Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Women of the Nebraska Plains
One grandmother and two great-grandmothers had parts of their stories told in Farm Girl. I often felt my grandmother's presence during that time of writing the book. I knew this work was important to her and that she was helping it along.
Throughout her adult life, my grandmother felt the need to record what she had seen as a daughter of Nebraska homesteaders. She wrote about how to build a sod house. She wrote about her mother's experience in the Chicago fire. She painted oils of covered wagons crossing the Great Plains, sod houses, and one large painting I have in my home of men panning for gold.
During the typesetting of Farm Girl, the file was erased at one point. The typesetter was devastated, not sure how it happened. I felt peaceful and tried to calm him down. "There had to be a reason for this. It's okay. The book will come out better than ever." And it did. During that time, I sensed not just my grandmother's assistance, but the other two as well-- her mother and grandmother wanting to clear the way so their stories could be told.
Photograph below is of Sophie Stav Walstad, of Norway, who emigrated to Chicago with her first husband. When he died, she came to Nebraska with their small son and settled near the Walstads, neighbors from Norway. She married Hans Walstad. Their daughter was my grandmother. It was a hard life in those early days of living in a dugout. She missed the forests and streams back home in Norway. Here all was dry, windy, and harsh, with no trees growing midst the tough prairie sod. Sophie would often take her sewing down by the creek and cry so that she could not see to sew.