July 8, 1941
I can't see any reason why I should write more than one letter to say the same thing, and since I haven't any carbon paper, this is what you are to do. When you get through reading this stick it in another envelope and address it to "Gleason, Terminal, Springfield, Mass." If you want it back have him remail it.
When I get back I am going on a lecture tour. The subject will be "Debunking American Vacation Spots." Today we went down Bright Angel. What the hell is so scary about that is beyond me. Dottie and I made the trip. Not that it wasn't worth it, but as far as being high adventure--blah. It is nothing but dirt, bumps, heat etc., but, ye gods, what laughs. Our party was made up of a cowboy, two 18 year old boys from Phil. Pa., a simpering little dame with a toothy smile, Dottie, myself and six of the goddamdest mules in creation. The trip runs from the south rim of the canyon to the Colorado River on the floor of the canyon--a distance of eight miles, and return. We left about 9 A.M. Mules have a peculiar gait, particularly when they trot. They haven't much of a back as far as length goes and every step they take you feel their rear hip bones moving. The trail is very easy. It is about 6' wide all the way with a rim of stones on the canyon side. About half way down on a little plateau is a clump of trees and a spring. They call the dump Indian Garden. Probably, from what I have seen of Indians it is appropriately named. There was a half tame full grown deer wandering around and as everyone fell off their plug the deer would trot up and lick the persons forearms, particularly the crease on the inside of the elbow. It finally dawned on us that the deer was after the salty taste of sweat, and as everyone rides with their elbows bent, he got some pretty good licking in the creases. We stopped here for a few minutes, had a drink and continued. Murphy, the cowboy, was leading little toothy puss's mule by a rope because the poor thing was scared. (Not the mule--they don't scare.) The trail winds back and forth, around boulders, in and out, but always down. About 3/4ths of the way down, we had to halt because the party ahead was stopped on the trail. This party was made up of about 12 people, 5 of whom were undoubtedly of the race of schoolmarms, of the worst kind. They looked to be about 45 to 50 years old, fat, flabby, and thick. One of them was throwing her breakfast into the mule's ears,--groaning and complaining. The mule just stood there. Murphy went ahead and helped their cowboy bring her around. They emptied a canteen of water on her head and down her neck. We plodded along thus, the other quarter of a mile to the river. Here they provided a picnic lunch which they had toted down behind my saddle. The lumpy bones on the inside of my knees were getting sore from rubbing up and down on old floppy ears bony ribs. The schoolmarms were all thrown around on benches and on the floor; looking by now from 55 to 60. The one who had discarded her breakfast was now eating her lunch with gusto, the mule watching her wondering how long it would be before she dished it up to him. The Canyon as you know is made up of a series of canyons one inside the other running every old direction, each smaller than the other. We were now on the bottom of the lowest. So was all the heat in Arizona -- 110 degrees F. The dirty old Colorado river was rushing by, 3/4 mud and 1/4 water. The drinking water came out of a pipe, not quite as bad as what Gunga Din used to serve, but luke warm, or rather hot. Finally the groups started to go back up. Dust, dust, dust. You could scrape it off your hide with your fingernails. (For Gleason: Tell Bill Clegg those blue panties of mine he has always envied are now khaki colored with Arizona dust.) We were the last to start back. My donkey was awful sore (look up synonyms for donkey in a dictionary.) After about 1/4 of a mile we caught up to the schoolmarms. Several of them were coughing up their box lunch to the mules. Mules take on a weird appearance with half-digested oranges on their mane and peanut butter and cheese running down their forelegs. One tough old dame would spit out a hard boiled egg, whoop up a pickle or two, and then pull out a movie camera and start taking pictures of a cliff. All the schoolmarms were by this time pretty well soaked with water, and one of them had gotten to the point where just as she was going to faint from heat and jolting she would grab her canteen and pour it on top of her head. They looked about 65. Then they ran out of water. After about 3 days, or maybe only 1/2 hour, we got back to Indian garden. The old girls were there ahead of us. One of them had on a two piece slack suit, the waist buttoned down the front. She would pull open the space between two buttons and an obliging cowboy would pour a jug of water in on her belly. She had her slacks rolled up to her knees and laying on her back with her legs drawn up another cowboy would pour a pail of water up her pants leg. She would grunt with contentment, and beg him to get one more pail. I didn't have the heart to take any pictures. Every so often she would roll over on her side and hawk up an apple or a crust of bread. Our group was standing up in fine shape. Except for dust and thirst and a lumpy lurching mule we were all right. We eventually got to the top, my knees and the base of my spine, just the base no farther down, quite sore. Helen was waiting with the car. I felt fine, and altho I knew I had been on a mule I could walk without any discomfort. It wasn't until I got under a hot shower that I felt something sting me and craning my neck as far as I could I could see two red spots the size of quarters each about 2 inches east and west of the base of my spine. They look like blisters. I had a bottle of ice cold beer--oh what a fool, what an idiot! I shaved and we three went into the cafeteria for supper. While standing in line, Dottie suddenly said "Just get me a cup of hot tea, I think I'll sit down." I looked at her, and my god was she pale. Then I noticed I didn't feel so hot myself. I said "Don't get me anything" and walked out the door. Our cottage was about 200 yds away, and all of a sudden a cyclone hit grand canyon. Buicks were playing leap frog with Fords, cabins were running around in circles and pine trees were dancing a polka. I decided I had better sit down and see if I could figure out this phenomena. It seemed to have suddenly grown cold, alto I could see big drops of sweat on my arms and feel it running down my face. Gradually things resumed their natural position and I started to walk slowly to camp. All I was afraid of was that I would faint. After about 50 yds the camps and automobiles started flying around again. The girls were in the cafeteria and didn't witness the wonderful sights I was seeing. Eventually I made the men's room. I looked into a mirror and oh my god--I saw a big long drawn face, two sunken eyes with death staring out of them, and it was me. It was the nearest I ever came to keeling over. Dottie only felt half as bad as I, but then she only drank half as much beer. It was undoubtedly the cold beer on my overheated system. In about 15 minutes I was all right again--Dottie likewise. At present O.K.
God only knows how my old bones will feel tomorrow. Will leave the rest of this page till morning.
I feel swell. After I finished writing last night I got so hungry I had a pain. I started walking around looking all over the village for food, but everyplace was closed. I had to come back hungry, but Helen had left a sleeping pill in my cabin in case I couldn't get to sleep with all my aches and pains. My only ache was hunger, but the pill put me to sleep. This morning I ate two of the standard breakfasts that the cafeteria puts out. Ham'n eggs, cereal, toast + coffee.--two orders. Of course I had nothing to eat since the box lunch yesterday. Today--on to Boulder City and we hope Ellsworth.