One of my works in progress is set in 1867 Kansas and involves a homesteading family. I ‘m involved in ongoing research so I can build the best story world of what’s involved. I mentioned this fact at a recent writers’ meeting and received a recommendation for this memoir.
Although the setting is South Dakota in 1907-08, much of what was shared about the attitudes and emotions of the people involved could be applied to many time periods. The first paragraph has two sisters, both younger than twenty-one years, arriving on the vast, empty prairie from Chicago to claim the older sister’s plot. Ida Mary had been proud of the fact she’d chosen one with a house about thirty miles away from Pierre. Nothing in the land office informed them the “house” was a shack with tar paper for siding—a disappointment that sets the tone for the story.
The young women are dropped off by a man who makes his livelihood as a locator who drives homesteaders out to their purchased plots. Seeing how ill-prepared they are, he does leave them a jug of water. Otherwise, they are left to their own devices. What transpires in the mandatory time to gain their deed, described in prose that is almost lyrical at times, are the struggles the women endure to survive. Especially worthwhile was learning about the ways the women adapted and the community that is built when people share hardships together.
Often research is a bit dry, but this memoir was enjoyable and entertaining. A highly recommended read both as a research tool regarding homesteading but also as a tale of the human spirit determined to make a better life. The definition of a pioneer spirit.