These essays are a My Antonia assignment from Diane’s American Literature Course.

A Day in My Life in Wyoming Territory

March 30

We have survived this long, long winter!  It was hard, and very cold, so much different than the winters back East.  And the wind! I’ve never heard it howl like that before. But now spring is here, hopefully to stay, though there is always the possibility of spring snowstorms.  One of our neighbors warned us of that, and his wife advised us not to plant our garden until late May, so it doesn’t freeze. In early June, some of our neighbors are going to help Papa dig a well.  We have a pond at the bottom of the hill that we have been getting water from this winter, but it will be nice to have water closer to the house. I hope they don’t have to dig too deep for water. When we stopped here last July, the land was so dry that it seemed it never rained.  There isn’t much green out here, just sage, yucca, and lots of dried-up grass. There are also a very few trees, but the hills act as windbreaks instead.

We hauled water from the pond today.  My arms and back are very sore, and my everyday dress was so wet from the water splashing out of the barrels on the way back up the hill that I had to hang it out on the line and wear my good one until it dried!  The meadowlarks have come, and their beautiful, trilling song fills the wind. I think the evenings are my favorite time of day. We all sit and Papa reads to us, or carves while we all talk of our plans for the coming years here. Lorena and I knit and crochet or read, and Mama keeps an eye on Lydia and sweet little Elsie while they play and she talks to Papa and us.  

April 1

“April showers bring May flowers.”  Today April has brought not showers, but another snowstorm!  I helped Mama wash clothes, but we had to hang lines all over the kitchen to dry the clothes since it was snowing. We were going to wash the bedding too, but we are waiting until next week in hopes that we can hang it outside.  It will be Mama’s birthday in a few weeks. I haven’t decided what to make for her yet, but I need to decide quickly or I will run out of time!

Mama gives Lorena and me our lessons in the afternoons when Lydia and Elsie are napping, since there aren’t enough children here yet to make paying a teacher worthwhile.

It was quite warm this afternoon, and much of the snow melted.  If it doesn’t snow again tonight and the day is nice, Lorena and I are going to go to town with Papa tomorrow.  

April 2

We were able to go to town! My friend Emily was there with her papa and brother, so she helped me pick out cloth for my new dress.  It is a pretty golden-brown calico with little dark-blue and white flowers all over it. Some friends in town are getting married in a couple of weeks, and we were invited to come celebrate.  I hope Mama and I can finish the dress in time so I can wear it. I can’t wait!

April 3

Mama and Papa are going to buy some pigs from a neighbor soon.  We will raise them over the summer, then sell the meat to some people in town in the fall.  With the chickens and ducks we already have, we are coming ever closer to having a real farm!  All the dreaming we do in the evenings is beginning to be not simply patterns of fancy, but the just as beautiful reality!

LW (15)

 

August of 1890

Dear Adelaide,

I am sorry I have not written for a while.  We have been harvesting in the garden. We have all sorts of plants.  Last year the chickens ruined quite a bit of the garden, so this year Father put a fence up.  We recently got another milk cow. We already had three, but Father got her anyway. After I named her Bess, I realized we have four cows with B names: Bossy, Betty, Beth, and Bess.

Summer is such a fun time to watch all the baby animals grow up.  In March, we got thirty little chicks. Now they are big and strong, eating as many bugs as their stomachs can hold.  We currently have fifty chickens, twenty of which are laying. The pigs are doing well. We will sell them in the early winter.  They are getting good and fat, for all the neighbors who want fresh meat. We will save two for ourselves.

We just got a new puppy yesterday.  He has got the biggest paws you have ever seen.  I named him Peeve. He is a black dog, with amber eyes.  He already gets along with the chickens and shows no sign of wanting to eat them.  The kittens we got last year have grown up into pretty cats. I named them Tessa, Dessa, and the  naughty one, Fritz. Tessa and Dessa are pretty little gray cats, but Fritz is completely black, with bright green eyes.  He has a white-tipped tail and is always swishing it disdainfully.

I woke up at five o’clock this morning, so I went outside to go milk the cows.  The sunrise this morning was beautiful. The mountains began to blush as the sun began to show its face over the hill in front of the house.  The meadowlarks were singing and I could hear pheasants. Summer is such a good time to live in Wyoming, especially as it now is a new state. Most of my day is spent with the animals, which is exactly where I like to be.  Well, Mother wants me to go round up the cows now. Tell your family hello for me.

With Love,

Lorena  Wilson
LJW (13)

 

Dear Aunt Addy,

This past summer the days were pretty routine.  If the day was not Wednesday I would get up, get dressed, and automatically head to the barn.  After taking care of all the animals, Ma would always have breakfast hot and ready sitting on the kitchen table.  I can still taste the pancakes like they were right off the griddle. After breakfast, school was next on the agenda. Even though it was summer, I had the privilege to learn with a couple other children.  Of course, we only studied for two hours a day, but that was enough. On Mondays and Fridays, Pa would pick me up after school and I would help pick up the feed at the mill. When I got home from school, normally I would eat a late lunch, but on busy days, eating a large dinner was more convenient.  Most afternoons were fairly routine, either helping Pa on the farm or helping Ma prepare dinner. When dinner was finally ready, seeing us children bound towards the kitchen was normal.

Late after dinner, Pa always read a chapter of the Bible, and my oldest brother, Sam, would entertain us by playing his fiddle he had won at a local talent show.  Sam’s biggest competition in the talent show was Bobby. Bobby’s talent was how to properly wear a pair of overalls. For Sam, winning his fiddle was harder than it seemed.  

On Wednesdays, instead of going to tend the animals, we went to town.  In town my favorite place to go would have to be the general store. If we went with Pa, he would buy us kids a licorice whip.  Wednesdays were my favorite days. On Sundays, the whole family would go to church, then have a picnic on the church lawn. Sundays were always relaxing days.  

Well, I hope you are feeling great and Uncle Richie is healing quickly from his broken leg.  I look forward to seeing you in the spring. I always enjoy your visit with us. When you come, remember to tell Uncle and the boys to wear their overalls the right way. Otherwise, Bobby will feel obliged to share his talent.  

Your Niece,

Grace
GB (14)

 

One bright summer morning, I woke up (because the annoying rooster crowed) from a marvelous dream about riding my horse, Wildfire, across the prairie.  I got up and pulled on my pants and buttoned up one of my brother’s old work shirts that he outgrew and gave me. Leaping down the stairs into the kitchen, I saw my Pa and my older brothers, John and James, already heading out the door to the barn.  I raced to get my leather boots. Every time I put the boots on, I am back in my dream riding Wildfire across the prairie. Interrupting my daydream, Ma yelled, “Land sakes, child, if you don’t get out there quick your brothers will have all the work done!” So I stopped dreaming and hurried toward the barn.

The sun was just peeking over the ridge when I reached the barn.  Huffing and puffing, I hurried with my chores: cleaning the horse stalls, feeding the pigs, feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs, and chasing away any birds that got into the barn during the night.  I had to do all of this before my Pa and brothers got back from checking on the cattle along the ridge. My stomach was growling as I closed the chicken coop door.

Once my Pa and brothers got back home, we could finally eat our breakfast of eggs, sausage, and pancakes. After breakfast, since it was Tuesday, we got ready to go to town.  James got the team hitched up to the wagon and John helped Pa with the harness we had borrowed from the livery stable man when we bought Wildfire. I helped Ma pack our lunch in the Sunday picnic basket.  

It’s a bumpy two hours to town.  Once in town, I went with my Pa and brothers to the livery stables to return the harness.  I would have stayed in there the whole day, but my mother came and dragged me to the general store, while she lectured me on how a girl can’t find a husband among the cattle and horse manure.  Once in the store, we picked out dress material, some flour, and some sugar. After the general store, we ate our delicious lunch and started the two-hour bumpy ride back home.

Back home, John put the horses and wagon in the barn.  Pa and James helped Ma with her packages, and I ran upstairs to get out of the itchy dress and put on some pants.  Once I got on a more comfortable outfit, I fed the pigs and chickens and groomed Wildfire. I would have taken him riding, but Ma was calling that supper was ready.  

After supper, Pa read the Bible while Ma sewed up a hole in James’ pants, while he and John played chess and I worked on my new chaps.  Finally it was time for me to crawl up to the loft and go to sleep. This is a normal summer Tuesday on my family’s ranch in Wyoming.

BB (16)   

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