Ugh. Still?!

It’s Thursday and it’s still 100 degrees.  Four days in a row of 100+ degree weather.  I think I’ve had about all I can take. 

The green beans are fried.  I dont think they’ll come back, but,  the cucumber seems to be doing okay.  I picked two yesterday. 

Last night I came home from work, took a bath, changed my clothes and went to the yarn store.  Abundant Yarn has A/C and is only a few blocks from my place so last night I hung out there till close.  It’s so hot that one of the boys who works there came in at 6AM just so he could crash out on the sofa for 4 hours to get some sleep.  Even with the A/C running since Monday it was still about 80 in there last night.  80 may sound hot, but it was more than 20 degrees cooler than it was outside. 

The question I have every day is: How did the pioneer’s do it?  How did they, especially the pioneer women, handle it.  Back then women wore long, heavy, dresses.  In the summer they may not have worn all the petticoats that were usually required but wearing a long dress had to be freaking hot.  Modesty of the day said you couldnt shorten your dress over your knees or run around in your bloomers and undershirt.  There was no electricity, so, no fans during the day or at night, no refrigeration or freezers (no popsicles!).  Women on homesteads often did the same work as men as well as the household chores.  High heat makes me short tempered and very cranky.  I’d be wanted for murder on the High Plains.  Being from Iowa it might be, murder on the prairie, or murder on the flood plain.  

It’s 100 degrees here.  I couldnt imagine baking bread or standing over a wood burning stove on a day like today.  Even if that wood burning stove was outside.  I couldnt imagine plowing a field with horses or if I was too poor to own a horse either me or my husband would have to have been attached to the plow to pull it.  Living in a sod house built into a hillside, might have had it’s advantages.  Dirt is a natural insulator after all.

Even so, farmers and homesteaders were much more dependant on the mercy of the weather than we are today.  If your well dried up or there wasnt enough rain you were just screwed.  It could mean moving or starvation.  Could you imagine digging a well in 100+ heat?  Or digging a well, building a house, weeding and hoeing crops, or harvesting crops when it’s that hot?  There was no “it’s too hot to move”.  There was only “this has to be done so we can eat.  This has to be done so we can survive”.  People probably died of heat stroke/heat exhaustion more often than now.  On a homestead your nearest neighbour could be 5 or more miles away.  The nearest town with a doctor could be a day’s ride away.  You really were on your own.

What did the pioneers on the Oregon Trail do in the summer.  Traveling, walking, plodding along day after day in the summer heat and, depending on the area, humidity.  How many people said “I cant take it anymore.  I’m getting off at the next town”

We’re pretty spoiled by comparison.  I can go home and have a popsicle or have ice water with cucumber and lemon.  I can take a cold bath and run away to the ac at the yarn store.  I can have a cold beer at the yarn store.  I can wear a mini skirt and tank top or a thin silk shift or my undershirt and underwear and I dont have to wear socks and tall boots.  I can say “it’s too hot to do anything”, watch documentaries on my laptop, drink lots of cold water, go up to the store and get something from the deli.  I have a fan, a freezer, and a fridge.  If my plants die I’m not going to starve.  I can get my ice pack out at night and lay on it or put it on the back of my neck.  I’m unlikely to get heat exhaustion. 

I guess, the pioneers wouldnt have known any different.  They grew up that way.  Still, though, I wonder how they would have dealt with this.

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1 Response to Ugh. Still?!

  1. Mary says:

    There were a couple of great books on pioneer women that I read some time ago (“Pioneer women : the lives of women on the frontier” by Linda Peavy & Ursula Smith, 1996 and “Pioneer women : voices from the Kansas frontier” by Joanna Stratton 1981). Both are available at my local library, so might be available at yours, too; also at Amazon. Riveting look into the tough lives these women endured. Would like to think I could have survived, but it is difficult to imagine…esp after you read their stories.

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