little church. (Rachel’s note: Mom told me it was the norm to be married at home but I was surprised that no one had been married in their church!)
I’ve just read two books, “The Keeper of the Bees”, purely romance, and
The Emigrants” that tells of the trials and triumphs of the early settlements of foreigners in our middle west. It was gripping. Life now is so sheltered and easy to live; but I am born in it. I don’t have the heart of a pioneer. There is no desire to start on new adventures or attack unexplored situations. I like restfulness and peace in a quiet home. I’ll admit it takes venturesome spirits to make advancements.
I wonder quite often about Ralph and Marie. I still think she lost her chance long ago by her indifferent until she woke up to the fact that she was losing him. Probably they will marry in the end but she won’t have the absolute, filled to the brim heart of love she might have had. Our lives are too hopelessly mixed together to be ever separated now and I am content to leave the so.
Your letter was very eagerly read this morning by me sitting on the top of the gate. I couldn’t wait until I got home to read. You have so many interesting experiences everyday it makes your letter exceedingly interesting. I fear mine grow monotonous. My days are pretty much the same routine day after day.
My cooking club meets every other Friday. It rather amuses me since I know so little about cooking, but since I am older I suppose they take it for granted. What I know about cooking wouldn’t feed a canary bird. This afternoon I made some oatmeal cookies and they were served with supper. Dad wanted to know how I got the rough finish on them. I surely laughed. They all make lots of remarks, but I noticed the cookies didn’t last long.
Ralph is slightly disabled just now. A bee stung him yesterday close to his eye. This morning it was swollen shut. I laugh every time I look at him. He looks too funny for words. Dale is digging a cistern at the top of the hill and Ralph is digging the main water line from the cistern to the barn. It is a pretty tough piece of work. Angle Brook Farm is a place of great activity this summer. (Rachel’ note: this was the first I knew the Benton Farm had a name!) There are so many of us around to work. We have plenty to do but none of us are what you would call over worked – not by any means. I greatly appreciate everything this summer perhaps because I won’t be a part of it again. I try not to think of it that way. I’m glad that Mother never makes it hard by saying anything against it. She always plans with me saying I must know and do this and that when I am Mrs. Ferguson. Isn’t it splendid?
Do you happen to know where Merl is? Does he happen to be around Central where you might see him? If so, tell him to keep us informed about his address. Some letters have come here for him and we don’t know where to send them. We would rather like to know where he is and what he is doing. He very seldom writes home anymore. I wonder if he does any better with Lillian. Ralph certainly doesn’t write to Marie like he used to. Their affair seems to be fading out as far as he is concerned.
Because of heavy rain I couldn’t go to the city yesterday and am going today. We had such a heavy rain but it didn’t do a great deal of damage to us. The old creek banks were level full to over flowing. The water was rushing in little rivers everywhere, but we have been quite fortunate. West, south and east many have suffered from hail and floods. The picnic for our club girls had to be cancelled.
John 6/6/29 from boy’s camp in Fullerton NE
We have done a great deal of climbing and hiking. The boys when turned loose are like a pack of fox hounds. Already a swimming hole has been located. I was the only older person here until this noon when Marion returned. Merl will be over tomorrow for a short stay. The only unfortunate thing is that it has rained all day. The boys have gotten their clothes wet and are lying around in blankets to keep warm. One or two more misfortunes: several of the boys have wounded themselves and like a good mother I have had to care for them. William Watson ran a fish hook in his finger this morning so far that I took him to the doctor to have it taken out. Here Marion and I sit in our tent writing as the rain patters on the canvas. The rain occasionally drips through.
John 6/8/29 from Fullerton
Boys are lying all around me. They have been having the time of their lives. What they can’t think of – one of them is hanging by his toes from a rafter. Yesterday I went to Central to take care of some affairs. While there I stopped at Moore’s garage to learn the ailment of my Ford. Before I left I made a “swap”. I didn’t get as good a car as I suggested I might. I only paid $25 besides my old car. The Ford I now have looks one hundred percent better than the old one and runs quite well. I figure the bargain a good one.
John 6/11/29 back at NCC
What have I been doing? Well – working on my Ford mostly. Harlan and I have it in tip-top shape. Tomorrow I am going to Alda and from there to North Loupe and Scotia. I expect to be back next Friday. Harlan has made things worse for me and he apologized yet he continued. He said that he and his wife used to imagine how lovely companionship would be but he said they found it to be many times better than they had imagined. If that will be true in our case indeed we can look forward to almost eternal bliss, don’t you think?
John 6/13/29 from North Loupe
Yes, I want to hear what new suggestion you have regarding possible plans for our wedding. I have considerable time to ponder such things as I’m traveling about.
Yesterday I worked in Alda having my meals at Foxworthies and staying with them last night. Today I came to North Loupe and have made my headquarters with the Hawkes on the farm. We had a picnic lunch together this evening and a little fishing party. Several fish were caught – I caught one. Mrs. Hawkes was the champion. (Rachel’s note: the first mention of fishing that became a life-long hobbie for John.)
John 6/18/29 from Genoa
My work is not without its storms; I meet so many who are indifferent or who are desperately poor, or who are having all sorts of difficulties and problems. As I face these conditions I long for you, just to assure me of happiness midst such a tumultuous world. I always see our world so much happier than that of large masses and pity those who are unfortunate.
I’ve been working in Normal, Platte Center and Genoa since Sunday with only a fair degree of success You would enjoy some parts of my work, but other phases of it you wouldn’t enjoy. For instance, you would like to meet people like Hoars’ and Farmers’, simple though splendid folk. But when you would happen on some old sour, shriveled up soul who can’t breathe without swearing life wouldn’t be so sweet. I met an old pollander today who disgusted me. He said, “It won’t do you no good, I’m not interested. These schools are all damn foolishness – none of them are worth a d___”. I don’t argue, surprising as that seems, but move on. I met a man this evening that was interesting. He’s having difficulty with his boy who seems to him to be “wild” (I think he’s right too). The man almost cried when he was telling me some things. He spoke most highly of Central but a little later on he surprised me by saying a student from Genoa had attended Central and said that the moral conditions in the school were rotten. Imagine the fire spring within me, what would you have said? I won – and left the man in a settled feeling about the school. He wants me to work personally with his boy. Such are my experiences.
How repulsive are some of the homes – dirty and unkempt. I always rejoice knowing that my wife will never have our home in such a mess. More and more I appreciate your standards and ideals for our home.
It was my good fortune to be able to drive to Columbus and stay all night last night. The night was interrupted though. When I drove home the north western sky was covered with heavy dark clouds. At about ten-thirty Dad received word to go to Albion that some of his track was washed out. He has been there since and now I am hedged in by water. I was supposed to go to St. Edwards tomorrow but the town is under water and the road is washed out. The road to Fullerton is also washed out. I understand that three persons drown at Albion in the flood that followed a seven inch rain.
I’ve engaged a room for next year with a man who owns the garage in Monroe The place is just opposite the garage. Two elderly persons are the only other inmates and the place is quite large so I think I shall like it. I will need to pay $8/week for board and room. That isn’t as bad as it might be, is it? While in Monroe I had a nice visit with my superintendent and I think we will get on splendidly. I understand that discipline in the school has been a problem for the past two years but I think it will improve next year. I’m going to be “hard boiled” to begin with. Esthellene says she is too – so kids beware! (Rachel’s note: this is Esthellene from the debate team. She took a teaching job in Monroe too.)
The hotel is full tonight. Due to the floods people who are traveling north or west are almost forced to stay here. People are being continually turned away for want of rooms.
Back home again. My plans to be away all week were somewhat thwarted by the floods and insufficient finances. I’m replenished now with money at least, so I shall return to the battle field early in the morning. Last night it rained and hailed in Belgrade where I was. In Fullerton hail stones fell that were as large as baseballs. Thus far I’ve been fortunate not to get caught on the road in such storms.
Your letters are always interesting to me whether they contain thrilling experiences or not. Of course I love to read about all you do, particularly those things you enjoy. If I didn’t learn now what a things you enjoy maybe I never would learn, wouldn’t that be sad? I’ll try never to cease learning.
What do I think of your little dream of our being married in your church? I’m going to surprise you and tell you that it rather appeals to me. It’s so different that no one but you would think of it. The one thing that I would dislike, however, is having too many friends there. If only our folks and three or four special friends were there I wouldn’t mind, but I wouldn’t want as many as were at Zola’s wedding. Could President manage to be there – or could I manage to get him there? We’ll think more of the plan. It will be much better if we can talk about it.
John 6/25/29 Wolback, NE
Oh say, you wouldn’t have known what to think had you seen me this afternoon. I called on a beautiful high school graduate. Well, while talking to her in stormed another graduate equally nice looking and charming. They are both going somewhere to school together so they had lots of questions. You ought to be glad that I have to have dignity sometimes – in fact almost always – in my present work. I behaved well amid such temptation. Wouldn’t Ralph enjoy such an occasion? It isn’t often one meets charming girls in my work. So often they are homely, poor, uncultured, or possess some other malady. You need not worry. I haven’t found any yet that begins to equal my sweetheart.
John 6/27/29 Scotia, NE
I’ve been combing the hills and I’ve almost reached final conclusions about these pesky mounds of earth. Yesterday I left Wolback at about 8:00 in search of a boy. It was after 10:00 when I found him only seven miles in the jungles. The worst was yet to come. I left him in search of a girl whom he said lived only four miles from him. I was just about 11:30 when I found her. I sure said “darn”. When I finally returned to Wolback I had traveled some thirty-five miles in search of those two and had broken a front spring for good measure. Such are my experiences.
Tonight I am out at Johannsen’s again. I’m writing while Leland and his dad are doing the chores and his sister is getting supper. The mother died nine years ago. When I’m in a home where there is no mother I think of an old motto we boys used to have on the wall of our room “What is a Home Without a Mother?” I can’t help but imagine how I would feel without you – I mean if you were gone forever. Oh nothing in life could be more tragic! I don’t like to think of it and I won’t anymore.