Pioneer Stories Included Laughter, Helping Hands

Claim shack dances were only one way settlers had fun in some pioneer stories.

| Good Old Days

Many pioneer stories were often filled with laughter and fun.

The first winter we homesteaded in western Dakota Territory, the snow came early, and it was very cold. But we didn't stay home! We hitched old Bess and Lady to the sleigh or the democrat and wrapped up in robes and hied happily away to someone's claim shack to dance all night to the music of a mouth organ or any other instrument that was handy.

The hosts usually piled their furniture out in the yard for the occasion, all but the stove. We had to have warmth – and hot coffee to go with the sandwiches and cakes we had brought.

Everyone knew everyone else, and we borrowed from each other such things as kerosene for our lamps and medicine for the ill. We helped each other with the harder tasks and laughed together and shared ourselves and our provisions as people are intended to do.

Once when a blizzard hit, my sister and I were batching in a claim shack. We came home from school almost frozen to find that two men caught out with loads of wood had taken shelter in our shack. I can thank one of them for saving my ear. It was frozen stiff and stuck to my scarf. We two girls would have been afraid there alone, but the men kept us visiting and brought in the water for us and kept the stove red hot.

One old pioneer woman we knew told of setting a trap for a mouse. She heard a clatter one day and was surprised to see a rattlesnake appear on the floor with the mousetrap on his head! She ran for her son, who came with a hoe and killed it. The whole community rocked with laughter at the idea of a snake weaving around with a mousetrap for headgear.

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