Tuesday, April 13, 2010

'Kinda Hobo Style'

(My grandma, Zella Patricia Detmers Drysdale, born 1926)

Here are all the letters I have left, including a really interesting letter from Ernest's dad in 1925. The Southern language in this missive is spectacular!

The first two letters are from Mamie about her father on his death bed. She talks about their "kids" plural, but I don't know how many they've had by now. She also says her father "can't stand the kids," but my guess is he is only annoyed with them because he's so sick and they won't leave him alone. Our tale ends here, sadly.

July 1st
Dearest daddy daddy,

Just a note tonight. I’m tired and Pa just ordered Uncle E and I to bed. He’s been awful sick today and was real bad at noon. Quigley was here. He had been to Anaheim to see this Dr. Johnston, the cancer specialist that Pa wanted Ethel to go see. This Dr. said Pa had only a slight chance of getting well and that was to take him down to this hospital and they would feed him through the bowels and get him in shape so he could stand an operation.

Ma was so mad to think Quigley went, she wouldn’t even listen. Uncle Edward [?] something else had to be done right away too, but still sticks to C. Science or having Mrs. MacPherson come up. He won’t listen to an operation. But I know what will be done. Nothing but what they are doing now. Caley and Ma and Zella long for Nance, so what can we do? Uncle E. said he’d bring his old sewing machine down and attach it to Pa and it would do as much good as the rattle box. Ha! Ha! And said they would take out his stomach entirely or cut it in two and change the tubes to the other side and he could probably live a year that way and then would have to have the whole stomach removed. He said the Abraham Cure was a fad and only warmed the stomach and then the cancer would spread worse. He said the vomiting was a forerunner of death and after about three weeks of it, there wasn’t any chance of curing. He said he was too far gone to rely on this Abraham treatment now, that it might have helped a little in the beginning. He said whatever we did, to do it quick.

Wish you were down here. The kids just drove him crazy today and they weren’t bad at all. But the baby fusses a lot. So I hiked them all up to Duell’s all afternoon.

Well I’ll go to bed and finish tomorrow night Darling.


Thurs. Morn.

Well, I’ve washed some more diddies and got the kids quiet for a few minutes so I’ll finish this. Caley was up and he and Uncle E. just went to town. Uncle E. wants Pa to let Mrs. MacPherson come. Pa is disgusted with it. Wouldn’t let Ma finish the treatment this morning. Told her to take the damn thing away, he never wanted to see it again. Oh they’ll just let him be there and die. Nance says it might be a little softer and maybe not quite so big. Spit on him.

Pa has vomited all day and such awful stuff. No sleep for two nights and so weak he can’t turn over and says he is so sore and achy all over and wants his feet rubbed with cold water. I’m afraid he’ll get paralyzed pretty soon. He couldn’t talk today, only mumble. Was a little clearer tonight up or else Mattie, and Pa only say he might yet before he gets through. It makes me so mad. Edward says, well it’s all his own fault and if he wants help himself it’s none of our business, so guess it will be up to him. Hope you can come down Sat. I’m going to get out as I want to be here and get in a fuss. He can’t stand the kids and I can’t get them away all the time. We’ll make up the money business some other time.

Bye honey and lots of love,

Camden, Ark.

My dear Ernest:

Your letter just received. Glad to hear from you. Well Mr. (?) folk arrived today, and I will pull out in the mornin’. Goin’ south is all I know. Lost the opportunity to cash in on the Florida boom. Too late now. There’s a chance for another one in S. Mississippi and S. Louisiana. May look ‘em over. I could sell some lime in the oil field this fall yet, but don’t much feel like getting into a hard jam just now. Am going to take down the big road, and camp where I happen to be when night comes. It’s a great life. Kinda hobo style went down through the oil fields last Sunday to El Dorado and back 66 miles. Walked maybe 5 or 6 miles. Will let you know where I’m at occasionally. If you ever have blood poison, don’t forget antiflogistine. It’s great stuff. Have been helping my renter here until his wife got here, and now I guess I can travel some. It ought to do me good. My boils are some better. Used antiflogistine on ‘em. We sure missed it in Taft. Threw a fortune away. Just got a letter from Hank Pete and family. Gone fishin’ and huntin’. Hope they get back okay. Well, still have a chance here for a room. Hope it’s just loose when I’m gone. Thanks for your article. Believe I told you of making Hire’s root beer and ginger ale, and selling it out of 9 oz. bottles 70 to 5 gallons. Cost me outside of a little trouble 1 cent a bottle. Good profit and good stuff too. Well, next summer you can bet I’m in the game some place. Either lemo or root beer barrel or fountain. Just according to my finances.

With love to all as ever, your affectionate Dad.

My great-grandmother Mamie Harvey Detmers was born May 30, 1899 in Valton, Wisconsin, and died on August 24, 1944. She had five children in her short 45 years. My grandmother was 18 when her mother died, and says Mamie had some sort of cancer related to the female organs.

My great-grandfather Ernest A. Detmers was born Jan. 1, 1889 in Trinidad, Colorado, and died Sept. 21, 1947, only three years after his wife's early demise. My grandma says her dad was never the same after Mamie's death, and when he came down with pneumonia at 58, he fought going to the hospital. His family forced him into treatment, where he decided he'd just stop eating. He gave up because he didn't see a reason to live with his true love gone.

I'm happy they had 25 years, give or take, to spend together, and five children to show for it. It truly is a sad tale, however, as my grandma did not have her mother around when her own three sons were born.

At the age of 84, my grandmother still has fond memories of her parents and siblings, and I will continue to cherish the time I spend listening to her childhood tales while she's still here telling them.

I now need a new topic for my blog! Ideas are welcome.


  1. Edward Everett Harvey was a brother to Mamie's father, Horace Greeley Harvey, therefore her Uncle Ed.

    He was born 12 Apr 1868 in Woodland Twp., Sauk County, Wisconsin, and died 10 May 1951 in Alameda County, California.

    Here is a note I have on Ed:
    Reedsburg (WI) Free Press, May 6, 1898
    "Edward Harvey and family have moved into Abe Mortimer's house near Valton."

  2. Chelsey, I can't think of a subject on which you would want to write, but do want to let you know I miss your posts very much.