Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why didn't they all die?

By which I mean the pioneers. I'm re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books, which I haven't read since I was a kid. Back then I was just interested in them as a story and I think I viewed them rather like fairy tales. But now I'm reading about how hard their lives were and I am astounded that the entire generation didn't just curl up and die. Or freeze to death. Or starve. Or collapse from exhaustion.

I remember back when I was employed (well, employed for money) how I'd come home from working all day in front of a computer and feel tired. But these people slaved away at manual labor from before dawn until after dark. They plowed and planted, hoed and weeded, harvested, chopped, butchered, trapped, baked, scrubbed, you name it. And they were happy at the end of the day with a little fiddle music and some dried plums. Christmas meant a tin cup and two pieces of Christmas candy and they were thrilled.

How spoiled we've become. I was just feeling tired about doing laundry. Oh yes, how hard it is to carry a basket from the bedroom to the garage. How in the world would I have managed filling a tub from a well, scrubbing with my cold hands, hanging heavy woolen clothing on a line to freeze in the winter chill and then spending the entire next day ironing? The answer is, I wouldn't. I'm a wimp, I admit it. I am so thankful to be living in a world with dishwashers and central heating, TV and grocery stores.

When I read the accounts of how the Ingalls family lived I cannot help but shake my head. It all seems impossibly hard to my spoiled 21st century self. I suppose if that's all you know it seems normal but the amount of work involved in just getting from day to day boggles the mind.

So how about you? Would you have made it as a pioneer?


Kittie Howard said...

I don't know if I'd have survived it, but I certainly would have given it my all. You would have, too. It's in our DNA!

FinnyKnits said...

Seriously - we go backpacking for four days and I'm wiped out from having to cook food on a cookstove and haul in wood. I think I lose 5 lbs every time we go backpacking just from the light manual labor we do.

Which is probably why you don't see a lot of fat asses in these old stories. It's hard to be a lard ass while chopping wood for 12 hours straight.

doris said...

oh how easily i could have been a pioneer....i come from strong peasant stock....i chop my own firewood and can make meal after meal after meal on my woodstove. i once dragged a dead dear over a mile from my yard so it wouldnt smell up my house. i have gone for days without power and up until five years ago had never owned a home that had a heater or a/c. yup no long as i have my trusty still i can do anything!