Ferdinand the Bull, a bawdy joke from 1945

As some know I’m going through my grandpa’s letters to my grandma while he was stationed in the Pacific during WWII. This is an intimidating project because I’m cutting over two hundred thousand words (or about three novels of average length) to a readable length. Words that aren’t mine to cut. That’s not a task I’m taking at all lightly, but it needs to be done. For all the incredible stuff I’m finding there is a great deal of repetition. Although even that is hard to cut because of what that repetition reveals, a desire to have a tangible connection open between them despite their distance apart. Some letters he is very much “in the mood” as he says to reminisce about their past and imagine their future together. Other letters he isn’t, but tries his best to pass along his thoughts and feelings as he asks her to do for him. Here he is describing his attempt to find ideas to write about. In my grandfather’s words:

One of the crewmen is up here and he has the rep of writing numerous and long letters. I asked him what he finds to write about and he says that he uses a book of poetry for ideas. He picks out a good quotation and passes it off as his own and then elaborates on it. I asked him for a sample and a quotation. He suggested, “Familiarity breeds contempt–and children.” The first part comes from Shakespeare, so he says, and the last his own wit. He claims that pages could be written about that statement. Personally I consider it corny and very inappropriate so he wasn’t any help. I noticed Jim writing like a demon and asked him what he was writing about. He said he was writing about a close shave he had today. Being rusty he got low on an approach and it took all the horses the beast had to get him over the ramp and clear of the deck. I don’t think that is a very good thing to be writing about so he wasn’t any help. What am I to do? I could tell you the story about Ferdinand the Bull but I have forgotten just how it goes. It’s something like this. Ferdinand the Bull was being led down to his spring pasture. It was a beautiful day and he spied some heifers grazing over in the next field. Having been in the barn all winter this excited him quite a lot so he broke away, ran down the path, across the brook and jumped a wire fence into the field with the heifers. With a resigned look on his face he commenced grazing. After a while one of the older cows came over and said, “Aren’t you Ferdinand the Bull?” Poor Ferd replied, “No, just Ferdinand. I didn’t see the top wire on that fence.” See how desperate I am for something to write about. Even though it is difficult to write I like to because when I write and can’t think of anything I get to day dreaming about when I won’t have to write to you. I’ll be right there all cuddled up with you and even words won’t be necessary. When I crawl in my sack my shoulder aches to have your head resting there. To have your hair tickling my nose. That is perfect contentment.

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