LINDEN, Texas - I'm reading a book titled "Letters Home." It's full of true stories about letters written by Civil War soldiers during battle to home folks. Most every one of the letters are sad in nature, revealing the horrors of that useless and bloody war that scars the image of America forever.

In those days, there was very little if any postal service. Maybe in the big cities back east, but certainly not in the areas of battle. The letters were put in the trust of men who were traveling out from the battlegrounds and were handed from one person to another. Sometimes, and it was very rarely, the letter was delivered to the proper person. Some of the letters were soldiers saying goodbye to loved ones back home, expecting to never return. Many did not return.

Some soldiers were starving, some freezing, some so sick they couldn't fight, just lying there waiting for their eternal life to begin. You can imagine how sad those letters were. It brings tears just reading the letters and visualizing their predicaments. Torn away from home and loved ones, only to die in a useless war that most of them abhorred. Sound familiar? But this column is not about wars, rather its about letters home, both past and present. A letter home is a precious thing, no matter the era

I remember letters to our home from war, to our home in Imlay and Lovelock, during the Great War, from my brother Jess who was fighting the crazy one and his Nazi regime in Europe. All of the letters from Jess that were written in combat to home were upbeat in nature. He suffered in battle, went hungry, stayed cold, lived outside in combat conditions during that record cold winter, was shot by German machine gun fire and returned home safely for Christmas 1945.

What a happy reunion that was in Lovelock when he walked up to our house, in his Army uniform with medals and service ribbons on his uniform. I remember every letter from him, transported by steamship across the ocean, then by steam engine trains to Imlay, later to Lovelock after our move there. But that was modern technology, using steam engines for power to transport mail. Let's go back about 100 years to early American westward migration.

Folks left family and home back east to start a new life out west. Some of them never again heard from their families left behind. From remote points out west, letters were sent eastward by whatever traveler happened to be going eastward. The letter was passed on from one traveler to another, and sometimes it was delivered to the person it was intended. Just a name and a town on the envelope. It was a miracle if ever delivered.

Then came a new and fast mail service to America. It was called Pony Express. Adventuresome young men like William Cody, later called Buffalo Bill, took on the awesome task of carrying letters by horseback. From St. Jo to Sacramento, they averaged an impressive 12 mph. Day and night they rode, over hill and dale, crossing rivers where no bridges existed, over high mountains, hostile environment, they risked their lives to deliver letters home, both westward and eastward. Then came telegraph service and, shortly after, steam engine driven trains. Say, there is still an old timer living in Imlay that operated a railroad steam engine. I won't reveal his name, but his initials are Stanley Monroe, illustrious husband of Janiece.

Nowadays communications change more often than some guys change underwear. Almost everyone everywhere man woman and child are walking around with a cell phone or iPod or some other communication device in their hand, sending messages around the world, delivered in a few seconds time. I don't believe anyone appreciates receiving those messages like we did receiving a letter from Jess from the killing fields of Europe, circa 1944.

I'm about to e-mail this little missive to Alicia in Lovelock and it will get there faster than you can say jackwhistlefrat. Now I gotta write my dear sisters Ophelia and Sylvia a letter, a real letter, with a postage stamp. Kinda old fashioned, what?

Roy Bale can be reached via email at