Over the next few months I will be sharing my grandparents courtship letters along with an accompanying diary. The letters are real. The diary is historical fiction based on what I have gleaned from their writing, talking to their children and my research into life in rural Wyoming between 1913 -1916. I hope you will enjoy reading them.
She crept into the musty attic, in a corner sat an old brown trunk. She remembered her Mama telling her how her Daddy had sled it through the snow to a train waiting to take them to their new life in Puyallup, WA.
Judging from the amount of dust on top she guessed it hadn’t been opened in years. Ignoring it, she undid the worn leather straps and tugged the latch open. There wasn’t much in the trunk, some photos, a pretty dress her Mama wore to dances and a little blue sailor suit. She remembered watching her Mama stitch it for her little brother.
At the bottom of the trunk was a covered box. She lifted it out and carefully removed the lid. Inside lay the quirt her Daddy had given her Mama for Valentine’s day. What had her Mama called her horse? She didn’t remember anymore. Under the quirt sat a few photo’s of her Mother’s youth and two packets of letters tied in blue satin ribbons – one pile addressed to Roy Caple, Nagram,Wash., the other to Mae Phillips, Mona, Wyoming and a faded leather journal. Her fingers shook as she opened it.
Dec. 1, 1912
The Henry’s gave you to me as a birthday gift. Up until today all I wanted to do was admire your pristine white pages and touch your soft leather cover but now I must have a place to spill my heart, for it is breaking.
Just a bit ago, Mama and Papa informed me we are going home before Christmas. Why now, I asked. We’ve been here almost a year and I thought they were happy.
Papa said it’s because cousin Clifford, who has been renting our place in Mona, had decided to move elsewhere. And Mama said she couldn’t bear to be away from her family any longer. But I think the real reason is to get me away from a certain somebody. Just thinking of him makes me want to swoon. I fell for him the minute I first set eye on him and recently he told me he felt the same way.
Let me tell you with his blue, blue eyes, dark, almost black, brown hair and gentle smile he has to be the handsomest man alive. And that’s the problem, he is a man and according to my parent’s, I’m just a girl. Never mind that I am 16 and finished with school. Why Grandma Jessie was married a year by the time she was my age.
I said I’d stay with the Henry’s and get a job at the box factory. But Mama said absolutely not, you’re too young to live away from us. You only want to stay because your smitten with that young man next door. You’ll forget all about him once some fine Wyoming lad sets his sights on courting you.
But I know I won’t.
We came here because our last winter in Wyoming was very cold and hard. Papa’s family kept writing about the wonders of Washington state, so when my cousin said he was looking for a place to rent, my folks decided to give Washington a try. Right after Christmas we boarded a train bound for Puyallup.
The Henry’s found us a place to live not far from them. I can never remember just how but Mrs. Henry is some sort of distant relation of Papa’s.
The house was furnished and a family by the name of Caple owned the house and little farm next door. In no time we made friends with Mr. and Mrs. Caple. Their daughter Lida was an age between Hazel and I and soon the three of us were the best of friends.
Lida kept talking about her three handsome brothers who were away working in a logging camp and how they would soon be back home. But nothing prepared me for meeting the middle one. I tell you it was like a bolt of lightning hit me the first time I laid eyes on him.
Just thinking about him sets my heart to racing. For a long time he didn’t say anything about feeling the same. He was just as nice as could be towards me. But then he is with everyone. He was so patient with Hazel’s silliness and Daniel’s little boy ways. But one day while I was helping him pick berries in his berry patch he confessed he’d be smitten with me of I wasn’t so young. But more and more lately I think he feels the same way as I do – that we are meant to be together – forever.
Papa says he’s a fine young man but too old for a girl of 16. Honestly, I can’t see what difference that makes. Papa is ten years older than Mama and no couple could be more devoted to each other, so I don’t understand why the 11 years between Roy and I matters.
Mama is calling so I must stash you and see what she wants.