Simple Pleasures on a South Dakota Homestead

A German Mennonite settles on a South Dakota homestead.

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Born in Europe, Grandpa Henry Boese came to America with other Mennonites. He and his wife homesteaded between Freeman and Marion, South Dakota. That South Dakota homestead was a source of much simple joy and fulfillment.

They lived in an unusual house – a house joined to a barn. The dividing wall was thick, and the barn was kept very clean. Two oxen, big, strong and slow, lived in the barn, and later cows were kept there.

How happy we were when we could go to Grandpa's house! At Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the days were cold, Mother would heat bricks in the oven and wrap them in gunny sacks to keep our feet warm during the eight-mile trip by buggy. Our cheeks would be rosy and our hands cold before we reached our destination.

At the house the women greeted each other with hugs and tender words. Grandpa had pink peppermints for each child and later we tasted his newly processed honey.

We ate on benches or on a green wooden trunk. The knives and forks had wooden handles. How delicious were the homemade bread and the ground cherry or blackberry pie! Grandpa had an orchard of mulberries, apples, currants, chokeberries and plums.

We children tested our skill in drawing water from the well in the oaken bucket. We jerked the rope to tip the pail at the bottom, and then we pulled the rope which was around a pully at the top.

We competed to see who could raise the most water in the bucket.

How the boys bragged of their achievements!

We made our own entertainment!

Esther Dirks Herman
Riverton, Nebraska


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.