When we were children there wasn’t much for entertainment; we had dirt, rocks, sticks and water. Mix them together and you could make some mighty fine toys. The closest store was probably 10+ miles away – that doesn’t seem that far by today’s standards, but on bikes or by foot – it was.
The water came from a hand pump well; you’d have to pump and prime it over and over to get anything out – but the water was ice, ice cold, and had a very slight taste of iron… it was a good taste. Showering involved heating water over a hot stove, and pouring it out of “showering cans”. I always thought everyone in the world knew what a showering can is – but I’m not so sure now.
The bathroom was a hole in the ground, covered at least by four walls and a roof – but in the winter or at night it was a daunting, cold or scary undertaking. At the same time, in summer evenings, it was a great opportunity to sneak out into the night and catch fireflies or raid the garden, although the coyotes, bears, moose and other wild critters that frequently were heard stalking through the night requires great courage to venture forth.
There was very little that we ate that wasn’t grown or raised, that’s just how it was. The planting, the tilling the weeding the gathering, and the canning. The vegetables, the rabbits, the chickens, the turkeys, the wild berries, apples, elderberries, blueberries, strawberries. They were all handpicked, or raked. I had to help in the butchering, it was part of life.
When it was 20 below outside, it was 20 below inside. The layers and layers of blankets, cast off when needing to make a run outside to the outhouse; but there was always a warm stove burning in the center of the house built with slat boards and no insulation.
The single pane of glass, frosted over in the winter with cold air creeping through the cracks around the door, around the window, through the wall boards and up through the floor boards. But the sound of crickets in the summer, like they were sitting in the same room… they probably were.
The root cellar full of fresh vegetables, and lizards; damp, cold, dirt. Just a whole in the floor of the closet, and a whole dug into the earth.
Life is so much different now than it was then. Was it better? It’s hard to say. You worked hard every day of your life, you slept hard each night. Our world is a very different place now. My kids will never understand what life WAS like. Which brings me to the topic at hand.
I have started reading Little House on the Prairie to my children. It is amazing the number of emotions it stirs in me, not only as I recall it being read to me when I was a child – we had no other entertainment at night when the sticks and rocks and dirt and water were put away. But, I remember what it was like to live off the land – Jeremiah Johnson style, I remember what it was like to live in a house that was made of drafty slats, to live in the wild woods, I even, to some extent, remember how hard it was to live – none of the high tech, drive over to the store and run a piece of plastic through a machine and they bring out food prepared and ready to eat.
Not that life today is bad; I’m not sure I could go back to the “good ‘ole days” – but I wonder, sometimes I even yearn for those more simple days.
I am going to love reading this series to my children it makes me homesick for childhood, nostalgic – and perhaps, just perhaps, they will get a small amount of vision as to what life used to be like.