On Iowa Homestead, Light Could Mean Difference Between Life and Death

My grandfather, R. S. Kirkpatrick, often wished he had kept one of the little lanterns made of perforated tin that held a candle.

They didn’t give much light, but they kept the candle flame from going out in the wind.

He remembered the lanterns which were used the night his brother was lost.

The boy had gone to bring in the cattle one evening, riding his pony along a nearby “crick.” When he did not return at darkness, the family, alarmed, began a search. Neighbors were notified and they came from the scattered farms adjoining my great-grandparents’ homestead. As they entered the house, each man placed his lantern on the porch, and there they sat in a row, barely able to dispel the gloom of night.

The boy was found, but he had been injured. He was not able to tell clearly what had happened to him in the dark pastures. His mother taught him to walk again and how to eat, as if he were a baby once more. He never regained full intelligence although he lived for many years.

The symbol of the little lanterns was one that stayed in Grandfather’s memory as long as he told stories of his early Iowa boyhood.

Mrs. Omar J. Stoutner
Keota, Iowa

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.