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Preserve Pioneer Friendship

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Pioneer WIA.jpgThis weekend, a dear friend down the road several miles called me with an SOS. Every nook and crannie of her kitchen was STILL filled with tomatoes, apples, peppers, onions and plums, all despite her best efforts to can, juice, bake and freeze the bountiful harvest into submission. Having my own nightmares about spare apples from time to time, I loaded the kids into the car and headed to help. You see, our friendship is the type that makes tough tasks quick work. And there is nothing more satisfying than providing for your families in a cozy kitchen with someone that makes it feel like your fingers (and pans) are flying through the job.


In my part of the country, there are still collasped sod shanties (yes, think Little House on the Prairie) strewn about on early homesteads, now part of larger properties. As I wash my dishes at our sink, I often look down the dry creekbed into what would have been the prized sod home of a young woman 100 years ago. I've found pieces of her cobalt glass household bottles embedded into the akaline soil. One of her forks lives on my window sill as a reminder of those before me....lonely for female companionship on the isolated landscapes and sustained by the times that hard household tasks are made light by dear female friends. From the direction that it appears her old door faced, we would have looked directly into one another's kitchen areas. Mine a gas range with running water, hers an old woodstove with a few prized china dishes.


There are harsher reminders of friendship needs here as well. Not far from where we canned this weekend, the remains of a house foundation and a few nailed boards still stand. These are all that remain from a family that lost multiple children in a house fire long, long ago. Just a step from the foundation lies a tiny bed's wrought iron heart still bent in a longing shape. The deep prairie has since swallowed all memories that remain from that horrifying day but we pass the scene somberly each time I've helped check the water for the cattle below. There is no doubt in my mind that the surrounding women were there that infamous time as well. To provide comfort. To provide strength. To get through the remains of that day, and the others that followed, with resolve. With hot food and water for a family that needed every help offered and would never ask.


In this era of "social interaction," I fear we are losing this intimacy with the lives of those nearby. I am fortunate to live where these pioneer ghosts remind us to find joy and comfort together. We rejoice in ordinary tasks. We still hand-dig some of the graves of those lost forever. And we know how to fill a 9" by 13" pan with sympathy and solidarity.  The internet is fast but my car is faster. Please don't forget the women around you. They need you as much as you need them.

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About the Author
Anne has worked in agriculture since she was old enough to sweep the floor of the family machine shed. She writes about rural & outdoor life from the most remote county seat in the Lower 48, where she and her husband chase two children. Her experience ranges from picking apricots in 100 degree weather and working with Hutterite colonies, to discussing ag trade with the Ambassador of New Zealand and judging cured meats.