Letter to parents: Chetek — August 1973

After my grandfather died in July of 1973 my parents thought I should stay with my grandmother for a few weeks — to keep her company and help her out. Here’s a letter I wrote home on August 15, 1973.

I was almost 16 and entering my junior year of high school that fall.

Interesting thoughts on Five Smooth Stones, both here and in my journal. Not that I wrote a lot about it, but what I wrote was what I felt. It remains one of the few books that changed the way I looked at the world.

$70 a month from Social Security doesn’t seem like much — but maybe it was in 1973. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator $70 in 1973 has the same buying power as $368.09 today.

I write a lot about being depressed. I don’t think I was actually depressed — certainly hormonal — but I wonder if I were almost 16 now and wrote that to modern parents if they would send me to a therapist.

August 15, 1973

Dear Mom, Dad, and Kevin,

I’m eating lunch right now. I just took a walk to the Baptist Resort and on the way back I stopped and talked to the horses. There is a pure white medium size horse. I think it is a male. It is nice outside — the wind is chilly though.

Lori sent me a letter. I received it today. I wrote to her on Sunday — two pages. Then on Monday I tried to write to Cindy but couldn’t think of anything to say. I finally finished it last night — a brief one-page note. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t seem to tell her the same thinks I told Lori. Then I wrote a page to Carol in ten minutes. Oh well.

I wrote a few pages in my journal this morning. I was feeling depressed. I have bee quite depressed since I finished Five Smooth Stones, I have decided that the white race has little to be proud of. When that madman shot David I felt as if I were losing a loved one. I guess Daddy and Kevin don’t understand this too much.

Grandma is pickling some fish today. She put tons of fish from the freezer into the sink last night and has been cutting them up all morning. she also made some doughnuts yesterday and fried them today.

Mr. Carpenter called yesterday and invited Grandma out do dinner. She told him that we were about to eat. When she hung up she told me that he was “looped”.

Well, how’s Cinder and Franz? Did Ginny like the cat? Does Cinder-binder act like she misses me? (you can lie if you want).

Grandma and I went to town yesterday with Mrs. Lorenz. We have to go to Rice Lake tomorrow for something.

Yesterday we went to the co-op. When Grandma and I went through the check out there was a box and a bag. I helped the boy carry the packages out to the car. Wow!

It is supposed to rain tomorrow. There were a few clouds today.

Mom — did you remember to unplug my nightlight? Maybe my radio should be unplugged too because the light could wear out. Oh well, you don’t have to.

This morning while I was sitting on the dock I heard some noise over by the long water grass. I looked and saw some ducks. Later when I looked again all I saw were some tails sticking out of the water. It reminded me of a poem from Wind in the Willows. I’m feeling depressed again so I think I’ll go and run or something.

August 16, 1973

Hi again,

One more week to be sixteen (sweet?). I don’t have much to write about. We went to Rice Lake today with Mrs. Lorenz. Grandma had to go to the Social Security Office. It seems that she will get money from them — some seventy-odd dollars a month and two hundred something for funeral expenses which she can spend any way.

Mrs. Lorenz and I had a good talk while Grandma was in the S.S. office. Mrs. Lorenz has three kids who had contacts and she is “gung-ho” for contacts. She said that her daughter hasn’t had to have her lenses changed for 10 years. The other one had them changed once for only five dollars a lens. On that word — I’ll say goodbye.

Love ya all,

P.S. I think I may need more money. I have to buy school supplies and shoes and socks and maybe more. Thank you, Love Dona

Two other interesting things about this letter — I spelled my middle name “Leigh” instead of “Lee” on the return address and partway through the letter I started writing oddly, printing backhand with slanted crosses on my “t”s and slanted lines on my “e”s.

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