Early Letter from Willa "William" Cather to Family Friend Helen Stowell
This letter in the National Willa Cather Center's WCPM Collection was written at the start of Cather's junior year of high school to family friend Helen Stowell, who had moved with her husband and daughter Alice from their Webster County sheep farm to California in 1887, the year prior. Newsy, with a wry bit of gossip, it detailed a dramatic family event and was written during the time that Willa called herself "William" while considering and dabbling in the profession of surgeon. [NOTE: Letter transcribed complete with Willa Cather's spelling errors.]
Red Cloud Aug 31 —88
Dear Mrs. Stowell
When I recieved I your letter I was much pleased for I had begun to doubt your intention to write.
Grandma is much better now though we do not think she will ever walk again. Her son from Va. spent six weeks with us. He, papa & Mama went to Denver Col. and had a very pleasant time. We do so hope that you and Alice will come with Mr. Stowell, do come. You may not have the chance again, the Whites have moved here now & Mrs Sill is here and I know you would have a pleasant time.
School begins Monday & I suppose I shall go though I dont feel boyant over the prospect, I have grown so attached to my work & place in the office & to my little labratory & dissecting outfit & my stuffed animals it is hard for me to leave them. Then here I am "Miss Cather" & govern, there I am a child & am governed. That makes a great difference with frail humanity.
I had quite an adventure yesterday. A man came in & tried to sell papa a bogus paper on some poor farmer. Papa could have made $50 on it but he thought perhaps the man was a snide & did not like to in any way help defraud an honest man so he told him to return in an hour. Then when we were alone told me he was going to hitch up the buggy & go see the farmer & when the agent returned to hold him at all costs.
In an hour the man returned & I never had such a time. Of course I had to talk the fellow to death to keep him. His buggy wastn ready & if he got away goodbye. Papa & the farmer returned & tackled him, the he made for his buggy & escaped. the sherif caught him at Amboy.
Carry Miner has gone to college. The Metzcars from Beatrice are visiting Anson, the will live here & run the new paper. Anson & his wife live where Mrs Roe used to live so you see we are near neighbors. I do not think they are very happy togather (but happy is a word few of us realize or are) nothing he can do seems to pleas her & she is cross as two sticks.
Fred & Suard are still happy in the blissful illusion that they love each other as no one but "Ouida's" heros ever thought of. They still amuse the town by their pranks, such as gong swimming togather takeing endless rides at night in closed hacks, acting "Princess Napraxine" on the medow by Garbers & spending Sunday in the woods with claret & "Ouida"
I should think there would be a good eal of ennui in such romance--especelaly on $1200 per year.
Molliee, Bess, Lillie Leetsery & Nellie Atdelshime had a picnic the other day.
I have been stuffing some birds lately. Tell Alice that Jess often speaks of her & would love to see her again. We children have a great many picnics, parties & circus' this summer & would love to have she & Jessie Moor to help us enjoy them.
Hoping to see you all with us 'ere another Xmas, I remain
Your affectionate friend