Pioneer Recreation

An old pioneer said, “We hear much of the necessity of providing recreation and amusement

for the young. I cannot remember ever hearing the matter discussed when I was young, nor

can I recollect that I ever thought anyone should provide entertainment for me. The days

were not long enough for all the fun we had and could have and most of the work we were

expected to do was as good as play.”

We helped to round up, brand, dehorn, vaccinate, ship, trail to the markets, eat at a chuckwagon

and catch horse thieves. We shared in the big neighborhood feeds, egg races, potato

races, calathumpians, horse racing, tournament riding, gather wild fruit, hunting antelope,

deer, prairie chickens, grouse and quail and wild geese, fishing, basket meetings, picnics and

swapping yarns, laying up sod houses, planting gardens and a few flowers, curing meat and

tanning hides, riding fences and putting down wells. No sleigh riding, for the sand always

worked up through the snow, but sometimes if there was a lake, a young man would hitch a

hand sled by his lariat to the horn of his saddle and take the girls and boys for a ride ’round

and ’round on the frozen lake and all would come in to a bountiful supper of hot biscuits, wild

grape jelly, homemade sausages (maybe of pork and jack rabbit), French-fried potatoes,

coffee and doughnuts. We trapped coyotes, skunks, and muskrats and had the thrill of

catching a mink or discovering a white blackbird or a white grouse or seeing, at Thanksgiving

time, a long string of Sand Hill cranes like a whip lash in the sky.

We knew the wonder of seeing the little phalarope of which the hen bird wore the bright

neck-piece and the little cock incubated the eggs, or we watched the swans float lazily upon

the lakes, beautiful and unafraid. There was joy in finding the nest of the prairie chickens,

visiting it each day until there were fifteen eggs and the hen was so broody that one could

pick her up and set her down a few feet from the nest to see her spread her wings and fluff

her feathers and come at one like an angry barnyard fowl. It was joy to find a big leatherback

turtle, step on his back and ride from the lake to the marsh, or go fishing, build a fire in

the wet sand and fry one’s catch and eat it with bread, bacon and pickles with the appetite of a

carefree youth of twelve. Oliver Wendell Holmes says, “The true essentials of a feast are fun

and feed.”

“It All Goes in a Life Time” In the Sand Hills of Nebraska From 1880 to 1933 by Mrs. Lulu

Kortz Hudson, p28, Report of Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, Nebraska Home

Economics Association, 1934.

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