A rchives of the Big Bend. This may be the most impressive name for a repository of history I have ever heard. It captures the region perfectly. According to the website, this Archives, “is an important and dynamic historical resource for the Sul Ross State University and Big Ben…” Located on campus in the Wildenthal Memorial Library in Alpine, Texas, this unique regional collection symbolizes both pride of place and the ethos of west Texas people.
Arl Walter Fulcher was one of those people. Born in Lampasas, Texas in 1887, young Walter moved with his family to the Big Bend where they found a home with more land and a lot less water. Ranching was their stock in trade and they were good at it. Walter enlisted in the US Army’s First Army Mobile Veterinary Hospital in May, 1918, during the last months of the Great War. The army was looking for men experienced in working with and tending to draft animals and Fulcher checked all the boxes. Millions of horses, mules, and donkeys were used in World War I, and millions were killed or wounded as soldiers were by bullets, bombs, gas attack, and disease. The British and French armies were more prepared for the inevitable slaughter of animals than the Americans, but even their resources proved meager given the overwhelming numbers, a fact Fulcher would know all too well.
The subject of this post is the first of twenty-five letters Walter would write over the course of a year. This letter finds him aboard a troop ship headed for France. In it, he describes his journey from Texas to the east coast of the US and includes some memorable moments along the way. While in France, Fulcher would write of his experiences in war and post-war France, the French people and its culture, and life as a soldier in the Veterinary Service.
Walter Fulcher returned to Big Bend country in the summer of 1919, and there he would stay. In his later years Walter would write a book, The Way I Heard It, Tales of the Big Bend, (available on Amazon), participate in local civic affairs, and serve his country again during World War II. Ari Walter Fulcher died in Midland, Texas in 1953, age 65.
I have not read the remaining twenty-four letters but that is my plan. This letter leaves me wanting to know more. Should you feel the same way, a link to all of Fulcher’s letters is included in the introductory email.
Arl Walter Fulcher wrote large (literally, as you will see) with humility, honesty, humor, and common sense. I like him. I think you will too.