Friend, Get Some Oil!

28 Apr
Gray/Barrell Croquet Photo (Ruth sitting on left, Will's father seated in middle, Will standing behind his father)

Gray/Barrell Croquet Photo (Ruth sitting on left, Will’s father seated in middle, Will standing behind his father)

Summit, NJ
May 13, 1897

From: William A Gray
To: Ruth Barrell

Dearest Ruth:

Here it is, Thursday night, and I am writing you as I said I would, providing I did not
call on you instead.

Your letter was awaiting my home coming today and it is needless to say that its
receipt was the greatest pleasure I have had since Tuesday evening last.

I was sorry to read of your hurting your poor nail, and if it were your right hand, must
have interfered with your writing me as well as your piano practice. Ruth, when are you
going to stop maiming yourself – or more correctly speaking, when is that shadow of
misfortune which seems to control those things, going to raise itself from you?

I am very sorry to know of Abe’s misfortune. I confess, Ruth, it is the part of our
religion I don’t understand, which causes or permits these repeated visitations of what
must be both physical pain and mental strife upon persons so undeserving of it, and so ill
prepared to meet it. From my point of view I can only feel for Abe the sorrow one creature
of this world can have for his less fortunate brother, but to stop and consider calamity after
calamity, which has overtaken him, rendering his poor home almost barren of everything
that makes a home, it is really something terrible to contemplate. He has my deepest
sympathy and my sincere wish the future will do much in happiness, to hide the
misfortunes past.  

I have been thinking mean things all day about this weather, for I knew it would
interfere with my Ruth, in her outdoor interests today. I had almost given up hope of getting
your letter tonight, thinking it almost impossible for you to get it to the Post Office without
getting wet. I would rather have done without it Ruth, than have you run the risk of taking
cold. I don’t ever want to be the recipient of any pleasure if it is going to incur danger to
you, Dear, but since it is done, I hope there will be no evil consequences.

The weather seems to have done little to redeem itself tonight. I arrived home just in
time to see a glorious sunset and as I admired it, I wondered if you might not be doing the
same. There has been nothing so bad about these rainy days we’ve had but what we can
forgive if Saturday and Sunday will only be nice, is there, Dear? And from the way it looks
tonight, I almost think there will be.

I found your four leaf clover as you sent it and shall place it with other treasures that
hold a very dear place in my heart. I thank you for sending it to me, Ruth, also for your
thoughtfulness in making four nice wishes for me. You did not tell me what they were, but
that is not necessary to know for they were good wishes since you were the maker, and I
have been faithful enough in them to hope that they all may be realized.

After lunch today, I had business on John St and happened to pass the old
Methodist Church where they hold men’s prayer meetings every day between 12 and 1. It
was almost one o’clock when I passed and never having been in the place, I thought I
would improve this opportunity. However near the closing time it was, I was not too late to
be both interested and amused. There was one man whose remarks could not help striking
you as funny. He seemed to be of foreign birth, but of what nationality I could not say. He
probably has been a very long time in this country, but he was one of these fellows to
whom the English language remains for the most part an unsolved puzzle. I should like to
have gotten a stenographic impression of his remarks, so that I could transcribe them for
you, for without his perversion of the language, they wouldn’t be funny at all. Toward the
close of his speech and by way of appeal he said “I will give you an illustration of what I
saw last Friday. I was called up at midnight to go and pray with a dying friend, and when
returning saw a bicycle man whose light was out, and heard a policeman yell, ‘Where’s
your light.’ The bicycle man said, ‘I haven’t any oil.’ and by way of drawing a moral, he
almost yelled, ‘Friend, get some oil!’” “It is the true oil of religion that lights my soul and I
should like you all to get it because until you get it yourselves you will never know its great

Whisky had been the great curse of his life, but he said “I have not touched it nor
has a cigar came into my mouth for ten years.”

A younger Ruth raking the croquet grounds.

A younger Ruth raking the croquet grounds.

Yes Ruth, it is your turn to beat me at croquet next time we play and I hope to give
you a good chance on Saturday. Ruth, I have been thinking it would be some fun if we
keep tally of all the games we play and the one winning the greatest number to get a prize.
I to give you one if you win and vice-versa. What do you say and if it is a bargain, shall
appoint you official scorekeeper. In the event of your liking this scheme, Ruth, I promise to
do my best to win. When I see you Saturday please let me find you with lead pencil and
score card all ready.

It is getting late and thoughts worth writing about are at a premium in my poor head
just now.

I cannot help thinking of the great misfortune of others and agree with you Ruth,
that so far in our lives, we certainly have been blessed. It is true I have been ungrateful for
all I now possess, and – in not having more, have complained. I will not do so again, but
shall be thankful for the much that has been given me.

Truly Ruth, when I think of all you have done toward making me what I am, and
being assured that this same influence is exerted still and will make me better and better,
in this, alone, I am obligated to Him who directs these things, in a manner that no amount
of praise will ever repay.

O Ruth, I ask God to give me strength to be a man and to help me be to you all that
a man could be to the woman he loves.

I notice the subject of our C. E.2 meeting for Sunday next is “Things to Live For”,
and the subjects of the daily readings are Christ’s approval, Honor from Men, Love,
Strength, Joy, Heaven. Surely Ruth, included in these is our entire aim in life. These are
the things I reach for and may God grant that we shall find them upon the pathway of the
lives which are before us.

There is a good many words in this letter, with perhaps little sense. However, I know
you will know what I meant to say if I did not put it so already as it might have been, and
that you will appreciate this effort in the letter writing, however short it falls.

Now my own Precious Ruth, I will kiss you and say goodnight. Saturday, Pet, is our
next “play day,” and there is only one short day between. Until then my thoughts will be of
croquet, walks, feeding chickens, darts, etc., a pleasing scene with my lovely Ruth, for
both frame and background.

As ever yours,

Wm A Gray

I’m afraid to read this over so will send it as it is. Charge all errors to my account
and oblige.



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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Family History


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