Postville Herald in Postville, Iowa
8 Nov 1918

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Postville Herald in Postville, Iowa
8 Nov 1918

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Postville Herald (Newspaper) - November 8, 1918, Postville, Iowa  mmmmtm��mlt������l���4�t��t a a Mimi to Mil 7l7r outwitting the Hun by lieutenant Pat o Brien copyright 1918, by Pat Alva o Brien chapter Xvi continued. -11 from the Kitchen you could walk directly into the cow Bam where two cows were kept and this As i have pointed out before is the usual construction of the poorer belgian houses l i could not make out Why the caller seemed to be so antagonistic to me and yet i am sure he was arguing with the family against me. Perhaps the fact that i was t wearing wooden shoes i doubt whether i could have obtained a pair big enough for me had. Convinced him that i was not really a belgian because there was nothing about me otherwise which a Ould have Given him that idea. At that time and i suppose it is True today about 94 per cent of the people in Belgium were wearing wooden shoes. Among the peasants i Idon t believe i Ever saw any other a kind of footwear and they Are More common there than they Are in Holland the dutch Wear them More on account of a Lack of leather. I was told that during the coming year practically All the peasants and poorer people in Germany too will adopt wooden shoes for farm work As that its one direction in which Wood can be substituted for leather without much floss. When the Young Man left i left shortly afterwards As i was not at All comfortable about what his intentions were regarding me. For All i knew he might have gone to notify ithe German authorities that there was a strange Man in the Vicinity More perhaps to protect his friends from suspicion of having aided me than to injure me. At any rate i was not going to take an chances and i got out of that neighbourhood As rapidly As i could. That night found me right on the Frontier of Holland. Chapter xvii. Getting through the lines. R waiting until it was quite dark i made my Way carefully through a Field and eventually came to the much dreaded Barrier. It was All that i had heard about it every foot of the Border line Between Belgium and Holland is protected in precisely the same manner. It la there to serve three purposes first to present the belgians from escaping into Holland second to keep enemies like myself from making their Way to Freedom and third to prevent desertions on the part of germans themselves. One look was enough to convince any one that it probably accomplished a three objects about As Well As any contrivance could and one look was All i got of it that night for while i Lay on my stomach gazing at the forbid King Structure i heard the measured stride of a German sentry advancing towards me and i crawled away As fast As i possibly could determined to spend the night somewhere in the Fields and make another and More careful Survey the following night the View i had obtained however a was sufficient to convince me that the a pole vault idea was out of the ques Uon even if i had a pole and was a proficient pole vaulter. The three fences covered a Span of at least twelve feet and to Clear the last barbed wire Fence it would be necessary to vault not Only at least ten feet High but at least fourteen feet wide with the certain knowledge that to touch the electrically charged Fence meant instant death. There would be no second Chance if you came a Cropper the first i time. The Stilt idea was also impracticable because of the Lack of suitable i Timber and tools with which to construct the stilts.  it seemed to me that the Best thing to do was travel no and Down the line a bit in the Hope that some spot might be discovered where conditions were More favourable although i Don t know just what i expected along those lines. I it was mighty disheartening to real lire that Only a few feet away Lay certain Liberty and that the Only things preventing me from reaching it were three confounded fences. I thought of my machine and wished that some a kind fairy would set it in front of me Ifor just one minute i spent the night in a clump of crashes and kept in hiding most of the next Day Only going abroad for an hour or two in the Middle of the Day to intercept some belgian peasant and beg for food. The belgians in this a Ecton were naturally very much afraid of the germans and i fared badly. In nearly every House German soldiers were quartered and it was out of the question for me to apply for food in that direction. The proximity of the Border made everyone Eye each other with More or less suspicion and i soon came to the conclusion that the i could do was to live on raw vegetables which i could steal from the Fields at nights i bad previously done. That night i made another Murrey of the Barrier in that Vicinity but it looked just at hopeless As it had the night before and i concluded that i Only wasted say time there. I spent the night wandering North guided by the North Star which had served me so faithfully in All my travelling. Every mile or two i would make my Way carefully to the Barrier to see if conditions were any better but it seemed to be the same All along. I Felt like a wild animal in a Cage with about As much Chance of getting out. The Section of the country in which i was now wandering was very heavily wooded and there was really no very great difficulty in keeping myself concealed which i did All Day Long striving All the time to think of some Way in which i could circumvent that cursed Barrier. The idea of a huge Stepladder occurred to me but i searched hour after hour in vain for lumber or fallen Trees out of which i could construct one. If i could Only obtain something which would enable me to reach a Point about nine feet in the air it would be a comparatively simple matter to jump from that Point Over the electric Fence. Then i thought that perhaps i could construct a simple ladder and lean it against one of the posts upon which the electric wires were Strung climb to the top and then leap Over getting Over the barbed wire fences in the same Way. This seemed to be the most Likely plan and All night Long i sat constructing a ladder for this purpose. I was fortunate enough to find _ number of fallen Pine Trees from ten to twerp to feet Long. I selected two of them which seemed sufficiently Strong and broke off All the branches which i used As rungs tying them to the poles with grass and strips from my handkerchief and shirt As Best could. It was not a very Workmanlike looking ladder when i finally got through with it. I leaned it against a tree to test it and it wobbled considerably. It was More like a rope ladder than a wooden one but i strengthened it Here and there and decided that it would probably serve the purpose. I kept the ladder in the Woods All Day and could hardly wait until dark to make the supreme test if it proved successful my troubles were Over within a few hours i would be in a Neutral country out of All danger. If " failed i dismissed the idea summarily. There was no use worrying about failure the thing to do was to succeed. The few hours that were to pass before night came on seemed endless but i utilized them to re enforce my ladder tying the rungs More securely with Long grass which i picked in the Woods. At last night came and with my ladder in hand i made for the Barrier. In front of it there was a cleared space of about one Hundred Yards which had been prepared to make the work of the guards easier in watching it i waited in the neighbourhood until i heard the sentry pass the spot where i was in hiding and then i hurried across the Clearing shoved my ladder under the barbed wire and endeavoured to follow it. My clothing caught in the wire but i wrenched myself Clear and crawled to the electric Barrier. My plan was to place the ladder against one of the posts climb up to the top and then jump. There would be a fall of nine or ten feet and 11 might possibly sprain an ankle or break my leg but if that was All that stood Between me and Freedom i was t going to Stop to consider it i put my ear to the ground to listen for the coming of the sentry. There was not a sound. Eagerly but carefully i placed the ladder against the Post and started up. Only a few feet separated me from Liberty and my heart beat fast i had climbed perhaps three rungs of my ladder when i became aware of an unlocked for difficulty. The ladder was slipping. Just As i took the next rung the ladder slipped came in Contact with the live wire and the current passed through the wet Sticks and into my body. There was a Blue Flash my hold on the ladder relaxed and i fell heavily to the ground unconscious. Of course i had not received the full Force of the current or i would not now be Here. I must have remained unconscious for a few moments but i came to just in time to hear the German guard coming and the thought came to me if i did t get that ladder concealed at once he would see it even though fortunately for me it was an unusually dark night. I pulled the ladder out of his path and Lay Down Flat on the ground not seven feet away from his feet. He passed so close that i could have pushed the ladder out and tripped him up. It occurred to me that i could have climbed Back under the barbed wire Fence and waited for the sentry to return and then felled him with a blow on the head As he had no idea of course that there was anyone in the Vicinity. I would t have hesitated to take life because my Only thought we to get into Holland but i thought that As Long As he did t bother me perhaps the safest thing to do was not to bother him but to continue my efforts during his periodic absence. His beat at this Point was apparently fairly Long and allowed me More time to work than i had hoped for. My mishap with the ladder had convinced me that my escape in that Way was not feasible. The Shock that i had received had unnerved me and i was afraid to risk it again particularly As i realized that i had fared More fortunately than i could Hope to again if i met with a similar mishap. There was no Way of making that ladder hold and i gave up the idea of using it i was now right in front of this electric Barrier and As i studied it i saw another Way of getting by. If i could t get Over it what was the matter with getting under it the Bottom wire was Only two inches from the ground and of course i could t touch it but my plan was to dig underneath it and then crawl through the Hole in the ground. I had Only my hands to dig with but i went at it with a will and fortunately the ground was not very hard. When i had dug about six inches making a distance in All of eight inches from the lowest electric wire. I came to an underground wire. I knew enough about electricity to realize that this wire could not be charged As it was in Contact with the ground but still Fher was not room Between the live wire and this underground wire for me to crawl through and i Ether had to go Back or dig deep enough under this wire to crawl under it or else pull it up. Wire Fence and breather the free air of Holland. I had no Clear idea jus where i was and i did t care much i was out of the Power of the German and that was enough. I had Wylke perhaps a Hundred Yards when i remembered the Luce i had thrown Over the Barrier and dangerous As i realized the undertaking to be i determined to walk Back and get it. This necessitated my going Back onto Bel Glan Soli again but it seemed a shame to leave the lace there and by exercising a Little care i figured i could get it easily enough when i came to the spot at which i had made my Way under the barbed wire i put my ear to the ground and listened for the sentry. I heard him coming Anil Lay Proue on the ground till he had passed. The fact that he might observe the Hole in the ground or the ladder occurred to me As i Lay there and it seemed like an age before he finally marched out of earshot. Then i went under the barbed wire again retrieved the lace and once again made my Way to dutch Terri tory. It does not take Long to describe the events just referred to but the incidents themselves consumed several hours in All. To dig the Hole must have taken me More than two hours and i had to Stop frequently to hide while the sentry passed. Many times indeed i thought i heard him coming and stopped my work and then discovered that it was Only my imagination. I certainly suffered enough that night to last me a lifetime. With a German guard on one Side death from electrocution on the other and starvation staring me in the face my plight this underground wire was about was anything but a comfortable one. It was on the 19th of november 1917, when i got through the wire. I As big around As a Lead Pencil and there was no Chance of breaking it. The Jack knife i had had at the Start of my travels i had Long since lost and even if i had had something to Hammer with the noise would have made the method impracticable. I went on digging. When the total distance Between the live wire and the Bottom of the Hole i had dug was thirty inches i took hold of the ground wire and pulled on it with All my strength. It would t Budge. It was stretched taut across the narrow ditch i had dug about fourteen inches wide and All the tugging did t serve to loosen it. I was just about to give up in despair when a Staple gave Way in the nearest Post. That enabled me to pull the wire through the ground a Little and i renewed my efforts. After a moment or two of pulling As i had never pulled in my life before a Staple on the next Post gave Way and my work became easier. I had More leeway now and pulled and pulled again until in All eight Staples had Given Way. Every time a Staple gave Way it sounded in my ears like the report of a gun although i suppose it did t really make very much noise. Nevertheless each time i would put my ear to the ground to listen for the guard. If i heard him i would Stop working and lie perfectly still in the. Dark till he had gone by. By pulling on the wire i was now Able to drag it through the. Ground enough to place it Back from the Fence and go on digging. The deeper i went the harder became the work because by this time my Finger nails were broken and i was nervous afraid every moment that i would touch the charged wire. I kept at it. However with my mind constantly on the Hole i was digging and the Liberty which was almost within my reach. Finally i figured that i had enough space to crawl through and still leave a couple of inches Between my Back and the live wire. Before i went under that wire i noticed that which the belgian woman had Given me As a souvenir made my pocket bulge and lest it might be the innocent Means of elect routing me by touching the live wire i took it out rolled it up and threw it Over the Barrier first. Then i Lay Down on my stomach and crawled or rather writhed under the wire like a Snake with my feet first and there was t any question of my hugging Mother Earth As closely As possible because i realized that even to touch Tho wire above me with my Back meant instant death anxious As i was to get on the other Side i did t hurry this operation. _ feared that there might be some Little detail that i had overlooked and i exercised the greatest possible care in going under taking nothing for granted. When i finally got through and straightened up there were still several feet of Belgium Between me and Liberty represented by the six feet which separated the electric Barrier from the last barbed wire Fence but before i went another step i went Down on my Knees and thanked god i for my Long series of escapes and especially for a. This last achievement which seemed to me to be about All that was necessary to. Bring me Freedom. Then i crawled under the barbed could see the Light of a sentry station and i thought i would go there and Tell my Story to the sentries real uniform and it resembled very ranch that of the German soldiers. Some of the neighbors aroused by izing that As i was unarmed it was i the commotion got up to see what it a was All about and came in and watched while i ate the meal those Good dutch people prepared for me. Ordinarily i suppose i would have been embarrassed with so Many people staring at me while i ate As though i were some strange animal that has just been captured but just then i was too furnished to notice or care very much what other people did there will always be a warm place in my heart for the dutch people. I had heard lots of persons say that they were not inclined to help refugees but my experience did not Bear these reports out they certainly did More for me than i Ever expected. I had a Little German Money left but As the value of German Money is Only about half in Holland i did t have enough to pay the fare to Rotterdam which was my next objective. Perfectly Safe for me to announce myself to Tho dutch authorities. I could be interned Only if i entered Holland under arms. As i approached the sentry Box i noticed three men in Gray uniforms the regulation dutch color. I was on the verse of shouting to them when the thought struck me that there was just a Chance i might be mistaken As the German uniforms were the same color and i had suffered too Many privations and too Many narrow escapes to lose All at this time by jumping at conclusions. I had just turned off the rond to go Back into some Bushes when out of the darkness i Beard that dread German command halt halt he did t need to holler twice. I heard and heeded the first time. Then i heard another Man come running up it was due to the generosity of these and there was considerable talking but whether they were germans or hollanders i was still Uncertain. He evidently thought someone was on the other Side of the Fence. Finally i heard one of them laugh and saw him walk Back to the sentry station where the guard was billeted and i crawled a Little nearer to try to make out just what it meant. I had begun to think it was All a Nightmare Between myself and the Light in the sentry station i then noticed the stooping figure of a Man bending Over As if to conceal himself and on his head was the spiked helmet of a German Soldier i knew then what another narrow escape 1 had had for i am quite sure he would have shot me without ceremony if i had foolishly made myself known. I would have been burled at once and no one would have been any Wiser even though technically speaking i was on Neutral territory and immune from capture or attack. This new Shock Only served to bewilder me More. I was completely lost. There seemed to be Frontier behind me and Frontier in front of me evidently however what had happened was that i had lost my sense of direction and had wandered in the arc of a Circle returning to the same Fence that i had been so Long in get Ting through. This solution of the mystery came to me suddenly and i at once searched the landscape for something in the Way of a landmark to guide me. For once my faithful Friend the North Star had failed me. The sky was pitch Black and there was t a Star in the heavens. In the distance at about what people that i was Able to reach the British Consul As quickly As i did some Day i Hope to return to Holland and repay every single soul who played the part of the Good Samaritan to me. With the Money that these people gave me i was Able to get a third class ticket to Rotterdam and i was glad that i did t have to travel first class for i would have looked As much out of place in a first class Carriage As a Hun would appear in heaven. That night i slept in the House of my dutch friends where they fixed me up most comfortably. In the morning they gave me breakfast and then escorted me to the station. While i was waiting at the station a crowd gathered round me and soon it seemed As if the whole town had turned out to get a look at me. It was very embarrassing particularly As i could give them no information regarding the cause of my condition although of course they All knew that i was a refugee from Belgium. As the train pulled out of the station the crowd gave a loud cheer and the tears almost came to my eyes As i contrasted in my mind the conduct of this crowd and the one that had gathered at the station in Ghent when i had departed a prisoner in Routs for the reprisal Camp. I breathed a sigh of Relief As i thought of that reprisal Camp and How for Funte i had really been despite All my sufferings to have escaped it. Now at any rate i was a free Man and i would soon be sending Home Tho. Joyful news that i had made Good my escape 1 at Al Hoffen two dutch officers got into the compartment with me. They a looked at me with very much Disfavour geared to be about three Miles away not knowing of course that i was a but which turned out to be six i could British officer. My clothes were still discern the lights of a Village and i pretty much in the condition they knew it must be a dutch Village As were when i crossed the Border Al lights Are not allowed in Belgium in though i had been Able to scrape off that indiscriminate Way. Some of the mud i had collected the my course was now Clear. I would night before. I had not shaved nor make a beeline for that Village. Before trimmed my Beard for Many Days. I had Cone Verv in t

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