Admiring pioneer life from a distance

Jeanette Kendall
Jeanette Kendall/
Executive Editor

Whenever I travel somewhere, I really get caught up in the feel of the place.

Rather than buying T-shirts with a state name on them, I buy historical books so I know some of what happened there.

Recently, I traveled to Colorado and South Dakota. There I bought books about Wild Bill Hickok, the Cog Railway on Pikes Peak, ghost stories in Estes Park and Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor of Crazy Horse.

I have yet to read any of them, because on my travels I also learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived in De Smet, S.D.

Although I didn’t get to see her homestead, I suddenly got on a “Little House on the Prairie” pioneer kick and I still am.

I purchased the popular TV series and borrowed the books from a friend. Some nights I watch an episode and then read the book.

Even though my friends and family tell me I wouldn’t have  survived a day of pioneer life, I am still attracted to it. I guess it’s because life was simpler back then — way simpler.

By simpler, I don’t mean easier; they had to build their own homes, dig their own wells and make their own food from scratch.

There was simply fewer distractions unlike today’s fast-paced, technological society.

Jeanette Kendall is executive editor at TimesNewspapers.

Pioneers had the bare essentials — the necessities — and their days revolved around working to ensure their survival, mainly hunting and growing crops to eat.

Since I don’t like to cook, I can see why my friends would think I wouldn’t survive a day on the prairie.

However, if I was born during those times, I wouldn’t know anything different, so I am sure I’d be just fine.

My friend Michelle has a theory that people during those times never got depressed because they never had time to be. However, this theory is coming from a woman who is close to being a “pioneer” herself.

She continues to amaze me.

Once when I was at her house, I had a burn on my finger. She ran out to her garden, pulled some herbs, went into the kitchen and whipped up a salve for my skin.

My mouth hung open; I was amazed.

Another time, while visiting, she told me she made Mozzarella cheese from scratch. As I inquired about it, she jumped up and said, “Let’s go make some now.”


I only understand buying prepackaged cheese from the grocery store.

Michelle added all the ingredients in a bowl, stirred them and put them in a pan to heat. All I recall after that is that a cloth and the microwave were involved and a lot of kneading.

After about a half hour, we had homemade cheese.

I was amazed again.

Michelle does stuff like this all the time. A friend and I ate dinner at her home once and my friend mentioned he was hungry for chocolate cake. Michelle hopped up and whipped up a cake and the icing from scratch!

Yep, my friend is just like Ma Ingalls.

While I will never come close to Ma Ingalls or any other resemblance of a domesticated homemaker, I am dropping hints to my mom that I would like to have an old fashioned Christmas this year like the pioneers.

For one Christmas, little Laura Ingalls received a pair of homemade gloves, some candy and a doll. She was overjoyed.

Of course, my simple “homemade” Christmas gifts will come prepackaged from the store.