Sampling the pioneer life at Sutter's Fort
Sometimes I think about pioneer life and wonder what it might have been like to pack up and take off across the country in a covered wagon. Based on my propensity to do things the hard way, I tell myself I could have made it.
I occasionally tell Brian that I want to convert a bus (well, I want him to do it, actually) and drive all over the country just to see everything, but I'm not sure that is the same thing as stowing up my most practical possessions in a wagon and then alternately sitting and walking my way across the untamed prairie.
My itch to try out pioneer life got scratched earlier this week when our family went on a field trip to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento. Brian was somewhat surprised that I had signed us up to participate in this outing for homeschoolers. He knows my history with roughing it, and he wisely stayed mum on the subject.
Spring is a busy time on the farm, so I put away the notion that I could sew period costumes for us all. Brian and the kids rented costumes well in advance. That mostly worked out. The girls were happy to model their costumes for me several times, but it wasn't until two days before departure that I realized the boys had happily come home with clothing that made them look like pirates.
With a day and a half to go, I started reading about costumes in the gold rush era. Women, I read, were expected to spend a large amount of time sewing clothing for their families. While I do enjoy sewing, I am not a fan of sewing by hand. I cheated and used my machine, knowing that a true gold rush woman would likely not own such a luxury as sewing machines were not widely available at that time.
The girls and I gathered, snipped and stitched the night away, all the while I was mumbling to myself about waiting so long to get started. If I had needed to outfit the whole clan to trek across the Rockies, I never would have made it. My respect for those pioneer women was already growing.
The night before we left, I tucked the little ones in bed, only to find their fears coming out in the form of questions. "What if I don't wake up in time?" Max asked. He had no idea what he might expect at Sutter's Fort, but he knew he didn't want to miss out. I promised I would get him up in time so he could go along.
"Do we get to eat lunch tomorrow?" Atticus asked. My boys pack a snack for the ride to Yuba City, so this one was serious. I assured them that we'd be fine, but all the questions made me wonder what it would have been like for little ones in pioneer days. How many fears there must have been, not just for the children, but also for the adults. Facing an unknown adventure can be scary.
Getting out the door on Tuesday was a major event. The kids began by arguing over seat assignments. Could I have borne three months of bickering over who got to sit in the front seat of the wagon?
Our stress faded when we arrived at the fort. The work to prepare for the day was worth it. On the way home, by then too tired to argue over where they were going to sit, the kids started planning for next year.
We better get started on those costumes.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.