Southern ice storms and pioneers… the American spirit

A week or so ago, when I was in our little local library, perusing the biography section to see if there was a book on Beatrix Potter that I had seen Susan Branch recommend, a little book called ” A Bride Goes West” by Nannie T. Alderson ( the bride ) and Helena Huntington Smith ( the collector and writer of Nannie’s recollections ) caught my eye. When the library purchased it, it was only $1.95!  In 1882 Nannie and her husband traveled from West Virginia out to Montana, and this is her story. A fascinating and well-written book, since Nannie was a natural story-teller and the writer did her justice.

Reading the amazing stories of the people in the Southern ice storm stuck on the highway the other day, some of them women with young children, or bus drivers coping with school children all night, or the father delivering his baby…and much much more, reminded me of a passage in the book so I looked it up to type that passage before I returned the book to the library.  ( For instance: ” Ashley McCants spent half a day in her car before she gave up, got out and carried her son 2 miles to a stranger’s house, where they spent the night. ”  CNN story HERE  )

for when we arose the next morning, thinking to make an early start, we found it was snowing. And we were traveling in an open box sled! My husband with his usual resource, however, went to the river bank, and with the help of our new hand, John Logan, cut a number of willow poles. These he bent into half hoops which he fastened at intervals along the box body of our sled, thus duplicating, in effect, the top frame of a covered wagon. Now it only required to cover these with a wagon sheet, and our bobsled was completely enclosed and sheltered from the worst the weather man could send. The body of the sled was then filled with sweet blue grass hay and after that a number of buffalo robes and blankets were included for warmth. I must say, it looked inviting for a one-day’s journey , but I was to travel five days in these narrow quarters with the two babies.  The hundred miles to the ranch were often covered, with a good team, in two days under fair conditions, but just now innumberable snowdrifts lay across our path. We were digging out of the drifts, all the time. One day we traveled from sunup to sundown and only made ten miles.

For four days she was cramped in those quarters with a seven month old baby and a three year old. Can you imagine?  Reading the stories of the poor people stuck on the freeway just brought that section to mind.

A Bride Goes West Book Cover

This was only a small portion of  Nannie’s journey…and their lives were often fraught with difficulties such as having their first lovely little home with amenities from back East burned down by Indians…oh it was a fascinating book! If you like memoirs, and can find it in your local library or a used book store, I am sure that you would enjoy it.  The phrase “making do” finds new meaning when one reads how this young adventurous woman had to live, and did live, yet still joyously for the most part.

The book’s copyright is 1942 and Nannie was 81 years old, living on the ranch of one of her children, when her memories were compiled into this book.  The foreward said that at that time, she still lived in her own house and had the energy of a woman half her age, and would still “lift mammoth kettles of boiling wild-plum jam” etc.

This little book at the library had an interesting one close by to it that I brought home, and I snapped a few pictures from it since I was on a roll with this out-of-the-blue post inspired by the heroes & heroines in the ice storm.

Because ” A Bride Goes West” had no photos, and only little illustrations, I brought this home thinking that it might be an interesting companion book:

Frontier Family Life Collage One

It is quite extensive…I only snapped a few ( and these are old photos in the book so nothing is going to be very clear )  but what I snapped is what I am most interested in…the women’s clothes back then.  If it goes over 72 degrees I am ready to melt. How did they wear those clothes in the summer and do all of their work and live to tell the tale :)

Some pretty wedding clothes here…a family outside of their soddy, and everyone pitching in to harvest apples:

frontier collage 2

A very interesting book…a good companion to something like “A Bride Goes West” as far as visual references.

In ” A Bride Goes West” the pioneering spirit was one of hospitality. Throughout the entire book, people were constantly stopping by to either be fed or sheltered. If anything came out of the stories that I have seen or read about the Atlanta ( and other cities in the south ) ice storm, it is that we still have that spirit alive in this country, when hardship requires it. Shelter, food, looking after one another…it was all there. Businesses staying open or reopening to provide shelter, people opening their homes, restaurant employees feeding stranded travelers and not charging for it…no one needed government to tell them what to do. They just did it.

 Matthew 25:35 “ For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”


You might also enjoy :  Sunday Special : Holly Jolly Vintage Christmas Series Kickoff  or  Delicious Fried Cauliflower, Cornbread & Preserves   or  This Late Summer Week

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