Winter’s Isolation Circa 1850

Snow, bitter cold, and confinement have me considering.  What would it have been like in years past?  Now, consider that you have been relocated to the mid-1800’s in a log cabin in the woods or a soddy out on the prairie.  The first priority is providing heat — some way to combat the terror of the cold.  Where will you get fuel?  I once heard from a native on the Colorado prairie about a time when she and her siblings were alone in winter, as her parents could not return in the storm.  The children first burned furniture and, at last, precious corn from their meager supply.

blazing fire in pot-belly stove in cabin

And then there is precious light!  Soddys had almost no light because glass windows were  relatively unknown on the prairie. Kerosene, if it was available, was too dear to burn all day. Then, there was the unrelenting wind, shrieking about the outside. Not surprisingly, many folks lost their grip on reality.

Now back in the comfort of the Missouri woods, things were a little better:  access to trees for firewood, perhaps a window in the cabin, and the shelter of the forest.  Still, isolation and monotony made much of winter a struggle.  In my younger years, I wanted to spend a winter in a rough log cabin, marking off the isolated days until “green up”.  It would be an experiment to see how much I had changed by the coming of spring…….and, if the change had been for the better.

So, here I sit in the woods with internet access to the world, satellite TV, motor vehicles at my bidding, and plenty of wood stacked outside.  I have no right to feel even a little bit of cabin fever.  Still, I feel it feel it flitting near the edges of my perception.  Sorry, I am weak.

The Hired Man