Friday, October 24, 2008

Pioneer Women Don't Get the Blues

Our kitchen refrigerator has been out of commission for six days. Fortunately, we have another refrigerator in the basement, but when I want to cook, I have to make multiple trips up and down stairs. On a few occasions I've found myself whining about this temporary inconvenience, and at times I convinced myself that this was a hardship. When I find myself whining about anything, I always reach out for touchstones to help me put things in perspective. This week a reached for my bookshelf, and cracked open Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton.

The cover says it all. At least I don't have to gather buffalo chips in a wheelbarrow to fuel my cook stove and heat my house. I live a life of luxury.

After reading excerpts, I reached this conclusion: Without the independent, strong-willed, determined spirit of pioneer women, today the Great Plains would still be unsettled frontier.

Kansas women are self-sufficient, independent souls who take care of business. Amelia Earhart, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Cary Nation, and Lynette Woodard are just a few. All Kansans can list several women who possess a pioneer spirit. I see it in my 92-year-old grandmother who still tends a garden and who can still kill a snake with a hoe with ninja-like nimbleness and precision.

I see it in my mother who after quitting high school when was pregnant with me, earned her GED and 30 years later earned a college degree. I see it in my four-year-old daughter when she insists she's capable of dressing herself or pour her own Orange juice. If she follows her mother's lead, she will also be a pioneer woman.

I take this moment to salute the pioneer women, and for those those who crave a little taste of the book, the following is an excerpt:

On festive occasions, the meager corn and wheat supplies were often baked into special breads, cakes, and biscuits. Bessie Wilson recalled one such occasion. "When it was known that Mr. J. B. Jackson was to be married at Ellsworth on September 6, 1875, some of the neighbors planned a surprise for him and his bride on their return. Mother was asked to bake a cake for the affair. In consequence., we ate our bread without butter for several days in order that father might have enough to take to the store and exchange for the amount of sugar necessary to make a cake. This he did, covering the sixteen miles horseback. Mother's was the only cake at this important gathering, and despite the fact that she had no recipe to go by, and that she used sour milk and soda in the making, it was pronounced by those who partook as being all a bride's cake should be."

Bessie Wilson's mother must been once heck of a cook.

Praise the pioneer spirit,


Nella said...

What nice tribute. My husband and I always think of the pioneers when we drive through the Flint Hills. How did they do it? I am not made of sturdy enough stock to have been a pioneer woman.
My grandmother was. My husband's grandmother was. I am sometimes ashamed. Nella

Sarah said...

I love this tribute to the generosity of neighbors! We just do not know the meaning of "going without" and "making do" the way the pioneers did. That a family would save so much to make their neighbors' wedding celebration meaningful is truly touching.