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According to Us

One Husband, One Wife, Five Children and Everything in Between

I have a confession to make. I am an “all or nothing” reader. I love to read, but it is one of those things that I don’t do as often as I would like, because I can’t do anything else other wise I will never finish the book. Case in point is a book I started reading in late February. I was able to read over half of it one weekend. It was the weekend I had slipped away to see my Nana.

Timing is everything, and I think it was no accident that all this occurred at the same time, because the book was Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, and I had learned that weekend that I also come from a line of homesteaders. I also enjoyed the book because I really like reading journals/letters/blogs. I like to know why people do the things they do and what makes them tick. The book is a series of letters that Elinore wrote to a good friend about her adventures homesteading in Utah. She had a great understanding of living life to the fullest with a sense of humor.

I also love to highlight when I read non-fiction books, so I thought I would share some of my favorite insights that she gives:

Taken at Independence Townsite, CO est. July 4th 1879

“But when you get among such grandeur you get to feel how little you are and how foolish is human endeavor, except that which reunites us with the mighty force called God.” This first quote is from one of her outings she took through the mountains by herself (and her daughter). She was describing the beauty of the snow-covered mountains. Sept. 18, 1909

This next quote was from an old man that she met on the above journey. He had a long-lost love. Elinore helped him to reconnect with the family to find out that she had  passed away. While he is describing his feeling to Elinore about her death he explains that everything about life, from the gentle breeze, the flowers that bloom, the sunlight in the morning, is a reminder of her life. Then he says this: “I shall not hate to die. When you get to be as old as I am, child, everything will have new meaning to you.” Sept. 1, 1910

Elinore marries while she is living in Utah, and they have a baby. He older daughter, Jerrine, doesn’t understand why human babies seem “unfinished” while babies from animals are simply smaller versions of the parent. Finally she meets a conclusion on her own that satisfies her little soul. “I know, mamma, why God gave us such a half-finished baby; so he could learn our ways, and no one else’s, since he must live with us and so we could learn to love him. Every time I stand beside his buggy he laughs and then I love him, but I don’t love Stella or Marvin because they laugh. So that is why.” Oct. 14, 1911

This quote was from one of their outings about. “We went up a canon that had high cliffs on one side, and came to a place where, high up on the rock wall, in great black letter, was this legend: ‘Dick fell off of  this here cliff and died.’ I should think there would be no question that any one who fell from that place on to the boulders below would die.” Feb., 1912

While out on the above adventure she met and stayed with some people from Mexico. Before turning in for the evening, the couple knelt together in front of their altar for devotions. Elinore and her company knelt with them to pray and she says this, “It seems there could possibly be a mistake when people so far away from creeds and doctrines hold to the faith of their childhood and find the practice a pleasure after so many years.” Feb. 1912

Elinore, as time goes, continues to have a couple more children. She loves to travel. One of her friends wanted her to come to visit, but with a young child travel was hard. Clyde, her husband also makes the final decisions. She has this thought: “But long ago I learned that the quickest way to get what I want is to not want it, outwardly, at least.” No date

 While on that  journey she says this about one of the pit stops: “We tethered the horses and went down to the river to relieve ourselves of the dust that seemed determined to unite with the dust we were made of.” No date

While on the same journey they make camp for the night and cook up some grub. While the food is spread out on the ground they eat. “Soon we were showing an astonished cook just how much food two women and a child could get away with. I ate a good deal of ashes with my roast beef and we all ate more or less sand, but fastidiousness about food is a good thing to get rid of when you come West to camp.” No date

The next morning they were going to eat “cackle-berries” at breakfast. She imagined them as some wild luscious fruit. Afraid she would miss out she gets up early that morning, because “There are times when anticipation is a great deal better than realization.” She is served steak, eggs, and two biscuits. Confused, she tells the cooks how wonderful breakfast was, but that she did not get one single berry to eat. “Mr. Watson gently explained to me that eggs and cackle-berries were one and the same.” No date

As time passes, she is slower to respond to her friends letters than she was at first. “At last I can write you as I want. I am afraid you think I am going to wait until the “bairns” are grown up before writing to my friends, but indeed I shall not. I fully intend to “gather roses while I may.” Since God has given me two blessing, children and friends, I shall enjoy them both as I go along.” November 16, 1912

In another letter she explains why she married the man she did. She starts by explaining how she came to Utah to homestead. I found it interesting that one of the things she wanted to do, but didn’t, was to see the Cliff Dwellers i.e. Mesa Verde. She also grew up in the Indian Territory part of Oklahoma. After her and her husband married they had a son who died from erysipelas. Being in pioneer country there was “no physicians to help and no ministers to comfort.” She then goes on to say this about her son’s death. “His little message to us had been love, so I selected a chapter from John and we had a funeral service, at which all our neighbors for thirty miles around were present. So you see, our union was sealed by love and welded by a great sorrow.” Dec. 2, 1912

In the same letter she writes this: “It is true, I want a great many thing I haven’t got, but I don’t want them enough to be discontented and not enjoy the many blessings that are mine. . . When I think of it all, I wonder how I can crowd all my joy into one short life.” Dec. 2, 1912

One of the great tasks a pioneer woman must do is to help other women give birth. Elinore was drug out of bed one winter morning to Molly’s house to do just that. “No westerner can ever understand a Southerner’s need of sympathy, and however kind their heart, they are unable to give it. Only a Southerner can understand how dear our peculiar words and phrases, and poor little Molly took new courage when she found that I knew what she meant when she said she was “honin” after a friendly voice.”  January 6, 1913

In another letter she is talking about how great he husband is. Then she says, “I suspect I had better nor brag too much, lest you think me not quite sincere.” June 12, 1913

Another time she is invited to another trip. She isn’t able to stay at the home she thought, because of safety. She then meets a man who has food for her and her kids, but he is not the most understanding and compassionate man. She says this, “Sometimes a women gets too angry to talk. Don’t you believe that? No? Well, they do, I assure you, for I was then. . . It has always been a theory of mine that when we become sorry for ourselves we make out misfortunes harder to bear, because we lose courage and can’t think without bias.” October 8, 1913


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