Heart Mountain Relocation Camp
September 2, 1942
Mama asked me to write Betty Logan back home and thank her parents for watching the farm for us. It has taken me some time since we arrived in August to gather the nerve to even put pen to paper. I hardly know where to start or what to say to them. I miss Betty, I miss my friends, and I miss our farm and school. I would be a junior this year. I wanted to sew my prom dress and dance with my friends, but now I am in charge of my sisters, teaching them how to read and add and subtract- the student has become the teacher. There won’t be time for dancing and dresses. I guess dresses here would be quite impractical.
Sacramento has a lot of blue sky, but Wyoming sky is never ending and such a deep shade of blue, and the area here is frightening and desolate. Heart Mountain is a funny name for such a scary place. The mountain looms over us, and I worry about winter and the cold. There is already a coolness to the air here that tells me summer is over and fall will be short. Sacramento summers are long and hot, and I miss sitting on top of the pretty whitewashed fence that daddy, Uncle Kiyo, and Mr. Logan built while I watch the almond trees sway in the hot breeze and the rusty colored bantam hens picking at the ground for bits of grain. All of the fences here are made of prickly barbed wire meant to keep us in, meant to poke and cut us if we try to climb, and I want to cry when I think about how we are now the chickens penned up in one large dusty coop.
Our new address is Blk 422-12-A. Our home here is a number, which is fitting because I feel less like myself every day. The train ride from Sacramento to Cody will be something I will never forget. Everyone was subdued. There was a strange silence that lasted three days, and the blinds on the train were drawn- only a muffled sob by a woman or baby briefly broke the silence. We all bounced and shifted with the train, but we all seemed frozen in our own thoughts, consumed by our own fears and our own sadness.
When we arrived here, after three days on the train, we were all lined up and our suitcases were searched. Mama had us pack clothes and linens. We each had two suitcases, and papa had two cases and a large duffel back strapped on his back. There was some confusion at the train station because we had an extra suitcase each beyond what was allowed in the move orders. Papa calmly spoke with the Marshalls herding people onto the trains, and after several minutes of talking, they could see Papa was not going to budge and they let us on with our extra luggage. I am glad Papa did not relent because Mama had packed food in the extra cases. She brought jam from our apricot trees, and almonds, powdered milk, and other items. Once we arrived at Heart Mountain we had something packed away to eat. We didn’t get called in to supper at the mess hall until late, so Mama’s smart thinking kept us full with almonds and jelly sandwiches.
The line to get checked and our building number was long, and I tried to entertain Janice and Carol while we waited, but it is hard to manage two girls who think they are on a new adventure. I wish I was 6 or 7 years old again like Janice and Carol. I envy their belief that this is a game or long camping trip. After waiting in line for hours and having our luggage searched, we found our barracks. I say barracks because the walls have gaps in them and you can hear the wind whistle through. The floors have holes where knots of wood used to be, and dust blows up through the holes scattering sand, hay, and bits of gravel into the room. There is a small stove for heat and one dangling lightbulb to light our room. I think the practical side of Papa took over, and he and Uncle Kiyo spent the day scavenging for wood and scraps to fill the holes and gaps. Mama used the sheets from home to create a room divider between our beds and the one she and Papa will sleep in. Uncle Kiyo worked cheerfully. I don’t think anything gets him down. While mama was hanging the sheets up, Uncle Kiyo discovered the bathroom situation. He told me there are no stalls where the toilets sit. We agreed to keep that news from Mama. I think she has seen enough today.