Monday, February 27, 2006
Hardy pioneer stock
While Unka Bill was visiting, he and OmegaGranny went through some of the Stuff in Granny's house. The Omegas are inveterate packrats. It could be genetic, it could be a nurture thing. Either way, it's unnerving to realize that you have, in your attic, boxes that were packed by you when you left college the first time, which you haven't peered into since, but have dutifully lugged around the country on various moves (not that OmegaMom speaks from experience here, oh, no). OmegaGramps and Granny, when they moved from Really Big Midwest City to Teeny Tiny Southwest Town, had so much stuff that the easiest, and cheapest, way for them to transport the majority of it was to rent a piggyback car on the freight train. This comes mostly from OmegaGramps' side of the family. Be that as it may, Unka Bill and OmegaGranny were going through Stuff, and they found OmegaGreatGreatGreatGrandpa's diary. These days, a diary is an outpouring of emotion. We've got the Internets for our historical data--want to know what the weather was like on a particular day in a particular place? Check out NOAA's website. The cost of goods sold in a particular place at a particular time? I'm sure there's a website where you can locate that info, too. So we don't need to record the particulars of our lives, and have the luxury of delving into our emotions, instead. For certain people in the past, though, the diary was a good way to keep track of finances, weather patterns, your inventory. But even through that dry litany of facts, one can gain a good idea of what the life was like. OmegaGGGG and his spouse set out from the East Coast to Iowa to homestead. (Correct me if I'm getting the facts wrong here, OmegaGranny!) They walked. On foot. They would stop at a place and work as hired hands for a while, getting paid in cattle. Most likely, in one cattle. Then they would move on, livestock in tow. By the time they arrived in Iowa, they had a fairly good herd of cattle for their homestead. Now, just imagine that. Walking a thousand miles. Working your asses off. Keeping track of every penny you spend. Collecting cattle, one at a time, for a dream, a place to call your own. All laconically entered into a shabby diary, in entries such as, "Mon. Sept. 7. Left Mrs. Clay's. Weather: Sunny, chilly. 1 cow." It was a vastly different world.