Monday, June 28, 2010

A Bride Goes West

By Nannie T. Alderson and Helena Huntington Smith

The true story of a young woman's life on the Montana range in the 1880s and 1890s.
Nannie was a young Southern woman from West Virginia when she and her new husband set out to become cattle ranchers in Montana. Their first year together was fun and exciting as Nannie became familiar with the ranching life. She wasn't really trained to be a self-sufficient country woman, having been raised in a household where being a lady was more important that knowing how to cook and clean. In fact, the only thing she actually knew how to cook were rolls and it also never occurred to her or her husband that her city clothes were entirely unsuited to the hard life she would now be living. But like many a young bride, she learned and she coped and she adapted.
At first, things seemed to be going really well. Those first few years the rains were timely and the grazing was good. To begin with they were living in a dirt floor shack but her husband and his men soon built them a snug little log house. But then one of the hired hands got into a dispute and in revenge, the little house was burned along with all its contents, including some heirlooms Nannie had brought with her from back East.
After that, they moved and a new place was built. But things just went downhill from there. The weather turned dry and the winters were brutally cold. Between the drought, the cattle lost to cold and blizzards and the decline in the market price and the money spent to build the new place, their dream of cattle ranching was never realized. They had to sell out and move into town where Nannie's husband was killed in a freak accident, kicked to death by two feuding stallions. She was left to raise their four kids by herself, which she did to the best of her ability and helped by a small life insurance policy her husband had.

This was an interesting story about life on a cattle ranch in the pioneer days and about a young woman's education in the school of hard knocks. The bulk of the story is about the time before Nannie's husband died with her life after his death being allotted just one chapter. Like most pioneer narratives, it is a story of hardship, hard work, family, love, danger and survival. It's a good story.

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