Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, January 18, 1999

Back to simpler times? Not me

By MYRON HEUER

How often when you read about the pioneer days do you say, "I sure wish I lived back then, when life was so simple."

I don't think so.

I have been told that my great-grandfather Heuer walked to Rockford and back carrying on his back a sack of flour that might have weighed 100 pounds. Sometimes the flour may have been stolen by Indians, although it didn't happen to him as far as I know.

Pioneer women often worked in the fields, hung meats to dry, and then stored root vegetables such as carrots, onions and potatoes in a cool and dark root cellar. They fed the poultry and livestock, helped with the slaughtering, rendered lard and made soap.

They also would operate various pieces of equipment like butter churns, cabbage cutters, sausage stuffers and rolling pins. Even getting water required pumping from an inside or outside well for cooking and from a cistern that collected rain water for washing clothes.

Then there was a large garden to care for. The larger, the better for food supplies for the winter. What wasn't stored in the root cellar was either dried or canned.

But the biggest crop raised by a pioneer family was children. Raising 10 or 12 children in a family was not uncommon. Because the mortality rate was higher then than it is now, perhaps several children would die in infancy. In fact, many wives were widowed, or men would become widowers, leaving a large family for a single person. A widower might marry a widow and two large families would be one. No, it was not an easy life back in the olden days.

Have you ever noticed on an old photograph that the mother is not smiling. Come to think of it, nobody is smiling on these old pictures.

Next time you read about or see on TV a story about a pioneer family, consider yourself lucky. You have a grocery nearby with fresh and preserved foods ­ canned, bottled, sealed, dehydrated, frozen, in large options of sizes and quality preferences.

When you get it home, you have refrigerators, freezers, ovens, cook tops, and a large selection of appliances and conveniences for processing these foodstuffs.

No, I wouldn't want to go back to the old days . . . would you?

* * *

A bird in the hand is better than a woodpecker on your head.

* * *

Haste makes . . .sweat.


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