Box 01: Folder 06

Letter from Caroline Henderson to Rose Alden

Letter from Caroline Henderson to Rose Alden
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Eva, Okla, Dec. 12, 1932.

Dear Rose:

I have just been re-reading your letter and enjoying again the glimpses of your home, of old friends, and of what must have been a delightful fortnight last summer in Vermont. Congratulations to you for being able to qualify as a member of such a group. I am sure a number of them must have appreciated the opportunity of getting acquainted with Rose Alden -- Mount Holyoke, 1901.

A few days after your letter came The Good Earth. Will got started on it first and became so absorbed in it that I could hardly get him away from it at all until he was through. And when I began it myself, I could understand his feeling. It is rarely that one finds a person able to understand and sympathize with the primitive feeling of kinship with the earth -- our common mother. Still more rarely can such a person express that feeling so that other people may realize and possibly share it. We are both near enough to pagans to have a good deal of that instinctive love for the earth. I think that has had much to do with our continuing the long struggle here. So the book had for both of us a strong appeal and we appreciate deeply the generous gift. Indeed, it seems almost too generous for these difficult days. I don't want you, by any means to misunderstand. But I thought of this. Eleanor will be home, we expect, the seventeenth. She would read it in a day or two at most. And then if you think of some of your friends who would like to have the book but to whom you would not feel as if you could send it, because of already having sent it here, if you will let us know the name and

address, I am pretty sure we could still send it in time for Christmas and should be glad to pass on a source of so much interest. Surely we should never forget Olan and her pearls, or the aged Wang Lung, sifting through his feeble hands the soil of his beloved fields. Just use your own judgment and feeling about it. We seem to have less than ever to share of our own and hate to be selfish.

I had to laugh when I came to your question about the candidates for President. I told Will then what I hadn't admitted before -- that I had been sure my sin would find me out. In other words, I didn't vote for either Hoover or Roosevelt. Of what seemed to me two evils, I chose neither. I have never questioned Hoover's personal integrity or idealism, but I felt as I imagine you did that he was tied in with a bad bunch, and practically committed to policies which in my judgment are largely responsible for the status quo, which as the darky preacher interpreted it is "Latin for de mess we's in." For me to have voted for him would have been to approve the gang and their methods. So when the Democrats nominated Roosevelt who seems to me quite inadequate for the position, I decided to vote for Norman Thomas, who seemed to me more free than either of the others to work for "a new deal" all around. We have been through too much to be alarmed by or charmed by mere words. I am not crazy about normalcy which we are beginning to understand now has always meant misery for millions. Nor am I afraid of the name socialism. Most of the more progressive legislation of recent years, looking forward toward fairer conditions for all, has at some time been called socialistic. I was so

certain that I should vote in protest against both the old parties when we reached the polling place and learned definitively that what The Nation calls "an outrageous decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court" would make it impossible to vote for Thomas, I decided to let the people who thought they knew what was best decide the election. Evidently there were a lot of them, and I can only hope Roosevelt may do much better than I believe he is capable of doing.

It has been a tough year for us with cut worms, hail, drought and short crops, losses of small savings and investments and always the problem of trying to adjust expenses to the incredibly low prices that have prevailed through the entire year. Yet as we compare even our modest and often very pinching comfort with the boys -- and girls too -- roaming over the country in freight cars, with the man and woman Eleanor saw on Thanksgiving Day footing it along the highway, dragging a little wagon and two small children, or with people here in our own community destitute of the simplest things such as sheets, night-clothing, clothes pins -- or even a can-opener! -- we think we ought not to complain. We are trying to put our socialism into practice by helping where we can, and there is, of course, no end to the bitter need.

A peculiarly distressing case recently has taken time and effort and much thought. We spent Thanksgiving Day trying to help in a sorely afflicted family. Five of the children were down at once

^{Dec.12, 1932} with typhoid fever in a family who had already lost their stock, truck, car, tractor, and some say their farm. One boy had already died and two girls since, with two young men still very low. We haven't heard from them for a day or two now. And such utter lack of everything to make life decent or endurable, I hope you have never seen. One feels quite helpless in the face of such misery. The neighborhood and county are having to bear the entire expense for they haven't a thing left from comparative prosperity. Just an instance of the sort of thing that has been happening all over, I suppose. It wouldn't be fair to blame the Lord or the government for all of it because anyone could see that there had been poor management. But the question now is, what is going to become of such people. Personally I can't see any way out for them. ^{The new comforter I am making them for Christmas is but a feeble gesture.}

We are most thankful that Eleanor had her degree before the conditions became so serious. She is working now on her requirements for a Masters degree. We all gained quite a bit of interest through the summer from her preparatory work for her thesis on the birds and mammals of this county. We think she was fortunate to be offered a position for half-time work in the Anatomy Department of the medical school. She seems to feel that the work as an assistant in the laboratory has been an excellent thing for her and that she has learned a great deal from it.

I am so glad to know that your mother's

^{Dec. 12, 1932} health has improved and that she is able to keep busy and to feel useful. She shall try to send her at least a Christmas message and perhaps some trifling remembrance. I am not sure till Eleanor comes what we can get done. I depend on her more and more to help put over the little extras that I don't seem capable of doing.

If you see the Atlantic you may after a time hear a little more of our year's endeavors. I am not at all satisfied with the project -- which was not of my own seeking. I feel rather apologetic about it. A lady in Maryland, who has had a much wider experience than I both in living and farming, was interested in our little harvest story last year, + wrote a friendly letter. This spring, being in pretty desperate shape financially, she proposed a joint effort -- a series of letters telling the "low down" of present farming conditions, which the editor of the Country Gentleman had promised to consider. I wasn't very strong for it and felt that it would not be accepted; but hated to refuse to make the attempt. The Country Gentlemanpolitely returned the stuff. I think a mild expression of my own of interest in the outcome of the Russian experiment helped to settle our hash. Without even consulting me Mrs. Harris submitted the same material to The Atlantic; who professed interest in the scheme. They wished us to write a mass of material from which they might make selections, editing in continuous form, though keeping the letter frame work.

I hadn't a bit of hope of the whole idea, especially of my own humdrum part of it.

But to my intense surprise, they have decided to make two articles out of the summer's correspondence, which I hope may not fall utterly flat, though I don't feel very sure about it. Please don't mention this. I haven't told anyone else, but felt that some explanation was due to a member of a "writers' conference."

Perhaps I'll be able to tell your mother just a little about our few precious days of vacation out among the mountains and valleys of the Sangre de Christo range in New Mexico.

I was glad to hear about all the family and hope the farm folks in Iowa are still finding ways to hang on. The tenants on Mother's property there have just recently settled up their 1930 rent, can never hope to pay the contract price for 1931 and 1932, though taxes and other expenses go on nearly as before.

I have written wearisomely I fear, waiting for Will to return from a belated trip to the south farm to shut off the wind mill there, for fear of damage from threatened storm. We have had unusually severe weather lately. Yesterday after I had had the fire burning for some time in the kitchen the thermometer stood at only 10° above zero! Our thanks, and best wishes for a restful vacation and a good Christmas. Caroline A. Henderson

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