Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oh, Pioneers...

When I was growing up in the 1970's, Little House on the Prairie was going strong and I felt so proud to have grandparents who were farmers and who had lived that story.  I even grew up in the town where the first homestead was filed under the Homestead Act of 1862, and I've visited several times throughout my life.

What makes you want to leave this? (Norway)
My view of history has naturally changed quite a bit since then and I can't help but feel some guilt about how the white men drove out the Native Americans and killed almost all the buffalo and helped to create "the most extreme natural event in 350 years."  Even the Homestead National Monument now has an "Opportunity and Displacement Exhibit" about the Native American culture that we destroyed.

...or this? (Germany)
But the thing that astounds me the most when I think about the pioneers is how desperate they must have been to leave beautiful places like the Northeast and Europe to come to the flatness of the Great Plains just to have a chance at a new life.  So many of the pioneers died on their way to find land, and if they made it and weren't able to build a house and get some provisions set aside for the first winter, they weren't likely to make it, either.

To come to this?
It takes some really hardy, no-
nonsense people to survive and flourish in a place like that.  As Garrison Keillor says, it's a place, "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."  Well, I definitely think of it as a place where all the women are strong, at least.  :)

This flat, unforgiving place.
On one of our most recent car trips, I read the first book of the Little House on the Prairie series out loud to the kids.  I don't remember it being so interesting when I read it as a child, but I was fascinated by the description of everything it took to live off the land and sustain themselves over the long winters.  Surprisingly, the kids were mesmerized, too - they loved it!

I'm not sure what got me to thinking about this today, but it's something that I think about often.  I'm still extremely proud of my ancestors, but I can't help but think, "Oh, Pioneers... you're crazy!" (and amazing)


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