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Monday, September 21, 2015

Further Adventures of Rae Wylie

I have discovered some more letters written to my grandmother by Rachel Wylie, her tent-mate in Yellowstone during the summer of 1916. They tell the story of the final part of Rae’s education and of the fun she had in the first place she taught.


Epistle to the Deaux Drops #3.
Official time for Park Migration.
1 month – 23 days in 1917. 1 yr. 1 month – 23 days in 1918.
If you are going to put it off any longer don’t expect me to keep tract of the time—it’s too sad to think about.

[Outside envelope flap]

Extract from the “Sabbath Reading.” Probably you’ve read it.
If _ _ _ _ or the under world were turned upside down what would be the trade mark printed on it? (ans. other side)
[Inside envelope flap]
Made in Germany.

Los Angeles Calif.
Mar. 22, 1917.

Beloved D.D.s, —

Hello, Hawaii? I’ve been hibernating for the winter and just woke up. Don’t think when you get a whiff of these orange blossoms that I have grown desperate and committed matrimony. No such good luck, they are simply put in to tell you that it’s orange blossom time in California. They have quite a scent just now and I do hope they are polite enough to keep it so you can smell it too. Got them off my own little orange tree in the back yard.

Oh! California is great just now, trying to make up for me not getting to go back to the Park. Our wisteria vine is all white, the roses——but I can’t tell you about them. Was up the valley last week applying for a school. (I adore such a job.) All along the road going up were roses, not back east, front yard roses but real beauties like you buy at the florist’s for $4 a dozen or rather like you don’t buy—people plant them along the road like they would sun flowers back east. Then after you had looked at the roses, you looked behind at the orange groves with one-half of the trees in bloom and the other half with ripe oranges, beyond were the mountains and over all this peachy blue sky and the sun that don’t know how to quit shining. Yummy. Yum. Me for an orange ranch in Southern Calif.

Well I suppose if I don’t quit raving on my surroundings and get down to business you won’t be pleased so here goes with every thing I know and some things I don’t know.

Now really first of all I don’t know a darn thing (darn perfectly proper, used every day by my psychology teacher) about the Park. You may not believe me but it’s gospel that Lady Mac does not know yet what she is going to do this summer. They have never heard from the Department of the Interior whether Wylie can have his camps at Grand Canyon. I think some one had better turn that dept. inside out and make an exterior dept. of it so we can find out what they are doing and why. She will go to G. C. if they get the camps there. And only the D. of I. and the Creator know what will happen.

As to people who are going back—Gula Frew has applied for tent-work. Bobbie McC. also has expressed his desire to return, how I shall miss him I really never feel quite right when I go out at night any more—“conscious of a something lacking.” Frank Vetter thinks he will go. And that’s all I know of.

Uncle Roy is going to tour the east and has just returned from a trip to Florida. Geysers will have to have a new guide. Yes I had a dandy letter from him. He has not changed in the least and practices at being in love most of the time. He must have gotten overly excited over some one for I’ll swear he wrote on wedding stationery.

Shorty Green mourns the departure of the horses—no park at all—it’s a burning shame—and will have to work for Sears and Roebuck all summer. Did you know he worked for them? Well he does, asked me if I had ever heard of them. Have I—oh! no. Maybe he could get us some bargains on spring suits. Every time he writes he sends a picture of himself with other films. I’m going to start a rogue’s gallery.

I don’t think Gordon is very nice to tell you I wrote him a letter. I don’t see any chance of getting him at all if he acts that way. But I just answered his letter friendly like, I hadn’t written on any serious subjects yet. Really Vess, it was nearly all weather, you know he used to live in Calif., and then he would rave over some school teacher in the east. It was real disappointing. I don’t think I’ll answer his last letter at all.

No sir Dick, Ed never sent me that picture even after you told him to and I don’t care if nothing makes him sore, some things do me and I want that picture.

Well back onto the main road—there will be no Thumb or Gibbon camp this year as you know but there will be one at Mammoth Hot Springs where Mr. Moorman will reign instead of at Gardiner. Other camps just the same. We also heard they would use the Shaw Powell sites at the Canyons and Geysers, that they wanted to use the Log office at the Geysers. I should think it would be a heap easier to build a log office than to move the camp over there away from all the good geysers, log bath house, bunk house, gentian patch, Firehole River and cow bridge. Besides the office we had wasn’t half bad. I’ll tell you they need us to decide a few things.

Mr. Miles was supposed to come down to L.A. but didn’t and I have now told you every thing I know about the new arrangements.

Well school continues but I am having a real good time this term. Start out in the morning with Nature study. We make trips around the campus; every one hunts a bug or a weed and runs wildly to the teacher. What is it? That, oh that’s a cinch beetle. Out come all the note books and down goes cinch beetle—4 legs, 2 on each side, 2 green spots on tail, sharp teeth but not poisonous, etc. On to the next bug. No outside studying, a delightful subject for one not studiously inclined. Only I rebel at snakes. Our beloved instructor tells us we will so much more win the respect of our pupils if we will only not be afraid of snakes. Respect or no respect I’ll not handle snakes.

Next we rush madly across the campus to oral expressions class where every one gets up in front of the class and shouts to the clouds. To-morrow we rave over Lochinvar. No outside studying to speak of, every one laughs at every one else and we have a delightful time.

The next hour I meet my Waterloo, I go to Art. Our teacher is a dear and personally I like her well, but between you and me I don’t think she has good taste. At least she don’t appreciate my efforts. Her idea of rhythm of straight lines and my idea conflict terribly but I always give in because it wouldn’t do to show her up in front of the class. No outside study to that class either.

Next I go to assembly; if exciting I enjoy it, otherwise I sleep.

The fifth hour I observe teaching in the training school any place I feel inclined. Friday went to the un-graded room where they work on the children who are either half or wholly lacking. One child took a notion to entertain me and drew pictures for my benefit. She asked me my name and then began to specialize on circles and as she drew them said, this is Miss Rachel. I know I’ve gained but I’m far from a circle and I’m not going back to that room. Will observe children in their right minds. (Just got one more class to tell about and then I’m done.)

After lunch go to physical ed and that is the best yet. We do folk dances, stand on our heads and all kinds of stunts and then take a cold shower bath.

A jitney bus of the 1915 to 1919 era.
One of the girls has a new auto and the boy that is teaching her to run it comes [with] us and we do Southern Calif. His father is running for city councilman and we go around and see people for him. Have a big sign on the wind shield, “R.P. Benton for City Council” Of course people can’t tell what it is at a distance and naturally take us for a jitney bus.1 It’s quite mortifying every time you come to a corner to have people try to get in. Lela is getting along fine at driving too, just been run into twice and both times the other people were easy and paid for all damages. Much more exciting than nothing happening.

Oh! say wouldn’t you like to run around old Y.N.P. in an auto? I know Chip Samuels would run one just right. Wish I could be with you all at Lake Erie this summer since you have decided what you are going to do. We are going to the beach and I expect to work in the store and go back and forth.

The election of teachers here doesn’t come off until June. Isn’t that a great way to do business. We have to wait until then to find out. But I should worry. I have a good place up on the fourth floor at the store in a section with three boys. We run the place about right too on Saturdays. Our head man is a Jew, I know because he has a “stein” on the end of his name, but he is fine looking and so nice that I’m crazy about him.

Clara is going to join the Red Cross and I have serious intentions. We have a class out at school to teach us to make dressings etc. If war starts in tho’, I’m going to apply for a place as a traffic policeman at 7th & Broadway. The policeman there is quite rude to us when we pass him in a hurry. He needs to go to war and get shot and I will have an opportunity to use my gestures acquired in oral expression class—goodness knows there is no other time in life I’ll need them.

Nance’s people are all out here from the Grandmother down to the baby. They have a real nice bungalow and we dedicated it with a slumberless party one night before the family arrived. Nance works in the telephone office but does not like it and has an application in down at the store where I work.

Bee those papers you write are great. To think I slept with all that knowledge last summer and didn’t absorb some of it. But I am going to get something into my head, for Waldo the smallest boy has the mumps or we think he has for he has been exposed and is now sick. Just as soon as he wakes up he calls for me and I have to get in bed with him and I think that will be a good way to get them. Any of you that want them send in a written application and I’ll see what I can do for you. But be sure you have good reliable references. Experience also is desirable—oh! you school applications I can’t think of anything else.

Dick I wish you would come west and teach. Calif is such a stiff old place you almost have to go to Normal before you can get a school, but it isn’t the only western state; wish tho’ you would be near me.

Perla your name is Job. Don’t see how you even can find time to write all those poems and every thing you send. I certainly appreciate them and if I can’t ever repay you in this world you’ll get your reward in the next.

Glad my films have escaped New Castle, I had begun to think they were quarantined or something.

Bee you got your prophesy a little mixed on Bill and I. He happens to be choosing Clara, or trying to, only she refuses to [be] chose. Guess maybe he has given up hope by this time. She and the lady she rooms with worked it beautifully that she was never at home when he called. Bill is a naughty, naughty boy. He hasn’t gotten over those moonlight nights in the park yet.

Have heard from Fergie a couple of times and must answer. If the swaddies down there are like the ones that go thru here, she will have a good time alright.

What has become of Cody? Never hear anything about her any more.

Well I will close. This is a letter of some length, I believe in making up for lost time. You can do as you please about reading it.

Lady Mac’s address is 631 Cypress Av, Burbank Calif. Guess it was Bee said she didn’t have it. Sorry I can’t give you any more news on the Park question but guess you are out of the notion of going.

Please don’t follow my example when it comes to answering letters but be good Samaritans.

With lots and lots and lots of love from

Irene Castle in a summer 1917 suit.
Almost forgot to tell you about my spring apparel. Have a new white silk suit and hat to match. Quite a clinging garment, in fact too clinging to be modest and comfortable at the same time. Am afraid I’ll have to invest in hoops. This is positively the end.

[Epistle #4 seems to be missing. Outside of next letter, which is 21 pages long.]

Epistle to the Deaux Drops #5.
Nothing like enlarging your business. Am now engaging the parcel post to carry my correspondence.

[Inside of letter.]

Gray, Calif.2
Mar. 8, 1918.

Dearest Deaux Drops:

No school to-day! Hurrah! Anyone who has lived thru the nervous strain of teaching seven children will realize what a day’s rest must mean to my nerve wracked brain. The last two days have been so rainy that three of my brood could not come, and so I have had only four to deal with, but you will agree that even that number is too great for one person to handle. When I awoke this morning and heard the wind blowing pell-mell against our palatial residence I thought, “No school to-day,” and I was just turning over to enjoy life when I thought another thought, “What a perfectly good chance to write to the Deaux-Drops”—and here I am.

I haven’t the slightest idea what I have told you about this dear old desert, but I believe I introduced you to my school, rooming house, the looks of the country and the almost weekly dances so I will not repeat any of those things. Your experience this winter have been interesting and especially Bee’s escapade (how I should like to have been there) and altho’ we haven’t had the “below” weather, yet we do have weather and weather and sometimes we get it in big bunches. I am so used to “roughing” it now that civilization and the summer to come look mighty black and dreary.

One of the first real good times we had this year was the week before Thanksgiving. A bunch of us (picture A) started out on a two-days camping trip. We went nine miles over to a little town called Palm Springs and right thru the town to a house at the foot of the hills, where lived some people Mrs. McCargar (my desert mother) knew. Here we unloaded ourselves and the burros (picture B) behind the barn which was to be our hotel.

To go back to the start I will introduce you to our crowd in picture A—please move to the right ladies. First and foremost, John Riley, one of the first natives in the valley, age 36, appearances deceiving, very good natured, unmarried, in fact an all around good investment for any single woman with a bank account. Next, Wesley the Los Angeles boy who lived by us on 47th. St. and with whose aunt I board—Wes stayed until Xmas. Next, Aleita my 18 year old school girl (please excuse using figures3, it saves time) Next behind, Mrs. McCargar, my mother. Next in front, Regina Sweetingham another school girl and niece of the young man beside her, who is brother of the woman next him, the said woman (Mrs. Sweetingham) being mother to Regina. The uncle Albert was from Detroit, visiting his sister and seeing the desert for the first time which is the best time to enjoy it. Mercy McCargar also went with us but did not get in the picture as she was back in the sand hills bidding her lover a fond farewell—they were married two weeks later. Then the other member of the party took the picture and didn’t get in on it, but believe me that was all she lost out on.4

As we had only four burros, and one was a pack burro, five of us had to walk. We left Bob’s Well, a flowing well about two miles from here that all the country uses to haul from (only shows drinking barrel in picture) at nine o’clock and got to Palm Springs at twelve. It isn’t exactly easy walking in sand either. Then we ate a picnic dinner and explored the town. Palm Springs is a sort of health resort and fairly exclusive one. It is a pretty town; enough water comes from the mountains to irrigate well so the place is full of trees and we picked up lemons and oranges on the streets—don’t need sidewalks as the ground is sandy so the streets are just nice shady ones with grass walks—and rode McKinney’s (where we left our burros) pony by turns. There are quite a number of wealthy & noted people there and also a countess and duchess; it really is like a town you read about. But the strangest things there are the hot springs which you may have read about. You can go in them but cannot sink below your lungs. Some of the men tried sitting on each other’s shoulders but could not force each other down. The springs some times move from one corner of the bath house to the other and the Indians, who run the place, are quite superstitious about them. San Jacinto, the mountain just behind, is a volcano and it is when it rumbles and carries on that the springs get frisky—they certainly are uncanny and weird affairs; you think you are standing on firm ground when all at once you are not and there you stand (?) in the water on nothing. The Indian reservation was interesting too; at some times of the year the Indians have war dances, fire-eating dances and all kinds of celebrations but we did not get to see them.

That evening we built a fire up the canyon and had our suppers there, also had a weeny roast. It was beautiful moonlight and when we came back to the house we all played games in the yard. About ten o’clock we went to the barn to bed. We spread canvas on the hay, or corn stalks as it turned out to be, and lined up in the following fashion.

It certainly was one experience but altho’ the cattle & horses surrounding us munched their grain peacefully and noisily and altho’ Mrs. Mc. snored most profoundly, I could not sleep—maybe I was afraid I would miss something. I do know this, that the place I had next a wire screen window was a cold one, the north pole nothing on that place, but for that matter no one had as much on as they should. We would get half started to sleep when the dogs outside would start to bark and chase the cattle around and around the barn; then the little yappers inside would begin to bark and the horses would stop eating and snort. At twelve every one woke up, we passed comments on the weather, said unholy things of the dogs, turned our other side to the jaggy cornstalks (the canvas has slipped down someplace), and the rest went to sleep.

About an hour later Albert woke every one up in his attempts to put on his shirt, which he had taken off for some reason. It was rather a risky business to try to dress on a sliding hill of cornstalks but he finally accomplished it, and after giving much advice on the subject, the crowd dropped off to sleep again.

But I couldn’t sleep, nor Mrs. S. We lay there, groaned and giggled. Before long I felt Something dropping around my head and then I discovered the chicken roost just above—you can use your imagination for the rest. Mrs. S. got a corn stalk, and in our efforts to move the beasts farther up the roost, knocked one old hen down on the suffering sleepers below. The dogs didn’t like it and said so; then everything in and around the barn started up their infernal racket and the crowd woke up and wanted to know what we two were laughing at.

Just at day break the rooster began to do his bit; he had a wonderful voice that stopped short with a cracking sound, then went off with a bang. Well he set in his corner and displayed himself until we took him at his word and got up.

Such a bunch you never saw, my skirt had to be washed after the chicken had gotten thru with it, and I had to run around with my hair down my back while Albert went to the store after hairpins, mine having gotten lost in the cornstalks.

We finally got ourselves together and our breakfast eaten and were ready for a hike up the canyon. Girls, it was a beautiful place and the waterfall at the top, grand. We stumped each other on the hardest rocks5 and in the afternoon started to climb over the lowest range which is not low by any means. We made our own trail straight up, Bridal Veil Falls couldn’t come near it, and most of the party backed out before long. But A. and I decided to show them what Easterners6 are made of, so we went on to the top. It was some climb up and worse down; we would sit down and slide for about six feet, then jump about four straight down and we never knew whether we would land in this world or the next. Evidently old Nick wasn’t ready to claim us yet, for we lived thru the performance and got back to the house in time to eat supper and start on our nine mile trip home in the moonlight.

Yes, we had school the next day. I wasn’t even stiff. As to tooth brushes etc. Bee, we hadn’t time to think of them so didn’t miss them. That is the only way to hike, we didn’t even take cups but lay down on the ground and drank out of the streams. Great life!! I wouldn’t have missed any of it. And just think in three weeks we go again. There is no school on Friday before Easter as there is an election in the school house, so we will leave here Thursday after school thus having three days to visit three different canyons.

We have had some other camping trips of only a day’s length that were fun, guess you would call them hikes tho! I spend weeks ends often at Sweetingham’s and we go up in the hills behind their place and roll down in the sand, some stunt for dignified school teachers. Maybe tho’ you realize by this time I am taking an eight months vacation this winter.

Have you ever seen desert holly or desert mistletoe? We went after it before Xmas; the holly is gray with red berries and the mistletoe has berries like our Eastern mistletoe, which sometimes the sun turns pink, but it does not have the leaves, just covered with branches and berries.

Palm Springs desert area sandstorm.
Oh! Yes, we have had some sandstorms too and one especially. It came upon us all unsuspectingly one night, with such violence that I gave the place just three minutes to stand up. Before the three minutes were up, however, there was a great crash and upon investigation we found a window blown in and clear across the room. After several attempts we managed to get a door over the opening where the wind was blowing in at 110 miles per hour and Mrs. Mc, with the aid of the sewing machine,7 held the door in place while I hunted nails. Such a time—first I couldn’t find the matches, then the lamp upset, the stove pipe blew down, I stepped on Tiny the dog, he growled and ran at the cats, they spit and Pat began to bark, confusion reigned supreme, but I found the nails and when I turned to Mrs. Mc, I had to sit down in the middle of the floor and laugh. There she stood in her nightgown with her hair in all directions hanging to that door for dear life—all I could think of was that picture “Rock of Ages.”
The nails were no good, however, without a hammer, so I had to take my life in my hands & go to the tool chest on the back porch. The draft from the partly open window took me out of the door a flying and then I did my bit at the “Rock of Ages” stunt—the wind was so strong I had to hang on to the porch post, while I was thankful neighbors were scarce and the night dark; even a nightgown is not much protection on a windy night. The hammer secured and the door also, we went to bed to shiver until nine the next morning. We couldn’t get up until the storm was over and when we emerged we found every thing covered with half an inch of sand, the only clean places being little spots on the pillows where our heads had been—notice I didn’t report on the condition of our heads. There was no school and we excavated all day long. That was another experience I wouldn’t have missed for anything. We really got off quite easily tho’, for most of the neighboring toilets took an air trip; ours stayed with us to the end.8

Mrs. McCargar left Aleita and I to run the ranch, while she went down the valley to visit Mercy. She was gone two weeks and we got along nicely. Orr Sang, a neighbor widower,9 played the part of guardian angel (?) during the time and nothing could have been more exciting. He is one of these old fellows that have been every place and done everything; he also has his own interesting ways of telling his experiences, and his own expressions with which to punctuate them. These expressions, he claims, are not to be found in the almanac or the Bible; well I’ll agree on the almanac but I’m not so sure of the other book at times. He really should be put in a book and Harold Bell Wright10 don’t know what he missed when he passed up this valley. The San Gorgonian Pass which you find described in “Eyes of the World” is just a few miles from here, our sun sets in it every night. But to go back to Sang, he certainly took good care of us and together with Mr. Riley took us hunting and kept us supplied with cotton-tails. Also they entertained us in their shacks. Did you say Cook? Well I guess they can. It is quite the proper thing to call on gentlemen here, every one does. I wish Miss McClintic, from old Geneva, could drop in here but she probably would drop right out again and send us those books from off the old Dorm table, namely “Don’ts for Girls”11 and “Marion Harland’s Book on Etiquette.”12 She don’t need to bother, I know them by heart after forced readings and they have never harmed nor spoiled my life in the least. Please don’t choke on these paragraphs. I don’t have a typewriter and am hooverizing13 on paper and time.

Mr. Sang’s worst affliction is his teeth. He has two sets of false teeth but neither will stay in his mouth. He has given us several demonstrations of how they should work but won’t, and one time he got those self same teeth in and couldn’t for some time get them out. I never saw him so worried. I hope I managed to look the same way, you see, he wanted to exchange them when he got to Los [Angeles] and his chances at that time surely did look slim for an exchange. He has departed for Los and we surely do miss him.

One of the cattle men was riding this country after stray cattle for a week while Mrs. Mc was gone and he left us his horse when ever he was not using it. Indeed he let us have it sometimes when he could have been out on the range. It was a beauty, a great, big buckskin; you could see all over the desert when you were on his back. I also had a ride to the station on the dandiest Indian pony.

Right by the station is a row of hills called Garnet Hills; you can pick up real garnets on them. That is enough to make them interesting but we have something more interesting there now—a man. You agree don’t you? This man has been there since November camping in the hills but no one knew it until just recently. The only time he shows himself is when he goes to the store, and he does that at a time when few are around. The former store keeper was a German of somewhat questionable character; but he sold out the first of the year and the new man tells us this man comes down with plenty of money, usually gold. Don’t know why the other store keeper kept so quiet about the man. The people just supposed he was a prospector until one night they discovered red signal lights on the hill. The next day the station men investigated; they found lanterns on the crosses of the Mexican graves on the hill, but the Mexicans could or would not tell anything. They also hunted up the man’s camp but found nothing suspicious, so they decided the Mexicans had been having some burial rites and gave the thing up. But just the other day the station agent from Indio was up; he said for many nights there has been a white light on the highest hill; at first they tho’t it the reflection from the train headlights on the rocks but when it appeared every night at the same time, and lasted four hours each night, they grew suspicious and are going to have matters investigated. I wonder if it is a spy; they think he may belong to a signal system extending down to Mexico as they light is one that shows for great distances down the valley. If the Germans are down there I hope they stay.14 I am simply crazy to go up and see his camp but Mrs. Mc won’t even let us go hunt garnets now.

Did I tell you about our new married couple and what a time we had at the serenade; how they handed out so much beer and whiskey that the men all got hilarious etc etc. I am sure I did tho’ tell you and Perla, Bee so I will not bore you with the account again. We happened to be over at the station meeting Mrs. Mc that night and got in on it all. We drive to the station in daylight, meet the one-thirty or three A.M. train and sleep in the express room until daylight; I’ll soon be able to sleep anyplace. Since the local trains have been taken off, you can only get into this place in the middle of the night. We are on the main branch of the S.P. and the troops are sent thru; so needing the trains, they took off four passengers and left us to come and go in the dark.

The rains are beginning to freshen things up and the desert is turning green. After the rains the whole place begins to bloom, they say, every bush and plant has a flower and there are hundreds and hundreds that grow up and bloom. I can hardly wait till they get started; we will have some good nature study trips then. Aleita says you cannot walk without stepping on flowers, doesn’t that sound like magic? The lupine like we found in the park grows here. It is a much stalkier plant tho’ and the people do not want it; they call it “loco weed,” for the cattle eat it and go loco or get drunk.

I can’t begin to tell you every thing that happens here. We are busy all the time and yet I don’t know what we do. It isn’t school work that takes our time for I guess you know what it would be like. It is a good thing I have a conscience that troubles me when I don’t do my work right, for my trustees have been in Los Angeles most of the winter, all except for Sang and he never knew whether school existed or not. We visit over week ends and I did intend to tell you of our trip to some of my pupils up in what is called the “Devil’s Garden.” It gets its name from the numerous kinds of cacti growing there and is quite a picturesque place. I must tell you one little part tho’.

There were six children in the family and we ate, dance, slept, and all in one room; they are a fine family and the children as dear as can be. I fell in love with one little black-eyed fellow and he seemed to return the affection, for he would follow me every place, even to the toilet. Once, when in that cozy dwelling, I shut the door too hard and couldn’t get it open. Milton, the cute one, suggested I climb over as the place had no top, but I didn’t feel equal to the occasion. I told him to run in the house and tell Aleita to come; instead he ran over to his father, who was chopping wood in the yard, and called, “Daddy, teacher can’t get out of the toilet, come quick!” I don’t know which laughed the hardest, Daddy or I, but Daddy told Mother, and Mother told Aleita, and Aleita opened the lock and I got out. No use for that word “modesty” out here, you have to use your sense of humor instead.

Well I am beginning to feel those quitting signs which I should have felt much sooner, but my right arm has grown much stronger out here due partly to digging wells. That is my latest occupation. Mr. Riley is putting down a well and as men are scarce and not always available, being busy at their own ranches, Aleita and I go over after school and help him. Sometimes we windlass15 and sometimes go down and dig. The last two days we struck gravel and had to use the pick which was some work, our backs complained bitterly yesterday. It is some hot place down 45 feet underground but it is something new and therefore exciting. When we get 60 feet down we are going to drill for water. We could not work today as it was too windy; you wouldn’t believe it but a little pebble or anything dropped into the well goes down with such force that it stings like a bullet. The man at the bottom is at the mercy of those on the top but Mr. Riley is good-natured and lets us play around his well all we like. We dug four feet below the casing and then helped him cover and drop the casing which wasn’t so bad for amateurs. Was down a ninety foot well the other day and thought I would never reach the bottom, or the top either for that matter. For helping in this digging process we are to be treated to a trip to some mines over near Thousand Palm Canyon.

Well I will return to that stopping place, which doesn’t seem to exist. I could rave over this place forever but why trouble you further? I am putting in a few pictures; have given so many away that I have only a few left. They are not very good ones, don’t know what the developer was trying to do when he printed them; he seems to be strong on the shine. You can at least see the school house and what some of the natives look like.

Do you know what you are going to do this summer? I will probably work in Los Angeles—unholy thoughts. Clara may go East with the understanding, of course, she gets to come back in the fall. She is so anxious to have her mother come out but how I shall miss her.

I am glad Vessie you are better, what kind of an ailment are you going to try next; but then you didn’t frighten us with ptomaine poison, it was Dick.

I don’t know any park news. No, Cody, I do not have Katharine’s address. I have not heard from her for about a year. Even Shorty Green has failed me, I feel quite broken up over the matter. Maybe he has gone to war. Talking of war, I am simply a slacker lately but I don’t know when I could get anything done. You girls make me ashamed when you write of what you do; I realize I have done nothing at all. How I envy you, Cody, going to be a nurse.

Well I am closing, at last, really I am; you can’t say I don’t make up for lost time when I get started. Loving you the same as always; wishing I could see you all; sorry I make you read such a long jumble of nothing and promising never to write such a long letter again, I am,

Your desert sister,

Rae Wylie remained in the same town for a few years as a teacher. She did get to go back to Yellowstone National Park to work in the Geysers camp store during the summer of 1920. There she and Beatrice Boedefeld were reunited when Bee brought her fiance, Fred Andrews, to Yellowstone along with her mother, Laura Boedefeld. Rae went home to Kansas when her stepfather died in 1927, and she took care of her mother thereafter. She taught school the rest of her life. She is buried next to her brother, Waldo, who died at the age of 21 when Rae was just 19.

1. Public transportation of the day. back
2. A tiny settlement, no longer in existence, nine miles roughly northeast of Palm Springs, also called San Gorgonio. back
3. Accepted style at this time was to write out the names of numbers. back
4. The 1910 Census showed John W. Riley was a freelance carpenter, born in California to an English father & American mother. In 1920 he was a farmer with his own homestead. The 1930 Census showed he had married in 1920, and that he was a military veteran of the Spanish-American War of 1898 and of the First World War.
The McCarger family consisted of Mrs. Neila McCarger (age 50), a widow born in New York; two older married sons; Aleita, age 18; and Mercy, age 14. (Mercy was married in November 1917 and her first son was born eleven months later. Aleita married soon after 1920; she and her mother both died in 1925. Mercy lived to an old age.) I haven’t found their cousin Wesley.
The Sweetinghams were Mrs. Martha Dippel Sweetingham, age 35 (her husband was an oil engineer), and Regina E., age 13. There were also two younger children who did not go on this camping trip. Martha’s brother, Albert Dippel, was a year older than she, and married with children. He was an automobile factory inspector back in Detroit, so his visit must have been short. back
5. LOL (they sat awhile). back
6. Rae and Albert are from the U.S. Midwest states, but anything east of California is East. back
7. Likely it was a heavy cabinet-mounted Singer sewing machine, the kind with creaky little wheels on the cabinet. back
8. Hardly anybody had indoor plumbing in that area at that time period. back
9. Orr Sang, age 52, was a farmer. He had been married in Ohio in 1892. He died in 1945. back
10. One of their favorite authors, Harold Bell Wright was born in New York, educated in Ohio, became a pastor in Missouri and then Redlands, California, and gave up the ministry to live in El Centro, California and devote his life to writing novels. One of his most famous, The Winning of Barbara Worth, is set in the Imperial Valley just south of where Rae lived. back
11. See a description of this book at
12. You can download a pdf or other version of this book here:
13. The verb “to hoover” was used at this time to mean “to clean” especially by using the Hoover vacuum cleaner, invented ten years before. Twelve years after this time it could mean “economizing” in reference to the Great Depression that was popularly associated with the failed economic policies of U.S. President Herbert Hoover, but it is hardly likely that Rae is using this term in that sense, even if it works for the context. back
14. After the exposure of the Zimmerman Telegram the year before, in which it was revealed that Germany was urging the Mexican Government to attack the United States, the idea of spy activity at this time and in this place was not far-fetched at all. back
15. A windlass is a type of winch used to haul heavy buckets of dirt up the well when digging it. back
Sandstorm Picture Credit: by Ivon, aka “Psycho som”.

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