From Camp Cody (10/25/1917)
(By Alfred E. Reeves)
Sunday, p.m., Oct. 7, 1917.,
Camp Cody, Deming, N.M.
Dear Friends in Farnam:
I have received several letters asking me to write to the Echo more often, some even suggesting a letter a week, this is impossible as I lack the time, and there are so many things here that will not be of interest to the folks there.
Since my last letter some very important changes have been made in our division; first, and what we consider the most important, the 4th Neb. Inf. has gone out of existence and of it was made the 127th Field Artillery, Heavy. We who have worked so hard to make the 4th the best regiment in the division feel very much gratified to think our efforts were not in vain for we are very proud of the assignment. The Heavy Field Artillery is proving one of the greatest means in winning this war.
We will not go to France as soon as we expected owing to the great amount of extra drilling we will have to have in the use of these large guns. Our regiment was divided into six batteries, the companies were consolidated, and out of them 228 men were chosen for each battery. Each battery has six guns of the 8-inch type, with a range of eight miles, there is 170 men equipped with the ordinary infantry rifle and a gun crew for the large guns of 38 men.
The entire regiment is mounted, so we will have to have over 1400 more horses. If you sell a horse for the army, just think we may have him in our regiment—ask the buyer, and if they go to the 127th Artillery of the 34th Division, let me know and I will look them up, for even a horse from Farnam would look good to me. The horses are treated very much better here than they are at home, for they are fed at the same hour every day and are groomed regularly. They have very little work to do, all the heavy hauling is done with the mules and motor trucks.
In changing our regiment from the 4th Neb., some funny as well as sentimental things happened. The collar ornaments were of no use to the boys of course, so ways and means were talked of as to the best and most appropriate way of disposing of them. They were collected and placed in a box draped in black, a large sign was made indicating the last of the 4th Neb. and the band with a procession started down the regimental street, playing a derge (sic) and carrying the remains with a guard of honor for a military burial. They got as far down the street as the Colonel’s tent and it did not meet with his approval so the band with all present were confined to the camp for three days. We all regretted, of course, giving up the good old Neb. but it is the livest (sic) corpse (sic) and the envy of the entire division. We also were obliged to leave our camp and move about a mile further out so we could have more room for drilling, but we have another camp just as good or better, so it was only the inconvenience of moving that annoyed us.
The weather is very hot here during the day and is cold at night. Today the thermometer registered 98 and at night it will go down as low as 40. My quarters or room is in the hospital building. I have bought some furniture and a rug for it, and it is considered the best one in camp, and a popular loafing place for the officers. We have seven cases just now in the hospital and only about 20 to 30 a day at sick call. You will understand these cases are of all kinds, just headache, a little cold, sore corn, etc. Sickness goes by spells, however, we have not had a surgical case in a week and two weeks ago had seven in one week.
I have only seen the Farnam boys once, at that time they seemed contented and happy, and I must say they are a fine bunch of fellows and the community may well be proud of the boys who willingly gave their services to the country.
This is just sundown, I am sitting by the west window and the beautiful garnet sky with the dark blue clouds so peacefully suspended with their good night benediction to the sun, must be an incomparable contrast to what it must soon raise on the other side of the world. I wonder just what it will witness,—can you imagine from so peaceful a setting with a beautiful red sky to bid it good night, to be greeted on arising by a world red with blood of men and stained with tears of sorrow. Oh, God, when will it be that when it shines over there it will be the morning of peace? And we will be able to go home and forget war. When we will cease drilling, thinking and practicing ways of killing men; men whom we have never known and for whom we have no personal feeling; men like ourselves, who have left behind, wives, children, mothers and sweethearts.
In my first letter I told of the undesirable things of this country. Now it is only fair to tell of its wonders and beauties. Camp Cody is located just a short ways from Deming, and it is situated in what seems to be a great basin about 60 miles wide and hemmed in on all sides by ranges of mountains. This valley is not productive, what I have been over is only sand where mammoth cacti grow to a height of some 30 feet. Sage brush and mesket (sic) covers the ground and furnishes hiding places for the insects and reptiles. The valley is not beautiful, looking at it, one cannot but remember its scorching sands with the creeping lizards, horn toads and sand vipers. But to look at the great wonderful mountains, thoughts of the valley vanishes and it would be a cynic indeed, who would not marvel at their grandeur. Not like the beautiful Rockies of Colorado, but just big wonderful mountains, resembling to me, with their lines and crevises (sic) and their color, giant mamouth (sic) or elephants weary and laying on the ground to rest.
East, over which we see the glorious sunrise each morning, and about 40 miles away, the only one named by the soldier boys, called Sadie Peak, it seems to be more proud than the rest; like a sentinel it towers above the rest and is said to be the highest peak in New Mexico. It looms above with a drift of snow on its summit, white like a diamond on a ladies (sic) fingers, flashing beauty and glory down on you through the placid air. On a beautiful moonlight night it seems to lean over and bend its heavy brow all blazing with moonbeams toward you as if it would be more intimate, and whisper to you its eternal secret which it has kept silent from the dawn of creation.
North and west are just mountains, they are large and splendid fellows, I have not been near to make their acquaintance, they are so far. South, three peaks attract attention at once, they are beautiful virgin peaks standing bashfully alone, away from the crowd, they are called the Three Sisters, about 35 miles from here and five miles over the national boundary line into Mexico. Just south, 18 miles is the foot of what to me is the most interesting of them all and of which I shall tell you more. I would like to know the whole story from the great giant itself, but as it cannot talk I shall have to tell you one story as it was told me by one who has spent his entire life here. In writing this to you I am unable to give his name correctly, therefore I shall call him by the name that most suits the character. The other names are correct.
[Historic Farnam editor’s note: Here begins a story that is continued in later Echo issues titled "The Cactus Trail".]
It was several years ago, in fact over a score, the rich silver mines on this mountain were nearly exhausted and served mostly as a hiding place for escaped outlaws of the two nations. Only a few of the smaller mines were being worked and these by men who knew no other occupation and the meagre (sic) findings served to provide their living and to maintain the family in the town of Deming. The product and output of these mines were not sufficient to attract the interest of the mining syndicate, so these men rode on horseback daily to and from their work heavily armed as was the custom in those days. The excitement over the silver find had subsided and now a new industry had sprung up, that of ranching and cattle raising. Just at the foot of this mountain a rancher from Nebraska had moved with his family, consisting of the wife and three children, two small boys seven and nine years of age and a daughter of fourteen summers. The hospitable adoby (sic) house of ample room had often been the abode over night of strangers, while the barns and correll (sic) furnished shelter and forage for the visitor’s horse. Located as the place was, scarcely a mile from the old trail that leads into Mexico, it has always been considered the half-way place. It required only a glance to convince the observer that this was not the home of the ordinary homesteader, the ample buildings, corrells (sic) and wells, with the splendid herd of cattle and horses were evidence of wealth. From the south, at sunset, on the 13th day of May, a lone traveler rode into the yard, and asked for shelter during the night. Mr. Richard Reamer was at Deming 18 miles away. Following the custom of the household, the wife said certainly, the boys will show you where to put your horse, and turning to Margaret said, "an extra place for supper, dear; the gentleman will stay here all night." When the husband and father returned home a late supper was served, and as was the custom, the family retired early, and, being rugged mountain folks, slept soundly.
Steve Adams, for this was the stranger’s name, could not sleep, he rolled and tossed until near morning when he at last arose, lighted his lamp and from under his pillow drew a note book and began writing, often he would hesitate as in deep study, but as he wrote his dark brow clouded and a fierce smile broke from his lips, he was heard to say "they must clear out, its the old and only trail out."
On the page of his notebook, which was afterward introduced as evidence in court, the following notations were made "(I will also give their explanations) N. 16 M. (north 16 miles) 18 M. S. by W. from D. (18 miles south by west from Deming) 6 M. M. B. (miles to Mexican border) C. S. (clear sailing) No S. C. (no settlers close). can offer as inducement H. W. W. and B. D. (handsome white woman and beautiful daughter) Valdez and the boys will do anything for these. No trouble to snip off two K. and O. M. (two kids and old man)."
That you may know the visitor better I will describe him. The average height man, well proportioned with a clear bleached skin, and hands that had not been exposed to the New Mexico sun. The fore or trigger finger of the right hand was missing, due to the expert pistol shooting of a comrade with whom he had quarreled several years before, not caring to kill him and taking this means of crippling him as he said, until he cooled off; black thick hair cut very short, eyes of dark grey, set close together, and teeth stained and haggled; altogether contributed to make a repulsive appearance, as did also a large white scar extending from the corner of his large mouth nearly back to his left ear. The muscles had so contracted from the effect of this scar that when he smiled, the parted lips resembled more the snarl of a wild beast than a smile. His clothes were new, not expensive, but the ordinary corduroy worn so much by the cowboys; even the dark blue kerchief knotted around his neck had been worn but little, and the fringed leather chaps were scarcely soiled. On his side suspended from a belt was a holster containing a .32 calibre (sic) pistol. Mr. Reamer noted this and afterward remarked it was what the cowboys would call a popgun or a toy pistol.
No questions were asked [of] the stranger and he did not mention his own name;—the custom of the west is, "a name counts for nothing, a man is taken for face value and passes as such until found counterfit (sic)."
The sun was barely shining over Saddle mountain when they led his horse up ready for the journey, and contrary to custom offered to pay Mr. Reamer for the night’s lodging; thereby proving for the second time that he was not used to associating with this class of country people. When Mr. Reamer refused to accept the money he turned and gave each little boy whom he had planned to murder, a silver quarter, and mounting his horse rode north over the old trail to Deming.
(Continued next week)