Your Wandering Son

Thursday, Feb. 4, 1943

8:30 a.m. mountain time


Dear folks,

Well we’re rolling along in Colorado. After I finished that letter yesterday we stopped in a town in Kansas called Goodland. We had to wait for the streamliner, The Rocket, to go through so we all got off and got a little air. I mailed the letter and the two folders there. I was a little worried for awhile though because they had 2 mail boxes, one for Mail East and one for Mail West and I mailed your letters in the one for mail west but the fellow there said it wouldn’t make any difference. We walked around for awhile and then they had us run around about a block to loosen us up a little. Finally we got back on and started off. We went into Colorado early in the evening. It was the same as Kansas, flat and barren. When I couldn’t see anymore I read some. We had supper in the diner again. Mashed potatoes, corn, meat (beef which I wasn’t sure of and didn’t eat) swell dressing, salad, and a raspberry dessert. We got to bed at about 9 o’clock. As usual the best part was passed while we slept. We got into Denver after I went to bed and we crossed the higher mountains during the night. It must have been a tough pull because we stopped a lot and jerked around a lot during the night. We went through some tunnels too I guess. The windows are so filthy now we can’t see anything. They got us out over an hour ago for breakfast but we still haven’t eaten. I dressed, washed, and then tried to survey the situation. Instead of being up by the engine we are now the very last car. It seems that in Denver we were hooked to another troop train. We still have a diner making 5 cars and the other troops have a field kitchen set up in a baggage car. There are 12 or 13 cars altogether now. Since ours is the last car we can stand on the observation platform and see a little of the country.

As I said, we are still in Colorado. We are now passing through the western foothills of the Rockies. Although they may be hills they look like mountains to me. Out here there is a lot of snow and the brakeman told me we were up 8000 feet above sea level. The big hills with the snow and trees are beautiful. That’s about all I can say. I can’t see anything through my windows so to know what I’m passing I have to go out on the back end. This sure is nicer than Nebraska & Kansas. I never thought they were quite so dreary. Nothing for miles but fields with here and there huge herds of steers. The sun is just coming up over the hills now and it sure looks pretty. This is really the country. It’s barren so far as agriculture I suppose but it still is pretty. We just went through another tunnel. They are what makes everything so dirty. There isn’t much life in this part and the towns are pretty scarce.

Oh boy. All I can say is I wish you could see it. The track winds through the mountains alongside the Colorado River and on both sides there are sheer rock cliff and mountains. Some are nothing but rock, others have trees growing out of crevices. I can’t see what holds those cliffs together. They are very weather worn and are just full of cracks. They look as if they are all ready to crumble. I guess it’s just no use. I can’t describe them so you can get even a little idea of what its’ like. I wonder who owns all this land. I’ve seen pictures of this sort of thing but it always seemed as if it couldn’t be quite like the pictures showed. Well I’ll quit for now in hopes of breakfast pretty soon.

Back again much later in the town of Grand Junction Colorado. We finally got our breakfast at about 9:30. It was a pretty good breakfast. Fruit juice, oatmeal, potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon which I didn’t eat, whole wheat toast and butter. After breakfast I looked out the back some more and then washed and shaved. We were hitting some bumpy ground but I didn’t cut myself. Then I continued to view the scenery until we got to Grand Junction. We are just about out of the mountains now but the last ones are beautiful. They are just huge masses of rock. We are just about free of snow again now. One of the strangest things to see is ice in the Colorado River and a little ways away the river boiling and steaming due to hot springs. We are still following the river now although it disappeared for awhile. We were in Grand Junction about 20 minutes and they got us off and had us run around and do some calisthenics. Then we got back on and here I am. The town is about 17,000 people but they must all live in shacks by the looks. While we were there they washed the windows so we have a much better view. We are entering cultivated farm land more and are headed for the Utah deserts. I never thought I’d ever see what I’ve seen this morning. I’d like to spend about a month out here traveling by automobile. One fellow had a camera, and took some pictures but I don’t know what he’ll do with his camera when he gets there. He can’t keep it. The scenery is becoming fairly general again but the mountains make a beautiful background and the panorama is wonderful

The towns are getting a little thicker and larger. (12:30 o’clock) Up in the mountains the towns didn’t seem to be more than railroad stations and side tracks. We’re running parallel to a good paved highway again. Most of the roads don’t look so hot. The houses and buildings all have a rickety look, sort of ghost-like. I don’t see how people live in some of them. When I look back now, I don’t see how we ever threaded our way through those mountains.

The sand is beginning to show now and the vegetation is mostly short bushes. We’ll be in Salt Lake City sometime today or tonight. If we hit S. Francisco by tomorrow night we’re going to have to step on it. The speed limit for troop trains is 65. We are on level ground now and see several farms. The hills off to one side are smaller and covered with trees and grass. Well that’s all I can say right now again.

Back again in a hurry this time. They fooled me. We’re back in more hills and mountains and back to the river again. There’s one rock wall about 200 feet high that is stretching along the river for 2 or 3 miles. There are some of the most beautiful rock formations you could ever imagine. We passed through another tunnel too. There is a big rock about ½ as big as our house sitting up on top of a cliff. This certainly is beautiful country. We’re passing another huge rock wall. The only way we can get through is to follow the river valley. We are in Utah now but it doesn’t look any different. The fellow that called these the Rockies sure hit the nail on the head. It’s getting a little flatter again but I won’t get too much in a hurry this time. We still have a sheer rock wall on one side of the track. Once in awhile when we hit a curve I can see the engine way up ahead. The other troops we picked up in Denver must have come from a rather warm place because they all wore field jackets. We just passed through another settlement called Westwater. The sun is shining swell so that helps, too.

Some of the fellows have been worrying about furloughs and they have figured it will cost us close to $100 for a round trip. There is one consolation. They can’t send me anywhere in the U.S.A. without sending me closer to home. Its around 2600 miles from Frisco to Lansing, and that ain’t an overnight trip. I don’t think there is anyone in our group, except for the few from the West, who doesn’t hope we’ll be transferred back east in 2 or 3 months. They’d like to see Cal., but they don’t care to stay. The sgt. who is traveling with us said you couldn’t tell. They might turn around and send us to Chicago or someplace in a couple months. That’s probably just another guess of somebody’s with no foundation just like the rest.

Just passed thru Agate Utah, a railroad siding and an empty sheep ranch. It’s 1:00 o’clock. The ground is gradually flattening out although I can still see mountains in the distance. Well I guess I’ll quit this for awhile again.

Back again after dinner – Mashed potatoes, green string beans, ham (I didn’t eat it), whole wheat bread and butter and jello and cream. We have been passing through a very barren stretch of country again. Rocks, hills, dirt but very little vegetation. Just scattered tufts of grass. There are still mountains and bare rock formations visible on the horizons. I’d call this the badlands of Utah but we still haven’t hit the desert. We pass many freight trains off on the sidings waiting for us to go by. One brakeman told us last night that 300 gov’t  trains, munitions, etc. had been sidetracked for ours to go through. WE are important people. We are in some town now and way off up on a huge rock mountain is a big letter G. We just passed another freight, the 3rd in 10 minutes and a lot of the box cars were marked explosives. The town was Green River. It had a school, church, depot, 2 or 3 stores and a lot of R.R. tracks. Now we’re taking off across the badlands again. There is a pretty good black top highway running parallel to the tracks. More rock formations off to the other side. There is even an occasional advertising sign along the road out here in nowhere. Those rock formations are even more impressive here because they stand alone on otherwise level land. This is poor picture of what it looks like [drawing]. We’re passing another sidetracked freight. We cross a lot of creek beds but they are nearly all dry. I have seen 2 trucks and one car on several miles of this road. Rationing must have really hit home or else there’s nobody out here to drive. Well there’s not much to say now so I’ll be back when I see something interesting. I hope we get into Salt Lake City while it’s still daylight.

Back again much later. This afternoon the scenery has been pretty much the same, barren land and rocky bluffs. We passed through one town called Price which was pretty good sized and had a swell modern school. Now we are in a town called Helper Utah. It is fairly large and we have stopped to get 2 new engines. We are entering more mountains and they are going to use the 2 engines. We still are over 100 miles from Salt Lake City and it must be nearly 5:30. It is snowing a little out now.

During the night last night I understand we passed through the Moffat Tunnel in Colorado. It was 6.2 miles long. We have gone through several short ones since then.

One thing seemed rather amusing. Out there in the badlands where there was nothing but hills, rocks and dirt the fields (if you could call them that) were all fenced off. Some of the fences were going almost straight up hill. Now we are leaving Helper. There evidently is some type of mining done here. We are moving into another mountain range. You ought to see the telephone lines running over the mountains. We are passing a coal mine and there are houses all along the foot of the hills. This mine is at Castle Gate.

We just passed through Royal Utah – a post office and coal mine. We’re getting really into the mountains again now, and even with 2 engines progress is slow. The highway is winding around the mts. too. It is U.S. 50. There is plenty of snow up here and it is snowing now. There is more traffic on the highway now but they go pretty slow because it’s a good 300 foot drop off the edge into the valley.

Back again after supper. Boy that was a real supper. It’s going to be hard to go back to army chow. I had beef steak, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, salad, whole wheat bread, butter, milk and ice cream. It’s not quite dark yet but it is snowing quite hard. We are still in the mountain range east of Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ll start going down pretty soon. We are supposed to be in Salt Lake City about 9 o’clock. I’m going to close this letter in hopes of getting a chance to mail it. If I don’t you’ll get it from somewhere else. I imagine my mail will get behind a little for awhile like it did at McCoy but eventually it will get caught up. You probably got my letter today saying I was leaving so I imagine I’ll have your Sun., Mon., Tues., & Wed. letters coming to me out here. For gosh sakes keep writing. It means more than ever now that I’m this far away from everything.

Well I’ll quit for now and hope I can mail this. You’ll get it eventually anyhow. Don’t forget your wandering son wants to get mail and I’ve got plenty I haven’t answered too – Walt, Frankie, Nate, Julius, etc.


Lots of love to Mom, Dad, Gram & Babe


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