Bryan G. Sherman Memoir–Part 4: Coming Home from the War and Butchering Hogs

Installments 1-3 can be found down page on the Home page and in the March archive. In Part III, the armistice for “The War to End All Wars” had taken effect on 11-11-1918, and Bryan Sherman’s outfit was engaged in post-war activities stationed at Goudrecourt, France, arriving there January 5, 1919.

The 88th Division Headquarters were located in this place, and the supply train was just outside of the city. There was a large YMCA on the hill above the city and a recreation center also. At the Y is where I used to write most of my letters. Before coming to Goudrecourt, I had been on duty along with another private and a Sergeant doing traffic duty. While there I got the flu and had to go back to the main outfit and see the doctor. Because of this I didn’t get to go up into Germany with the Army of occupation. I guess it was just as well (although I would have liked to see Germany) as I got to come home earlier than if I had gone. I didn’t have to go to the hospital.

One makes many friends when in service (some good and some not so good) and when not on duty I used to go for long walks with one of the others, out over the countryside. One day we came upon a football game being played between two outfits. On seeing that we were M.P.’s they asked us to carry the markers. Another time (with permission from the top Sergeant) we went to Domremy to visit the town where Joan of Arc was born and lived. We got a ride by truck both ways so we didn’t have to walk. While at Domremy we visited Joan’s home and the old church where she went to Mass. Then we visited the big new church on a hill above the town. We wanted to go to the top of the tower (inside of course) but for some reason the priest in charge wouldn’t allow it.

Joan of Arc souvenir pin brought home by BGS from a visit to her town.

At another time our whole outfit went by train to a large place called New Chateau I think (am not sure as I kept no record of it). There was a big football game being played there and we MPs had to do police duty for the game. The honored guests at this game were the King and Queen of Belgium. So I got to see royalty that day and I couldn’t see (only by the clothes they wore) as they were so much different from the others. Again on this trip and others which we took later, we rode in U.S. box cars and some of these had a toilet in one end of the car which was lots better than waiting to get off the train when it was stopped.

While in Goudrecourt I got to see and attend the 88th Division horse show which was held in a field just outside of town. About noon that day, I was on duty directing traffic at a corner when General Pershing’s car came in to town for dinner. Later in the day I took a picture of the car showing the 4 stars.

I can’t begin to tell all that happened so will say that our work was just routine from then on. We were taken on hikes just to keep us in condition, sometimes with full pack (which was very heavy) and other times only with light packs.

Before the armistice was signed our truck and car drivers had to drive without lights and it always got me when I saw a French car approaching with its lights on and could do nothing about it. In the city of Goudrecourt, we had three traffic posts, two of which were at times rather busy. We generally had two men on duty until around midnight when two more took over. These had to walk the streets all night. The ones on duty in early evening would at 8 o’clock have to see that all service men were out of the taverns. The officers had a room upstairs and we had to go up to tell them it was 8 o’clock.

Whenever I happened to be on duty at night, I used to stop in at the post office and one of my buddies who worked there would look the mail over, and if there was a letter for me would let me have it. A good many times I got a letter in the middle of the night. On a corner not far from Division Headquarters was a little store that was run by a very nice family. One of my buddies had a girl friend in that family and one evening while he was inside, I was setting on the step outside, and the girl’s little sister (about 7 or 8 years old) came out behind me and dumped a small bottle of French perfume down my neck. Did I smell,and for several days after!

After spending about 3 months in Goudrecourt, we left on May 9, 1919, and now we were really on our way home. This was a beautiful trip, as we traveled through a part of France nwe had never seen before. I remember seeing rock formations where cliff dwellers had lived years before. Also the trees were so pretty at this time of year.  On May 11, 1919, we arrived at the town of LaSuze where we joined a contingent for homecoming. While in LaSuze, we used to play volleyball for exercise and keep us busy until the day arrived for us to move out.

We left LaSuze on May 17,1919, and we arrived in St. Nazaiche May 18 where we were to leave for home. We were taken aboard the ship Kouagegen der Nederlanden which means Queen of the Netherlands. It was an old Dutch ship and the accommodations were much better than on the one we came over on. On this ship we had bunks and I remember I was assigned to a lower bunk and I think they were 4 high. I was glad I was on the bottom. We embarked for home May 22 at 9 p.m. with 3345 miles to go. Everyday at noon after that on the bulletin board was the number of miles we had made the day before. It took 13 days, and we usually made about 300 miles each day.

We arrived at Newport News, Virginia, and that morning, June 4, 1919, we were taken out to Carey Hill. We were glad to get rid of our sea legsand get the old land legsback under us again. We were there a day or so and on June 11, we got on the train for Camp Dodge, Iowa, and home. I remember I was on detail the 1st day out of Carey Hill helping to serve the mess to the officers on the train and that was one of the last duties I had in the Army. We arrived back in Camp Dodge in a day or so and on June 15, I was given my discharge from Army service.

We were each given going-home pay and a ticket back to our point of enlistment. My ticket would only let me travel to Elkader so when I got to Waterloo, I bought a ticket and changed trains and came to Manchester. Here I called home in the middle of the night and my brother came after me. Fern Sharp, who had been discharged the same day, was on the same train so he came on to Edgewood with me. Needless to say after just about a year away from home, I was glad to get home and I guess everyone was glad to see me. Was I glad to get into my bed that night considering what I had slept on for the past year!

After Returning From Service:

I returned to the U.S. in June 1919 and after my discharge, returned to my home near Edgewood where I began life anew on the farm. It was right after corn planting time and there was plenty to do as it was rather bad weather. There had been lots of rain and the ground was very hard, so there was plenty of missed hills to be planted in. This we generally did with what was called junket corn (very early) and pumpkin seeds. We always raised lots of pumpkins those days. I had to pick up where I had left off before going to service. The field work was all done those days by horses, and that made plenty of chores to be done. It didn’t take me long to get used to the work, and Dad had kept my share of the stock, so I started right in with a small income.

Before my service time, in 1916 we had the first death in our immediate family when my sister Verna passed away. She had married and had one child, George. She married Martin Hagensick on 6-17-14 and she died of cancer in the fall on 12-6-16. I remember what a bad time we had coming across from Elkader on the day of the funeral. There were no paved roads–only dirt roads–and in places the ruts were deep. We had another death at home before that when my grandmother Lorena (Larrabee) Sherman, who was living at our house at the time, passed away in 1898. I can still remember her with her can of sassafras bark that she used to hand out to us kids. It was supposed to be good for us.

When we used to butcher, we generally did more than one hog at a time and after the hog was dressed, if there happened to be snow we would always set the head in a snow bank to draw out the extra blood. In those days the hogs were all scalded in hot water put in a barrel. We would generally put a shovel of wood ashes in the water to make the skin nice and white when the hair was taken off. Now-a-days the skin is generally taken off the hog same as other animals. In warm weather when butchering a hog, it was generally done late in the p.m. and hung by quarters in the windmill frames and after cooling all night was then taken inside in the morning to be taken care of. We generally butchered a beef every winter. This was done in the corncrib driveway where it could hang for several days to cool out. Some times it was quite a job to keep it from spoiling. In the wintertime we always tried to keep it froze up. Sometimes that was almost impossible. Later on we learned to can and process the meat, so then we had no more trouble with spoiling.

In early days before freezers and before we went to canning, the hog after cooling was cut up and packed in a 10-gallon earthen crock with a strong salt brine. Later some was taken out and put in a smoke house where we used to cure out hams and bacon. Mother used to fry pork steak, pack it in stone jars in lard and then cover with a cloth with salt on top. When wanting meat for a meal, some was taken out and heated in a skillet but they always kept what was left in the jar well covered with lard. Packed this way it would keep quite awhile. Then we came to the period of canning which was a lot of work at that period of time but saved a lot of work later on when one needed meat for a quick meal. We did canning with both beef and pork, and also chickens.

Later on, the locker plant in town came into being and they would send a truck out and pick up the animal, butcher it, and after cooling, cut it up, wrap it in freezer paper and freeze it, and if you wanted, they would pack it in a locker box and keep it frozen for you. This is all done for a nominal fee, and saves all the mess and fuss at home, which gives the farmer and also the housewife more time for other things. These locker boxes are also used for freezing and keeping fruits and vegetables so that canning nowadays is almost a thing of the past for some people.

One thing we used to do at butchering time was to take a piece of meat to some of the close neighbors and then when they butchered we would get one back. We generally, on butchering day, had fresh liver for supper. One little incident I must mention here was the use of the pig tail. We younger lads were allowed to take the pig tail after they had been well cleaned. We would sprinkle a little salt on them, then wrap in brown paper and put it in the ash pit of the old wood range. This ash pit was under a hearth in the end of the stove. Now don’t laugh at this but those pig tails always tasted very good to us youngsters. Now-a-days one never sees the pig tail after it leaves the farm.