Thursday, October 14, 2010

Through the gray woods came lanterns with wagons and horses....


I drive about 14 miles to work every morning. And some mornings, when the sun is hitting the fog, making it rise up off the fields and the ground, revealing cows and silos, I wonder what it would be like to have lived that far from town in a day before paved roads and cars.

From what I've read, and what I can find, a covered wagon could travel about 10-15 miles a day. Maybe 20 if the ground was flat, the weather good, and the horses well conditioned.

But even at 20 miles a day, going into town from where my house is currently settled would've been a day's drive. It would have meant finding a place to sleep for the night (most likely under the wagon), so you could do your shopping and turn around a drive that wagon back home the next day, arriving late into the dark night.

Now, if you weren't going into town for much, you could take a horse. That would get you there and back in one day, but you couldn't carry supplies back to the family at the homestead. Not much reason for being gone all day if you couldn't show anything for it, is there?

It fascinates me really, always has. I love living in my little town; I loved living out in the middle of nowhere Kansas during high school. But I love it because it was and is a chosen isolation. Any time I want, I can jump in the car and be in town in 20 minutes (or less, depending on my driving speed).

In the days before roads and cars, if you didn't farm, you lived in the city. The city is where jobs were, and you had to live close to the job. If you were a farmer, you lived in the country, and there was no travelling "out to the farm" each morning from your warm house in town.

Now, thanks to progress, I can live in the middle of nowhere, and still work in the city.

I can step outside my door, in my pajamas, scream my lungs out, and nobody will hear me.

Or, as we did in high school, shoot cans off the woodpile from my driveway without fear of hitting any neighbors.

Read the Little House on the Prairie series sometime. "Little House in the Big Woods" is where the post title came from. They reveal a life that is simpler and yet more complex, sadder and happier at the same time. There never really has been a golden age, every age has it's problems and joys. But think about it next time you're out on the highway, how different things were, not so long ago.

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