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Friday, February 19, 2010

Wiling Away the Winter Hours

This will be the 3rd winter that I have done what I put my mind to do and I am so proud. This winter I bought a stack of books, diaries actually, of the women who ventured west in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was precipitated by my daughter's gift of Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose. It fascinated me so that I had to search out more and I found several womens' diaries of the family journeys that many strong and courageous women made in covered wagons, faithfully recording their daily experiences of cooking, walking beside wagons in knee deep mud, childbirth, sickness, starvation and death. Those stories are the real stories that you won't get in a high school history class. Most of these books have been compiled from letters and journals and published with respect of the original misspellings and grammar. These are better than any reality show on television~this was reality of the American dream.
Our winter has been unusually snowy, but can you imagine having to hunt for game when the cold has driven them all out, being on the barren prairie with nothing to eat, no food for your family or oxen and the oxen dropping dead and you have to help pull the wagon? Being lost on a trail that someone posted on a tree that turned out to be very treacherous and a wild goose chase? Leaving your husband or child in a makeshift grave in the middle of nowhere~a place that you will never be able to visit again? It really makes me wonder if I could have survived physically or maybe more importantly emotionally? I stay up late at night, sometimes too late, and read and wonder and try to put myself in their shoes. I write the authors of these compilations and thank them for the research that they have done and the incredible mental pictures they have given me and all the other people who have read these marvelous works gleaning out a little bit of imagined experience.

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