I am in the middle of reading Willa Cather’s novel by this title, and in the beginning of Part II, I was struck by the description of how the land has changed in less than two decades.
I am already in love with the characters: Alexandra and her visionary, strong heroine role, Lou and his distractibility, Oscar and his rut-running determination. It took grit to settle the Great Plains–grit that I’m not sure I have.
I watched a PBS reality show of sorts back in 2002 (I think it aired in 2001) called Frontier House. They sent several families into the wilds of Montana to “settle” it 1800s-style with just a week of training under their belts. I doubt I would have survived.
Think of the innovation and effort it took to do things like harness wind power and build railroads. I would like to say I would have been one to stop activity, lean on my hoe for a moment, and see the possibilities for enterprise, but it’s hard to really know for sure I can’t help but think that these days we’ve let our bodies and minds get soft.
How about you? Would you have been able to survive the early days on the Plains? Would you have been one trying to make the load easier through invention and teamwork, or would you have put your nose to the grindstone and stuck to hard, yet routine, work?