Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prairie Stories

Gazing ahead the father could not see the top of the other wagons over the high grasses. They had stopped a bit longer than the rest, marveling at the immense ocean of flowers and grasses. It was similar to when he sat on the beach at Baltimore, waves lapping at their feet, wondering if he would ever return. Now he had found a new ocean, a new frontier, where very few of his people had traveled yet. Maybe he would see a cooking fire at dusk, standing high up in his wagon, hoping to see any movement through the thick undergrowth. He knew if they headed due west they would come to a river, and a major settlement where the rest of the group they were to meet would be.

Traveling was very hazardous in these vast prairie regions; it was not unusual to only travel five to eight miles some days, just routing around the swollen streams. One wrong step and you could be knee deep in some foul smelling muck in the fen they were sitting in. The ground was like a mattress, springing back up with each step. Up on the hillside sat enormous boulders, scarred from their glacial decent thousands of years before, a playground for the children to play on that night. The soil these glaciers brought and formed was black gold, and attracted thousands each year. It was almost like the songs of the Sirens, beckoning a variety of hardy souls, then dashing their hopes out with the rugged fight for survival. Little did this family expect with the rain and overcast, that they had traveled in a complete circle, unable to determine direction. Their last fifteen miles took them two days, only through the luck of finding an Indian hunting party, where they laughingly pointed them in the right direction, less than a mile away.

Those who stayed found a new way to survive, and with the new plows being made were able to rip open the tough sods, and reconfigure the vast network of waterways into new pathways. The area changed dramatically, with the lose of habitat, food was produced to feed millions. This vast prairie went from seventy-eight percent in the late 1880’s to less than one percent today. The woodlands have survived with similar percentages, but are lacking in the diversity of species. With this lacking of diversity, so went the populations of wildlife. Now to even get a chance to see vast prairie areas we must look at areas replanted hundreds of years away from where they were before being disturbed. This is not an overnight development, unfortunately we forget to consider this when we alter our world, however tiny it may be.

Was this right or wrong, here we stand dependent on all about us; we are the survivors of a hardy stock of ancestral heritage. We stand proud of what we have done and where we are going, failing to look out for those we encounter, or the land we live in. This is a story of one of those hearty pioneers, a descendant of that lost family on the prairie. Their spirits still sail along, a gentle prairie breeze.

Thoughts we carry
In our hearts
Are shared with others
To give them a start
For their new life.


  1. You are talking about the roots of many who ventured into the Midwest. Your pictures and writings make me wish to visit. Great Job!!!

  2. Many peope think everyone came to Ellis Islamd. Mine came to Baltimore on a ship, took the train to Chicago and bought wagons to homestead SE NE.You have to drive 40 miles from where they settled for a large town over 10,000. The town they started is at 97 and many nearby are only in the teens.I have always lived in the burbs and large towns until I moved back to Iowa.


Keep it positive and informative,I enjoy hearing from you!