My Mother, the Pioneer Woman
By Kent Converse
y Mother was born in 1914 on her families homestead near Sharon Springs, Kansas. Her Dad had taken advantage of the Homestead Act originated by Abraham Lincoln and made a claim on 160 acres in 1905.
This was all possible because over a century before the slaves in the French Colony of Haiti had revolted. Napoleon sent a French force to subdue the revolt and most of them got sick and died. He was so disenchanted with the new world he sold what became known as the “Louisiana Purchase” to the United States. Congress in the 1860’s passed Lincoln’s Homestead Act.
This was an area of Kansas referred to as the “short grass prairie. In other words, Buffalo grass that only grew two or three inches tall but could thrive in Western Kansas low rainfall.
There were no trees and few people in this area and that is still true today.
Her Dad and her Mother built a “Sod House.” They also built a Sod Chicken House and Barn. For heat to cook with and heat the house they gathered “buffalo chips” left there by the buffalo years before.
These were very self-reliant people who raised most of their own food, took care of themselves, survived illnesses and tamed the west. Today, it is some of the most productive farmland in the world.
My mother and her family survived blizzards, storms and prairie fires. There were no fire departments in those days.
Mom was a twin. Her sister was tall, Mom was short, but they had a special bond that lasted all their lives.
My Dad and Mom were a great team. They did everything together. During the farming season they would take turns driving their one tractor and keep it running 24 hours a day.
There philosophy was “a penny saved is a penny earned.” They would take on debt but only if they knew they could pay it off quickly. No 30-year mortgages for them. Dad did not believe in working for banks.
I never got a stick of gum from Mom. She would always divide one piece two or four ways.
Mom and Dad got married in 1934 and started farming. They never raised a successful wheat crop until 1941 when I was born. They survived all this time on the farm by milking cows and raising calves from the excess milk. They raised chickens. Every week they would sell cream and eggs for enough money to buy what they needed. Dad would shoot rabbits for meat. Mom could make the best rabbit stew around.
My brother had four girls and I had two boys and one girl. They were very lucky to have my parents as Grandparents. Our children were constantly part of my parent’s lives. I see so much of my Mother in my daughter. They are both very special women.
Photo "3 Farms" courtesy of Jim Kinnunen