Thursday, March 10, 2011

Letters of a Woman Homesteader - by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

I don’t know this book.  I was looking through a list of free bestsellers and was surprised to find , Letters of a Woman Homesteader  (UK edition) (Deutsch edition) by Elinore Pruitt Stewart.

Luckily the book gives you valuable clues!
“The writer of the following letters is a young woman who lost her husband in a railroad accident and went to Denver to seek support for herself and her two-year-old daughter, Jerrine. Turning her hand to the nearest work, she went out by the day as house-cleaner and laundress. Later, seeking to better herself, she accepted employment as a housekeeper for a well-to-do Scotch cattle-man, Mr. Stewart, who had taken up a quarter-section in Wyoming. The letters, written through several years to a former employer in Denver, tell the story of her new life in the new country. They are genuine letters, and are printed as written, except for occasional omissions and the alteration of some of the names.”
The letters start in 1909.
 'A neighbor and his daughter were going to Green River, the county-seat, and said I might go along, so I did, as I could file there as well as at the land office; and oh, that trip! I had more fun to the square inch than Mark Twain or Samantha Allen eversuch a pot! I promised Bo-Peep that I would send him a crook with pink ribbons on it, but I suspect he thinks I am a crook without the ribbons. provoked. It took us a whole week to go and come. We camped out, of course, for in the whole sixty miles there was but one house, and going in that direction there is not a tree to be seen, nothing but sage, sand, and sheep. About noon the first day out we came near a sheep-wagon, and stalking along ahead of us was a lanky fellow, a herder, going home for dinner. Suddenly it seemed to me I should starve if I had to wait until we got where we had planned to stop for dinner, so I called out to the man, "Little Bo-Peep, have you anything to eat? If you have, we'd like to find it." And he answered, "As soon as I am able it shall be on the table, if you'll but trouble to get behind it." Shades of Shakespeare! Songs of David, the Shepherd Poet! What do you think of us? Well, we got behind it, and a more delicious "it" I never tasted. Such coffee! And out of
   The sagebrush is so short in some places that it is not large enough to make a fire, so we had to drive until quite late before we camped that night. After driving all day over what seemed a level desert of sand, we came about sundown to a beautiful canon, down which we had to drive for a couple of miles before we could cross. In the canon the shadows had already fallen, but when we looked up we could see the last shafts of sun-light on the tops of the great bare buttes. Suddenly a great wolf started from somewhere and galloped along the edge of the canon, outlined black and clear by the setting sun. His curiosity overcame him at last, so he sat down and waited to see what manner of beast we were. I reckon he was disappointed for he howled most dismally. I thought of Jack London's "The Wolf."'
 The scenery of the American West always inspires its chroniclers . . .
"After we quitted the canon I saw the most beautiful sight. It seemed as if we were driving through a golden haze. The violet shadows were creeping up between the hills, while away back of us the snow-capped peaks were catching the sun's last rays. On every side of us stretched the poor, hopeless desert, the sage, grim and determined to live in spite of starvation, and the great, bare, desolate buttes. The beautiful colors turned to amber and rose, and then to the general tone, dull gray."
These letters seem more like a journal and I expect this is a very enjoyable book!

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  1. I own Stewart's books in "dead-tree" hard copy. I haven't had a chance to read them yet, but hope to someday soon. There was a wonderful movie adaptation of this book made many years ago: "Heartland," starring Conchata Ferrell (of "Two and a Half Men"). I highly recommend the movie.

  2. This is an enchanting book of letters written by a woman who homesteaded in Wyoming in the early 1900s. Elinore was not an educated woman but had an amazing gift for writing about her life. Reading this book is pure joy and I highly recommend it.


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