“Years are the milestones that tell us the distance we have traveled…” These words, the first to appear in the diaries of William G. DeLoach (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/ttusw/00161/tsw-00161.html), were not a platitude. DeLoach noted daily events in his diary from 1914 to 1964, often documenting the mundane life of a West Texas farmer, but at times exploring the emotional and philosophical depth of a man whose daily accounts spanned two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
This is the first full page of his diary, written Wednesday, March 24th, 1914. It is a simple series of notes. He visited Ralls and Crosbyton, Texas, signed a cotton contract, and saw one of his laborers complete the maize harvest. Such entries comprise the bulk of his notes.
This page includes October 29th, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Yet the crash’s effect took its time crossing the country, so all he described that day was cutting feed until a rain began that lasted well into the night.
The Depression, and more importantly the Dust Bowl, haunt the background of his diaries, but DeLoach coloring his stories of day-to-day life. On July 23rd, 1937, however, its effects came to the fore. “I hurt all day. Not with much heart. I can’t do any thing with any heart with such surroundings. I even can’t write any more. My (?) are all shot. Just to be the paying teller and nothing more is bad.” But then, as always: “Bill finished the feed plowing.”
Some entries are punctuated by tragic or amusing local news. Early November 1937 saw a man lose an arm in a cotton gin: “That is bad…. They take too many chances.” The next day, DeLoach heard about an acquaintance who was “pinched for drunk.” He mused, “Too bad to get sauced in Sudan [Texas] if one is a stranger. Homeguard can.”
“This is March 28th, 1964. My first entry was made on March 28th, 1914.” Infirm “in more ways than one,” William DeLoach set down his pen. “Goodbye, Diary. You have been lots of help in lots of ways.”
(An abbreviated version of the diaries was edited by Janet M. Neugebauer, former archivist at the Southwest Collection, and published as Plains Farmer: The Diary of William G. DeLoach, 1914-1964.)