Have you ever wondered what it was like to live a simple life? Granted, simple doesn’t mean easy, it just means less in so many wonderful ways.
Last weekend my family and I took a day trip to Fort Ransom, North Dakota. It is here among other places that we get to experience what it was like to live when horses still plowed the land and people’s lives consisted of hard work, but fruitful work. It’s from this generation that the, Sodbuster (a farmer or farm worker who plows the land) lived and set the example of labor.
As the horse-drawn wagon picks visitors up in the vehicle parking lot, transporting you into the historical, Sunne Farm, the experience and journey begins. We exit the wagon and look around at all the different and amazing things to take in. A horse-drawn potato digger turns up the rich black soil as people from all over fill their bags to the brim with right from the earth potatoes. The joy of such a simple task is evident on their faces and brings us back to a time where simple living was full of hard work but also joy.
It’s September and just beyond the Sodbuster’s the ash trees are turning colors on the side of the hill. The majestic oak still retains its perfect shade of green, at least for a little while longer. The day is absolutely perfect to sit and watch, as each task is performed to show us what it was like years ago.
One, no two, now three Sodbusters’ till the corn as the spectators watch or sit by the wooden fence. My youngest daughter is one who sits and watches as they plow. Around and around they go, but there is no boredom here. The horses are magnificent as their muscles flex with the weight of the plow. They respond kindly to their master’s care and move according to the reins he holds and the commands he gives.
The September sun warming the workers and visitors, but a blessed slight breeze comes along keeping them refreshed. The wheat is also being harvested and old threshers are being used. The crowd watches as they bind the hay from a wagon right below the loft of a barn, then using a horse, lift the pile high into the air where a trigger sends the bundle into the loft and its new home for the Winter months.
As the Sodbusters demonstrate. The smell of pies being cooked in Dutch ovens, underneath coals and set in the earth reach our nose. Making our way to where the pies are, we hear the sound of old-time music as it fills the air. Couples dance and others join in singing as an old-fashioned shindig takes place.
Next an apple press with a smiling family manning it, demonstrate how fresh apple juice is made and draws the appetite of the people, along with the making of apple strudel and sauerkraut next door. The bellies start to rumble and test tasting commences. Homemade ice-cream and fresh brewed coffee add finishing touches to an already sweet belly.
Walking around after our hunger has been rewarded with mouth-watering treasures, a weaver catches my eye. Her task is slow but rewarding as she repairs and makes woven seats, high chairs, wicker chairs and more.
The Woolly Women spin on their spindles and create animals by felting. Their chatter reminds us of a time where conversation took place over texting and phones. A simpler but extremely rewarding time where fellowship, tears and encouragement was shared.
A blacksmith can be heard in his shed just down the hill. Entering we see the sweat pouring down his face as a wagon wheel is being sealed with iron. People watch in awe as the different hammers, heat and cold work and form at his will. The end result producing a masterpiece and skill long-lost.
Tents and Tepees display a frontier camp. The Frontiers men take an afternoon nap as the people pass by. They’re not bothered with anything but the occasional fly and a crying baby who has just displayed her dislike for something. A lady in an old-fashioned dress offers fresh peach and apple pie, we except and thank her before continuing on our way.
Now that are appetites have once again been teased, we head to where the lefse is being made. The line of people extends out the door. On our way, the wood carvers and the history of Fort Ransom are being demonstrated and displayed. We pause to appreciate the workmanship and history. Once again, a simple life, but one that demanded hard work and attention to detail.
Family owed mills, horses, Sodbusters, food and everything else you can imagine has been seen here today. It was a day worth taking time for; a day to be remembered.
In a world of cubicles, internet, iPhones, job pressure and 9-5 jobs. At the end of the day we often look back and say, “What did I actually accomplish?” To the Sodbuster this wasn’t an issue. They worked hard and could physically see their accomplishments min by min, hour by hour, day by day. Potatoes, corn, fields plowed and canned goods piled high. They reaped what they sowed and put enough food and supplies away to sustain themselves through the long Dakota Winter.
To this I end my tail of our wonderful day experiencing the Sodbuster and what their life was like.
Visit: Sodbuster Days if you would like more information and to see the dates when you too can experience this special day.