Wildfires, grasshoppers, blizzards and no money. Who could one ask for more?
Treasures are found when cleaning out more than 100 years of living. I found several last week that amounted to no dollar value, but historic family value.
My family is selling the resort that my parents purchased in 1971. Both of them have passed on and so it is left up to my siblings and me to sort out and distribute the tools and household goods they used throughout their time together. It has been a history lesson of sorts.
Among the items toted out of the the nooks and crannies were found books, lots of books. And the books that I found especially interesting were the editions focused on the history of the place where I grew up - that being Lincoln Township, Plymouth County, Iowa.
In one of the centennial editions I found especially interesting was an article written by one of my great uncles, Frank. He was one of my great-grandfather's kids and wrote the following lines concerning my great-grandfather's first introduction to the land on which he would place his family's future.
It reads as follows:
"John and Anna Wetrosky received their education in Bohemia where they spent their early lives. In 1874 they decided to seek a home for themselves and their children in America. They located in Lincoln Township, Plymouth County, Iowa. John had learned the trade of a mason and was an accomplished musician. He first bought eight acres of land on which he built a small frame house, twelve by fourteen feet and closed the cracks with clay. They lived there until 1888 when they homesteaded a quarter section, built a new house and farmed there until their deaths."
That was the farm where I grew up and many times I tried to imagine what the landscape looked like when John and Anna arrived on it in a wagon loaded with enough lumber to build that first small cabin.
Other descriptions in this book depict the land at that time as "high prairie grass as far as the eye could see" and "wild native flowers grew on the rich loam soil, gently waving in the prairie breeze. Countless game birds and song birds were abundant beside small game animals which provided the early settler with a source of food. The Floyd River in its unpolluted day had clear water and a plentiful supply of game fish. Predators such as the fox, coyote and wolves roamed the country. Buffalo were no longer present."
My great-grandparents must have thought they had reached Eden. And then the real work began with the plowing of the fields and the endless threats of prairie fires, grasshopper plagues, drought and blizzards.
I imagined what it must have been like to have been living in that 12- by 14-foot cabin through that time. No wonder a great many settlers decided it was too rough and headed back east, leaving their dreams behind.
I thought about those things as we sorted out my parents' things a week ago. I didn't find a treasure of any monetary value, but I found a piece of my and my family's history. The land has changed over the years and there is very little natural prairie left.
I never experienced tall, waving bluestem grass as far as the eye could see or a clear and clean Floyd River. Reading of those experiences my great-grandparents experienced made going through my parents' house and finding that history a valuable exercise.
Wildfires, grasshopper plagues, blizzards and very little money. They stuck it out. I read about those things just last week in those dusty volumes that came out of the nooks and crannies of my parents' house. An unexpected gift.
See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!