Growing up in small town prairie land creates for a rich history in pioneer living. My grandma has a wardrobe full of pioneer dresses, aprons and bonnets, which was a dream to wear and made recreating Laura Ingells Wilder’s excitement in receiving her new calico dresses a reality.
I went to a L.I.W. day camp where we made rag dolls and butter. Sarah, Plain and Tall and the Oregon Trail computer game were a part of our history curriculum.  Replacing the cultural experience of metropolitan art museums were school field trips to an old one room school-house where we dressed up,  wrote on slates, read from primers and ate lunches out of tin pails.

One cannot learn life on the frontier without learning about its hardships and tragedies:  People dying of starvation, being attacked by Indians and dying of dysentery (thanks Oregon Trail) or typhoid. A memorable field trip was to the Farmer’s Valley Cemetary, a few miles outside of town, down a dirt road, over a one lane bridge, tucked between cornfields. The oldest gravestones around are found here as well as the results of many hardships including Mary and her son Otto who froze in 1873 Easter Blizzard while her husband sought to get them help.

I hadn’t been there since the 4th grade when we went and did grave rubbings to read the epitaphs on the old mossy stones.  “Remember friend, as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I now am, so you shall be, prepare for death, and follow me,” reads Mary and Otto’s double headstone.

I took my nieces and nephew there for a picnic.  It’s a quiet, serene resting place along the Big Blue River (a very small stream), but maybe a river appropriately named to reflect the beginning of many homesteads.

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