Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, Homesteading and Hardships

Growing up on Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, homestead brings new meaning to the term poor.

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My wife talks of the enjoyment of life on her family's homestead in Las Animas County, Colorado. But I can remember nothing but hardship on my folks' homestead in what is now Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. I was eight years old when my father staked his claim, and I lived there until I was 16.

We were poor! People nowadays cannot imagine how poor we were. Cash was terribly scarce; the butter and egg money was pitifully small, with butter selling for six cents a pound and eggs for three cents a dozen.

We children walked one-and-a-half miles to school, but only after we had hunted up the cows, done the milking, and taken care of the hogs. In summer the corn and the garden had to be hoed continually to conserve the precious moisture. The hardest of all jobs was pumping water for the stock. The animals drank more in the hot, dry season, and it seemed the pumping was a never-ending job.

The cows grazed in every direction, the crop and garden lands being the only fenced lots. Our own legs had to carry us when we went out to find them. Sometimes three boys went in three directions-usually the wrong directions first.

I had even more trouble with cattle. Father took in cattle for me to herd with ours. I had no horse, and our big part Newfoundland dog, Ponto, had no cow sense. However, he was good company and would guard me from rattlesnakes when I lay down to sleep while the cattle were resting.

What do I remember of my days on the homestead? Hard work, little play, poor food, bare feet most of the year, and compassion for my overworked mother.

Arthur E. Hoisington
Flippin, Arkansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.