Pioneer Women

Some facts about pioneer women:

-A covered wagon traveled 9 to 12 miles a day.

-Riding in a wagon was jolting and uncomfortable, so women and children often walked along beside or behind the wagon.

-In most cases a wagon traveled with other wagons of family or friends from the same area.

 -Because of illnesses, injuries, and dangerous conditions for childbirth, one out of every 17 travelers was lost en route.  It was estimated that there was one grave every 80 yards from Missouri to Oregon.

-Wagon trains would make a circle at night, and the families would eat supper, sing, play games, and visit inside the circle of wagons.

-At night, the travelers might sleep in the wagon, under the wagon, in a tent, or out in the open.

-Many times, the women came from a lifestyle of visiting friends, needlepoint, and flower gardening.  Their successful husbands would make the decision to travel west without input from their wives, and the wives would have to learn how to do much more than make tea and grow flowers.

-Other times, the women were married to farmers, and were already used to working alongside their husbands.  They, too, had to learn new skills to survive the long journey and life in an uninhabited country.

-On the previous post, my Grandma left a comment about her grandfather, who immigrated from Ireland and traveled from Wolf Island in Canada to Iowa in the mid 1800s.  He was traveling with a family, and he ended up marrying a daughter from that family, and lived the rest of his life as an Iowa farmer. 

-One site I read said that from the women’s journal accounts of the trip, despite all the hardships and heartbreaks, they would do it again.

We rely so much on personal accounts from the past to tell us what life was like for the generations that came before us.  I had a thought…what if my great-great-grandaughters want to know what life was like for women in the 21st century?  That’s almost funny to think about.  But women of the 19th century probably wouldn’t have guessed that future generations would be so fascinated with their lives.  I guess that’s what I’m doing here, in a very 21st century kind of way.  🙂  I’ve been blogging for a couple of years, and I joke about how people who read this probably get so far into my head they wish they hadn’t started reading!  But at the same time, in a hundred years, if this blog is preserved somehow into 22nd century technology, even just for my own family, it will be a huge insight into the thoughts, attitudes, and daily life of a young woman in the 2000s. 

Fish Fry…Pioneer Women…The Girl in the Mirror

I just spent three hours standing in line winding through a school and church, after which I enjoyed the best fish, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, bread and butter, and tater tots I’ve ever had.  Was the food really good?  Or was it so good simply because I had been waiting for it for so long?  We’ll never know!

A few random thoughts tonight.  That’s right, I’m back to blogging freely with no concern over the quality of the material I’m sending out into the world!

I wasn’t kidding when I told you I had become obsessed with pioneer life.  My mind has come upon some questions about the women who traveled west with their husbands and families in covered wagons.  Where did they come from?  What were their lives like before they ventured west?  How did they come to this decision, to leave everything to set out for a new place?  Were they immigrants, or had their families lived in America for a couple of generations or longer?  Were they farmers before?  How long did the journey take?  What if they became pregnant, or it came time to give birth to a baby on the journey?  How did they (probably the men) know where to go?  How did they know if they were lost?  What would they do if they were lost?  What did they do about “feminine stuff” on the journey?  How did they maintain their…relationships…with their husbands without a house with bedrooms and walls, if they had children?  Did they teach their children to read while bouncing along in a wagon, or did education go by the wayside?  Did they travel on Sundays? 

The most I know about pioneer time is what I learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and the time when the family is traveling west is from a child’s perspective, because of course Laura was a child at the time.  I am finding that I want to know about it from an adult’s perspective.

I don’t know if I’ll ever use it again, but I’ve decided to add the odd category of pioneers to my blog.  🙂

Random thought #2…

There once was a boy in my life who wasn’t very nice to me.  As recently as two or three years ago, I was aware that my relationship with him was still affecting every element of my relationships with other guys.  That truly is not the case anymore.  I am free of him, the way that he treated me doesn’t intrude on my enjoyment of dating, or my ability to trust.  Thank God.  I have been able to let lots of stuff go, to just accept that it happened and let it be gone.  However, I’ve realized that there are two things that still echo in my head.  I don’t really talk about them, because they sound like such shallow worries.  I don’t want to admit that such shallow thoughts take up so much importance in my life.  But I think I just need to talk about them for awhile in order to accept them and let them go.  One, he told me that with short hair I looked like a guy.  Every time I’d like to leave the house without makeup, or cut my hair, or I get somewhere and realized I forgot earrings, I hear that conversation.  The second comment he made that is still with me had to do with weight.  I was in college, so I was a whole lot smaller than I am now.  And he told me that I looked okay, but he would prefer it if I didn’t get any bigger than that.  And then later on in our relationship, he commented that he had been trying to eat less because he wanted to look his best for me, and he wondered why I didn’t love him enough to do the same.  So now, I have it in my head that if I’m above that magic number, guys think I look fat.

I understand if you read that and you think, how shallow, just let it go, he was a jerk!  And you’re right.  But maybe you don’t feel what I feel as I type those words.  My heart sinks into my stomach.  Tears well up.  I feel this defeated, worthless feeling.  I know that no one could ever look at me and see something beautiful.  I know that no one would ever see past the fat and ugly to see a good person underneath. 

And now I actually feel a little bit angry.  I didn’t ask for those comments!!!  I didn’t ask him, tell me honestly what you think about my weight.  I never would have, because I didn’t care what he thought about my weight!  And now I care what EVERYONE thinks about my weight!!!  I didn’t WANT this!  I didn’t ask to have sad, worthless feelings triggered every time I look in the mirror.  I didn’t want to feel guilty and disappointed in myself every time the scale goes above the magic number (which was six years and 20 pounds ago, if you’re counting) or every time a certain size doesn’t fit in the dressing room of a store.  I am so FREAKING mad!!!!

It’s just a number on a scale, it’s just a number on a tag.  I don’t want to care about those things.  I want to care about being healthy, eating healthfully, exercising healthfully, and those numbers will reach the right place for me.  But in order to put healthy things in your body and to be motivated to exercise, you have to care enough about your body to want to treat it well.  And I can’t, because when I look in the mirror, I don’t see something to be valued and cared for, I see something that is ugly and worthless.  I hate what I see.  And I HATE him for making me see it.

Farming

I would have made a kick-ass pioneer farm wife.

Well, there are a few things that, being a 21st century girl, I don’t know about giving up…indoor plumbing, washing machines, cooking without lighting a fire first…

But I would make a kick-ass 21st century farm wife!  🙂

Isn’t it funny how you can get obsessed with something, want to watch the same kind of movie, read the same kind of book?  You finish a good book, and what you want is another one that makes you feel just like this one did.  This particular obsession started with two things.  One, I told Mike one night that one thing I miss about living in the country is the stars.  When I was growing up on the farm, sometimes I would be sent outside after dark for a task of some sort.  I was a little afraid of the dark, I guess, because I would usually have to turn on the yard light before stepping foot out the door.  If I could resist the urge, though, it was SO worth it!  You just don’t see stars in the city the way you do in the country.  Mike, born and raised in the city, sympathized with this comment, which I really appreciated, considering he may not have ever seen stars like that!  🙂  And the conversation stuck in my head.

The second thing was the Love Comes Softly movie marathon on Hallmark Channel that I watched off and on last weekend.  I am now in the mood to watch those movies, read Laura Ingalls Wilder books, etc.  The life of a family working to build a home and farm on untamed prairie is so different from my life.  Everything comes down to what’s going on outside, what is growing, what is grazing, what the weather is doing.  Everything is slow and gradual.  It takes months to cross the country.  Going into town is a task that you don’t undertake that often.  Neighbors need one another.  You have to work harder than I can even imagine working, every day, in the hopes of being ready for your family and your livestock to survive the winter.  (I’ll bet there wasn’t too much insomnia on the plains!  You probably fell into bed and were asleep within the time it takes me to find the right place for my pillows!)  You had to rely on your own knowledge and resources, and those of your neighbors, for every need, from food to clothing to medical care.

Watching those movies got me thinking about other things I miss about living on a farm.  I was going to say things I loved about living on a farm, but I didn’t necessarily love them at the time.  Actually, this train of thought might really surprise my mom!  But now, having experienced living both in the country and in the city…  I miss the cycle of the year.  The work to be done is different in the various seasons.  I miss the slower pace…although part of that was just childhood in general, not necessarily farm life.  I miss the air and the sky and the trees and the grass.  I miss going to the top of a hill and looking over the countryside, the fields and trees and streams, everything so green in the summer, so brown in the fall, so white in the winter.  For some reason, to this day, it doesn’t feel like spring, summer, or fall until I’ve seen a corn field reflecting the changes of the season.  I miss tending a garden, freezing and canning vegetables or fruit, hanging clothes out to dry, the consistency of daily livestock chores, the rare occasion when I’d help inthe fields, driving slowly round and round a field for hours and hours, soaking up the sun and the soil.  I miss picking mulberries.  I miss lying in the grass, staring up at the blue sky, and not worrying about anything more dangerous than ants and bumblebees.  I miss all the things that you can find and eat…clover nectar, dandelion leaves, water from the stream.  My parents’ most fervent warning in the summertime was, don’t eat the wild mushrooms, they might look like something we eat, but they’re poisonous!  🙂  Oh, and you can’t go barefoot unless your feet are tough enough to run on the gravel.  You know, in case you’re on the side of the road and a tractor comes over the top of the hill at 25 miles an hour!  Such simplicity!  Back then I really did think the most likely way to die would be getting run over by a piece of farm equipment because I wouldn’t get out of the way fast enough.  Or possibly getting run over by a stampede of cows…I was always aware of where the cows were when we were playing in the pasture!  I miss the sun rising over one hill and setting over the other.

I don’t totally understand how one raises kids in a city.  Obviously, I’ll most likely end up doing just that, but there are things I’m afraid they’ll miss out on.  How do they learn about east and west?  Seasons?  Weather?  How do they learn about birth and death?  Fire?  Plants?  Where food comes from?  Where do they climb trees, build things, explore in an environment that’s safe but out of sight of their mom? 

What did I miss out on, by not growing up in a town?

Father

I found a movie marathon on The Hallmark Channel today, of the movies based on Jeneatte Oke books.  The first one is Love Comes Softly, which I’ve seen before.  There is a moment in the movie that I remember it meant a lot to me the last time I saw the movie, and it renewed its meaning for me today.  The woman is questioning the man’s faith, and God’s love, in the face of tragedy.  The man explains that his daughter could fall down and get hurt even if he is walking beside her, but that doesn’t mean he allowed it to happen.  A father’s unconditional love means that his daughter knows he will pick her up and carry her when it does happen.  So it is with our Father in heaven.  I love that comparison.

I really feel for people who don’t have a father in their lives.  I have a wonderful Daddy.  When I was a little girl he raised hogs, and he would feed them every day by carrying five-gallon buckets of feed to the barn.  I would follow him around with my tiny little bucket, it maybe held a half gallon of feed.  I must have slowed him down, but he was so patient.  In hindsight, it was like it was more important to him that I learn from him, spend time with him.  He has a great capacity for understanding as well.  After my parents moved to their new house, one weekend when I was visiting the dog destroyed my favorite doll.  I was like 20 at the time, perfectly capable of living life without my favorite dolly.  🙂  But my Dad hugged me, let me be upset about it.  Believe it or not, I don’t have a natural capacity for patience.  I work really hard at it.  My first instinct tends to be, “If I can’t have it right now, I guess I don’t want it at all, I’m going to find something else.”  Whatever patience I have, I learned from him.

My point is, I think a good father helps a child to believe in a good Father.  I may have not figured out the “Jesus stuff” until I was in my 20s, but I believed in God the Father ever since I could remember.  It never occurred to me not to trust my dad, not to believe that he loves me.  It was the same with God.  I would imagine if you had issues with trusting your dad, it would be almost impossible, especially as a little kid, to believe in the love of a Father you can’t see and touch.

I’ve been so blessed to have that basic faith that so far has been unwavering.  I’ve never had a moment of thinking, “What if God isn’t real?”  He just is.  The specifics seem to get worked out little by little, such is the lifelong journey of faith.  But that journey is possible because of the basic understanding that God is real, and here, and loving.