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#1704: Willa Cather to Carrie Miner Sherwood, April 29 [1945]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My Dear Carrie1;

The Easter storm3 that was a break for you was a break for me also. I haven’t had such a letter from you for years—a letter which sounded as if you were talking to me and sitting close beside me. So I want to begin this letter in my own hand, though I can’t carry on very far. The tendon in my right thumb has never properly healed4; bad weather, too much exercise - - - and it has to go back in its metal brace5 again. Last fall, when we6 first got home7 from Maine8 (where I had been writing steadily and very happily with no bad results) I started in with enthusiasm with to help with the house-cleaning. No bad results at first - - - then, smash! I had to put on the brace again and wear it for four months straight. Only took it off to write a few Christmas cards and the Christmas checks I always send. You, too, seem to have a hand which gets sick. Don’t drive it! Be careful. Dictate, you would soon get used to giving dictation. Of course I can’t dictate in my own work—I have to see the picture shape itself on the page before me - - the sound of my own voice would make me self-conscious. But I dictate all my letters, even those to old and dear friends.

-2- 1st[?] Golden Wedding

Everything you tell me about your grandchildren9 interests me very much. I have often wondered where they all were, and what they were doing. Of course, the younger ones I do not remember very much, but I remember John Sherwood and Betty very well, indeed. Malvina Hoffman10 is generally said to be more interesting as an ethnologist than as an artist, but I have not seen any of her work and cannot have an opinion. Mabel Dodge’s11 Indian husband12 simply took the name of Luhan because his Indian name would not be understandable among white people. A good many of the more sophisticated Indians do that. The name used for the owner of the white mules is Lujon13. I varied the spelling purposely, so that it would not look like Tony’s name. Both, the name Lujon and Luhan, are very common Mexicans names - about as common as Smith is in this country14. The white mules were named Contento and Angelica. Mabel Dodge’s husband, of course, had no such mules. The ones I know were owned by Mexicans.

And am I to believe, my dear Carrie, that you are actually directing the management of all five farms! And this with all your Red Cross work! Yes, I wish Walter15 could have known how his judgment would be justified by future events. One of the best things that President Roosevelt16 ever did was to establish that bank moratorium17 - which certainly weeded the sheep from the goats, and threw a spotlight on the men who were crooked and the men who were straight.

I am not exaggerating, Carrie, when I confide to you that I would rather go home to Red Cloud18 than to any of the beautiful cities abroadin Europe where I used to love to go. But so many sad things have happened - and so many painful things. I am sure you will remember the pleasant morning when I said good-by to you, both of us sitting in the back parlor of my father’s19 house20, where everything was still the same Ever since my gall bladder operation21 I have been pretty weak on the emotional side. I am sure you realize, as my brother Roscoe22 always did, that things have always hit me very hard. I suppose that is why I never run out of material to write about. The inside of me is so full of dents and scars, where pleasant and unpleasant things have hit me in the past. I do not so much invent as I remember and re-arrange. My working facultyAnd I remember unconsciously. Faces, situations, things people said long ago simply come up from my mind as if they were written down there. They would not be there if they hadn’t hit me hard. -3- My working faculty does not seem to be knocked out, because last summer, up in Maine, when I could first use my right hand again, I worked very happily, and enjoyed it so much.! But I still have to lead a very quiet life and avoid getting too much excited. If I get stirred up, the reaction is very bad physically. It isn’t my blood pressure - blood pressure perfectly normal - but I don’t sleep, get awfully weak, and begin to weep, just like poor Mollie23 used to do.!! If I laugh at myself, butI just weep on.! If Dr. Creighton24 were there, he would tell you it is nervous exhaustion, and that’s what my doctors say.

I am writing dear Mariel Gere25 that I couldcan not come to her for the fiftieth anniversary26 of our class graduation. She has written me such a lovely letter asking me to come and stay with her, in their dear old house27 that was a second home to me all through the days when I went to the university. I shall have to answer her affectionate letter in the negative - just because the excitement and emotional stir-up of such a reunion would take the strength out of me from head to foot. It doesn’t at all grieve me to be unable to attend this reunion (though I would love to be with Mariel Gere in her house again), but it does grieve me very deeply to feel that I would really not be well enough to go down to Red Cloud.

I have had a very quiet but very happy winter, in spite of the shortage of help. We have an excellent woman28 who can give us only four hours a day, but she is a fine person and does a wonderful lot of work in four hours. All my friends have been kind and considerate - I see “as much company as I can enjoy”, and no more. Yehudi29 and his wife30 have been so kind and thoughtful, and come to sit by the fire and have a cup of tea with me, though I cannot now have jolly little dinners for then, as I used to, simply because we have no cook. Our maid comes at ten, gets us an excellent lunch, and leaves at two. Sometimes I have Helen Louise31 for lunch. I think Mary32 wrote me that you all liked her. I think her a very sweet girl, and I like her husband33.

This is only the beginning of a letter, you will get Volume II one of these days.

Very lovingly, and with happy memories, Willie