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Letter from Dick Bakker, Renville Star Farmer, 10-10-1918

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Somewhere in France, Sept 8

Dear folks at home:

How is everybody over there? O.K. here. We don’t have to drill today, so we have a little rest. Drilling is very hard after such a long lay-off, but that will soon come up to the old swing again. When did you last hear of me after I left the United States? I saw Fred Wilcken in England the last day I was there. He was quite surprised to see me there. There were some boys from Renville there that enlisted when Ole Sietsema did, but I did not see them, as it was the last day I was in England, that I saw Fred. Have not seen Willis McBroom since we left camp Kearney, don’t know where he is, but I suppose you know from his folks. We have been picking blackberries this forenoon, I got about two quarts then I quit. They are so thick, people make fences of them around their land. I have not seen a real wire fence since I left United States. You ought to see the big oxen they drive on the wagons, they don’t weigh less than a ton apiece. The soil is light clay here, lots of timber and flowers.

I will write you a little interesting bit of what I saw in England. We visited and old cathedral, an old man explained it to us. The first part was built in 109 A.D., they have been keeping it in repair, and building more to it. It is now 555 feet long, it was all constructed of stone. There were six kings buried there in lead caskets, covered with carved wood, and a great many bodies were buried in that place. There was a big bowl there from Belgium that was over a thousand years old, and hundreds of statutes were there. There were flags hanging there from the early war, if you could touch them they would fall to pieces. There was one church not far from there, that was built before Christ was born. I would like to have seen that but no chance. England is prettier that France. It is the prettiest country I have seen so far. Got a few letters from U.S. Monday. The latest was from August 2nd. I saw Ike Habben nearly every day since we left Camp Kearney, but have not seen him near here. Have had plenty rain the last few days. Have quite a hard windstorm Sept. 6th.

I suppose the threshing machines are humming away at it over there. They are through threshing here for quite awhile, but have seen only one little outfit here yet. We are to have a little doings this afternoon ball game, sack race, the tallest man tied to the shortest man out of each company, also tug of war across the canal. It is now nearly eleven o’clock, and you are maybe getting up by this time. Sundays are just like other days in the army, only we don’t work. There are some pear trees here, but they are not ripe, so many different kinds of trees and ferns. How is the wheat crop over there this year? We are getting real white bread here. How is peanuts? I would like to ride him for a change, they have mostly these little mules here, they come as high as a man’s hip. They drive them in two wheeled cart the wheels are higher and heavier than on the Plymouth wagon. Have Freiborgs and Groens folks heard from the boys lately? We have plenty of flies here, but no mosquitoes. It is now 11:30 will go for chow now and finish this later. We had rain yesterday afternoon and spoilt most of our doings, we had a ball game and tug of war. Co. F pulled Co. G thru the canal Co. H pulled F thru. We got mail last night and got eight letters, we are allowed to write two letters a week only, but that is enough, don’t you think so? I also got the book of worship from the Presbyterian Church. This is the first till we could not drill on account of rain. While in camp I am in my sixth camp now. Will close now with love and best wishes. Greet all the folks for me.

Dick W. Bakker,, Co. F – 160th Inf. A.E.F