Monday, October 8, 2012

The Rat Hesitated

   Paul B Hendrickson was born this date, 8 October 1896, in Crawford County, Illinois. He enlisted 12 April 1917 in the 5th Infantry, Illinois National Guard, which later became part of the 33rd Division. His service was divided between being a bugler, trumpeter in military bands and in signal work.

   This is a paragraph from a letter Paul wrote to his mother dated 10 September 1918.

   "Well mom - I had a rather novel little experience last nite. While writing last evening I stated that the bread was hung where a rat or mouse could not climb to it. Well that is so - But - here is how it happened. Mr. rat comes bounding down stairs - and of course by experience knew the bread was where he could not climb and get it, so pounced on to my body, shoves in his toe nails and in one streneous leap reaches his goal - the loaf of bread. Of course when I felt him push I knew what was taking place. Well you may lay it on to me, but beware trying to rub it in like that. I was peeved at the nerve of the big brute - I sliped my hand over to the Colt .45 cal, cocked it, and with my other hand used the flash light. Well the bright light made him hesitate a second (they get so careless too, they take their time at whatever they do) and that was a bit too long for him, for I let him have one lead pill. was comical how it knocked him sprawling onto the floor. it went thru his back. He scrambled on the floor a bit so I pinned him down with my bayonet and went to sleep. So did he. This noon when I woke up he was cold. I tossed him outside. Strong [perhaps Pvt. Edwin J. Strong] asked me this morning what was going on last nite. I showed him the rat with the big hole in his back and he understood quite well what made the noise."

   When Paul passed away on 4 September 1990 in Danville, Illinois, we found neatly packed away in the family home 125 letters he wrote home to his mother and to the neighbor girl who after the war became his wife. We also found a diary kept during the year he was in France and almost 300 postcards which were sent home either individually or in envelopes. In addition, we have letters sent to him, negatives and prints taken at Camp Parker in Quincy, Illinois, and at Camp Logan in Houston, Texas, and maps he drew of both camps.

   You can read the letters and look at the pictures at Paul's website --