March 11, 2019 — Musician 2nd Class Lloyd Frost Harmon, from Mandan, was discharged from the army on this date in 1919. He served with Company A of the 164th Infantry during World War I. The following is a letter he wrote to a friend named Mick from “Somewhere in France” in 1918:
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
Nearly wept great alligator tears of joy yesterday when the mail came in. We had not received any for over two weeks and were getting mighty blue, then when the good old canvas sacks began to show up, well say! The boy with his first pair of long pants had nothing on us. I got sixteen and crawled into the corner by the wood-box and proceeded to (fly) right back to that good old land, U.S. The best country in fifty worlds.
It’s just about like the farmer boy at his first circus to see a bunch of soldiers all grown, brown, strong and full of good old Yankee pep, get a bunch of mail. You can’t hear, you can’t see, you can’t think, you can’t anything. Everybody laughing, hollering, talking, pushing, stepping on each others’ toes, forgetting about mess, troubles, dangers, etc.
First of course, we dig into and devour our letters from mother, dad, sister or brother; then the one or ones from the girl, or girls (if a fellow is lucky or nervy enough to have more than one of these wonderful afflictions). Each fellow telling everyone else at the same time what’s happening at home, who got married, who got pinched, who got drafted, and got anything else from the grocer’s bill to the whooping cough. It’s a grand and glorious feeling I can assure you, and you should see the big difference in the fellows’ work and play after the mail battle is over. They will wear out four pick handles where they wore out one before. I know without a doubt that the quickest way to end the Hun would be to give the whole front the news that the Huns had captured a mail train and had (our mail) in their trench. I’d bet our fellows would go through them so fast that the Hun would take his last thought on earth thinking that perhaps he made the sad mistake of coming on earth about a thousand years too soon.
We received a big bunch of new band music from Carl Fischer about a week ago, and say, you should see us up and at ‘er. We had played all the music we had so much and so long that we could play it upside down, backwards and sideways, and were really getting kinda desperate, but now, oh boy! Also got a few new jazz numbers for the orchestra. Tell me all about it, Mick, you know I am interested.
Very little here in the hunting line, few wild pigs, and say, man, they sure are well named. About three times as large as our pigs, not so broad, but much taller, longer legs, curved back, and the most unsociable faces on the nuts that I have ever seen; and speed, they can put Barney Oldfield to shame. Saw an old Frenchman come in with a pig on one of their two-wheeled, one-horse (go in every direction at once) wagons the other day. It looked about seven feet long and should judge it would weigh about five or six hundred pounds. Some pig. The old man had an implement of death, which was supposed to be a rifle, but I would call it a young cannon. Had a bore about twice the size of a .44 revolver and I guess they use anything from a chunk of shrapnel to a sledgehammer for ball. Much obliged, I don’t care for any pig hunting. Haven’t seen any wild game birds here, but reports are that further south they have good hunting for small game and birds.
When you go out this fall think of me, Mick, and knock over a few for me. This fall will make two seasons of duck and chicken hunting missed, and missed is a poor word for it, too. I’ll be there stronger than ever for the hunt a year from this fall and will make up for lost time…
That was a letter written by Musician 2nd Class Lloyd Harmon in 1918 from “somewhere in France.”