Marine’s Letter Home

A farm kid's humorous letter home describes life as a Marine.

  • Published 25 March 2006


A farm kid's humorous letter home describes life as a Marine.

Dear Ma and Pa: I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, and stuff, but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route" marches, which the Platoon Sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat. The Sergeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags some. The Capt. is like the school board. Majors and Colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none. This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in little metal boxes. Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. He joined up the same time as me. But I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and weighs near 300 pounds dry. Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in. Your loving daughter, Gail P.S. Speaking of shooting, enclosed is $200 towards a new barn roof and ma's teeth. The city boys shoot craps, but not very good.

Collected via e-mail, 2006



While the urban legend genre features a better-known “daughter’s letter home” from a young lady informing her parents of certain difficulties experienced at college, this less-traveled item has its own special charms. In particular, it positions its female correspondent as a wholly empowered individual, something highly unusual in the realm of contemporary lore, where women are usually either victims or sexual prizes. Backwoods though she may be, the farm girl who became a Marine is frighteningly competent in her new career, her farm-acquired skills proving a perfect match for those required in boot camp.

We first encountered the “Farm Kid’s Letter Home” in December 2002, when it was posted to a handful of newsgroups. It circulates under a variety of titles, including: “Letter from a farmer, now at Camp Pendleton,” “Letter from a farm kid, now at San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Training,” “Letter from a West Virginia farm kid, now at Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot,” and “A farm kid writes home from Camp Lejune, N.C.” The letter writer’s name changes too — we’ve seen sign-offs of Emma Lou, Betty, Mabel, Gail, and Alice.

Yet the item is far, far older than its Internet pedigree would indicate. It has also appeared within the pages of a 1952 collection of Saturday Evening Post offerings. In that version (which is almost word-for-word the same as what is circulating online more than fifty years later), the soldier signs off as “Zeb,” a gender shift that alters the humor of the piece.

The postscript adds a further element of humiliation to the tale, especially in the online versions that present the young soldier as a girl — not only is a female recruit showing up the tough guys on the training course, she is also emasculating them in their male-oriented leisure pursuits.

While the joke can be read as a disdainful “they’re not so tough” dig at the Marines or as “country versus city” chest pounding, it better serves as a general homily expounding upon the view that hardship is more a matter of perception than anything else. In this, it is akin to another widely-circulated bit of lore, “Grandma’s wash day.”