State Historic Site
ON AUGUST EIGHTEENTH, 1917, thirteen Sheridan county men left for training camp at the Presidio in San Francisco, California. According to The Sheridan Post, the fact that all the men who left were still in camp was a singular event:
Of the bakers' dozen of Sheridan County men who left here to enter the training camp ... thirteen still remain. That is going some, for a whole lot of men who went to the training camp at that time are not there now. More are sure to leave within the next few days and more will move later. Every man of the Sheridan contingent is shaking in his shoes, says a private communication from one of the shakers, but all are hoping that they will not be among the unlucky ones to draw a black bean.
While we don't know who wrote the "private communication," it nonetheless provides an entertaining look at the first few days of boot camp. The letter was printed in The Sheridan Post on September 28, 1917.
You would scarcely know the bunch. When we got here we were what you might call a bunch of mixed pickles. A few of the boys had been working out doors, and were bronzed and hard, but the most of us had come from the swivel chairs, and were putty faced and soft. Some of us were fat and some of us were lean, but, say, you ought to see us now.
Every man in the Sheridan bunch has a complexion like a Crow Injun and an appetite like a goat. We don't eat tin cans, but that is because we have plenty of other things to eat, but if chuck should run short, I think our appetites would be equal to almost anything.
The boys back at home that used to think it was outrageous when they had to get up at 8 o'clock now scramble like monkeys from their bunks when reveille sounds at 5:30 and they back out into the cold fog as if they actually liked it. They may not like it; probably they don't, but the Sheridan crew are no grouches and from Colonel Zander down to the youngest cub, they are putting up a mighty good imitation of being happy and contented. Their only fear is that they won't last.
Eat! Why, it would make one of you dyspeptic office workers turn absolutely green with envy to see us wade in when the mess call sounds. Men who used to look on eating as a necesary evil are now longing for their childhood days when they could eat at least four times between meals.
But don't get the idea that we are all getting fat. The instructors see to it that no surplus adipose tissue is accumulated. In fact, I am willing to admit that the program laid for us here has got any of the popular anti-fat preparations skinned [by] a city block.
Of course we have some fun, and they are telling a story on a Sheridan boy that you might like to hear:
Training camp regulations are specific on the subject of uniforms. A man must be fully dressed at all times when not in barracks. The other night one of the men from Wyoming decided during study hours that he needed cigarettes. The nearest store was just across the street, and he couldn't see the sense of taking off his bath robe and putting on his jacket for so short a trip. "Besides," he argued, "nobody will see me."
But one of the officers happened to be short of cigarettes at the same time, and the two men spoke to each other just outside barracks, the officer speaking first. "What do you mean by coming out in that rig?" the officer demanded. "Don't you know the regulations?"
"Yes sir," said the student officer. Then he thought he would show the officer what a bright young fellow he was and added: "This is camouflage, sir. I don't want anyone to know I'm a soldier."
The officer seemed to show a strange lack of appreciation of the bon mot. He didn't hesitate a moment. "Entirely unnecessary," he barked. "Nobody would take you for a soldier anyway."