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A Cowboy Goes to War - Walter Lee Lovelady Part 2

From 1910 through 1913 Walter punched cows and broke horses for his good friend, Jess Chilson. It was during Walter's stay with the Chilsons that he roped Henry Farrell and pulled him from the flooded waters of Tonto Creek, saving his life. That story appeared in an earlier edition of this paper.

By 1913, Walter had enough money to start his own ranch on Webber Creek just below where Camp Geronimo is now located. Camp Geronimo takes in both the old Herron Ranch and the Spade Ranch. The Spade Ranch was established by Paul Vogel and Bill Craig.

Walter was a good cowman having worked with cattle and horses all his life and soon had The Lovelady Place up and running. His sister, Vivian, married Emmett Cox on May 13, 1913. The couple made their home in Globe, Arizona and lived near the Hotel DeVore Dinning Room where Belle Russell sometimes worked for her older sister, Sophie Russell DeVore. It was at this hotel dining room in Globe that Walter first met Belle. Walter and Belle soon became engaged and with Walter's ranch starting to do well, things were looking up for the couple. Walter had close to 300 cows. Then came World War I and a draft notice bearing Walter Lovelady's name was sent to Payson.

On September 9, 1918 Walter Lee Lovelady of Payson entered World War I. He was assigned to the 340th Field Artillery and immediately sent to Camp Funston, Kansas then to England and on to France.

Some of what follows Walter told me when I was a child sitting on his knee. Some I heard from other members of the family. Some I gleaned from the letters he sent home which are still in my possession. The remainder I learned from The Official Brief History 89th Division, prepared by Major C. J. Masseck and from other documents that Walter brought home from the war.

Walter was listed as a Horseshoer in Battalion B, 89th Division 340th Artillery. The title is misleading. It was a rank, rather than a job description. The Battalion's three Horseshoers can be found listed among the sergeants. Walter was put in charge of the care of over 800 horses. Battalion B was made up of mostly Arizona men and was known as the Arizona Battalion.

All of the big guns were transported by horses. Most of the horses were in very poor condition from lack of feed. Walter said they had awful sores from pulling and packing the artillery with unfit rigging. Many of the horses' collars had no pads and a multitude of other abuses were perpetrated on the animals by men who didn't know or understand horses.

Walter had little or nothing with which to treat the sores and cuts on the animals. Hundreds of horses starved, died of infection, or were killed by enemy guns. They were at the front lines. Shells were also killing soldiers. Likewise the 340th was fighting back. And the horses had to move the big guns.

The History of the 89th Division tells us: “The Division dug in at the front of the Hindenburg Line and maintained an offensive attitude at all times, conducting minor operations and raids and on the night of September, 25-26, 1918 a terrific barrage was fired. . .” The 89th Division continued to advance. Many towns are named and battles described by Major Masseck. Walter put in requisitions for medicine for his horses, but to no avail. Finally he was promised that a ship was coming and that included in its cargo was medicine to doctor the horses. At last a ship arrived and the medicine was brought to the front lines in wagons pulled by horses. The long awaited medicine turned out to be baking soda. Soda was all he had, so Walter mixed it with water to make a paste and applied that to the horses' wounds. It worked fairly well. It was much better than mud, which was all he had before.

The German planes were dropping poison gas bombs. The Americans had gas masks for themselves and for their horses. The rule was that you put your horse's mask on, then your own. One of the soldiers was having trouble getting his horse's mask on, so Walter helped him, then put the mask on his own horse. By the time he got his mask on, he had breathed some of the gas. This was the first of three times Walter was gassed in World War I.

The war dragged on. Rations, including food, were short at the front lines. Often, all the men had to eat was meat from the horses that had died in the fighting. The 340th had put all their food in a large cast-iron pot to make stew. A mortar shell landed in camp and several men were blown to bits. The horse meat stew – all the food they had – had not been covered, so they ladled the gore out of it and ate it. War is hell! World War I was hell for horses and men.

Communications went down and Walter was sent on foot with six other men to restore a crucial telegraph line. The line had been cut many times and the men had to retie it and stretch the wire back up. The crew had been given plenty of extra wire, but had no proper tools to stretch the wire. Walter Lovelady had made do all his life. He showed the other men how to make what he called a Mexican Windlass to stretch the wire.

Some days into the job, and before it was completed, a German plane came. The countryside was open; only a few scattered trees dotted the landscape. Walter and his crew were on foot with nowhere to run and no place to hide. But they ran. All, that is, except Walter. He grabbed the nearest telegraph pole where he stood unmoving in its shadow. Walter watched as the plane gave chase to the rest of the crew gunning them down one at a time. The plane made a final circle, but its pilot did not see Walter hugging the telegraph pole.

He tried to get back to his division, but he was cut off. He was behind enemy lines. He was sick. The poison gas had taken a toll on his health. German forces were retreating deeper into their home country and Walter was being driven before them. There were too many to slip through the lines. He had no choice but to move, hide, and move again before the retreating German Army.

Days later he found himself deep in the German countryside. He knew that not all the German people favored the war. Sick, tired, and hungry, he decided to take a chance. He walked up to a farm house and knocked on the door.

The occupants of the house took pity on the American soldier and hid him. Walter said, “The good farm food and rest saved my life. I was at the end of my rope."

Soon he was able to help with the farming. When German soldiers were about, his benefactors hid him in a room under the farm house. Walter learned to speak German, his fourth language. After nearly six months the day came when Walter thought he had a chance to make it back to his division. His German friends outfitted him with food, water and civilian clothes. Walter moved by night and holed up during the day. He was able to make it back to the 89th. For six months, he had been listed as Missing In Action. As soon as he was able, he sent letters back home. The first was to his sweetheart, Belle Russell.

The artillery fire from the big guns, the poison gas, the war with all its gore and heartbreak continued. For a third time Walter breathed the German's poison gas. He feared that if he was exposed to it again, it would kill him. Finally, one night, a great white cross appeared in sky. Walter told, “All the men saw it and we knew the fighting was over.”

The guns ceased their firing and the whining scream of incoming mortar shells was no more. The next day, word came to the 340th and to all the American soldiers. An Armistice had been reached. The war was over. Walter Lee Lovelady was discharged from the service on June 6, 1919. Few men in the 89th had been there at the onset of the war. Many of Walter’s comrades had died from the shells, the poison gas, or had been wounded and sent home.

The Official 89th Division record reads, “Killed: 48 officers, 1081 men. Wounded and Gassed: 201 Officers, 5560 Men. Missing in Action: 1 Officer, 57 Men. Prisoners: 1 Officer, 4 Men.”

When I was a little boy, I used to look at pictures of the German family who had harbored my grandfather and saved him from death or capture by the German Army. I learned their names and my Grandad Walter still wrote to them, in German, and they to him.

View the first part of Walters Story by clicking here.

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