The farce of the pioneer woman

May 30, 2012

I fancy myself to be a bit of a pioneer, living where no one has lived before, baking bread to feed my family from the old wood cook stove, using hand tools to finish my house built from logs my husband felled, and a horse and slip to earn my wages.

Sounds so romantic.

Wake up!

Think of the life for the true pioneer, and then tell me, go ahead, what I fool I am to consider myself as such.  Sure, I have an outhouse, and have dug the pits by hand.  But I also have a flushing toilet, running water and a hot water heater.  I can wash my hands and dishes in the kitchen sink, drive a truck to a health clinic in just over an hour, and while I’m in town, pick up the groceries I’m lacking to feed my family so our meals are not bland, simple and the same every day.  I have internet! Yes, in winter, we have to snowmobile or snowshoe that first 6 ½ miles out of the ranch, but does that make me a pioneer?  Perhaps in this modern world alone, where we’re spoiled and have too much, and still complain because the price of fuel to fill our truck is more than we’d like to pay.

I once was told the average age of the true pioneer woman was forty.  At forty-five, the age I am now, I would have been long overdue.

Pioneer woman?  We need another term.  We should care not to disgrace the women who truly struggled, and not pretend we come close to their hard work and hardships.

Yes, today my body is sore.  It’s a physical life I live. By choice. That’s the difference.  I am not here because I have no other place to be.  I am here, doing what I do because I want to be here, because I love the mountain, my work, my life.  And if I get tired, I can rest, and life will go on, my little world will not fall apart at the seams or get blown over with dust in the next storm.

We sit on the old steps of a cabin we are planning to rip out and replace.  I lean back against my son’s bony knees and he reaches up to rub my shoulders.

Ever felt anything so tough, I ask him? He laughs for he knows it’s my choice to ride the horses and hike the mountains on my time off.  I can come home and rest, sit on the porch at sunset with a glass of wine… and smile as I reflect upon my “pioneer lifestyle.”

I haven’t milked a cow in ten years.

Returning from my morning rounds (which do not include milking a cow) I glance across the fence at the property that was once part of the old homestead , but has been divided for, among other excuses, a comfortable place to retire.  Retirement, summer home, vacation lifestyle. Affording us all more free time and the option to pick and choose our country skills.  Have fun playing part!  The farce and folly of it all.  Hobby logging with a skid steer which has become the new man-toy, as the team of mules is turned out for yet another season to be no more than fattening pets; and riding a lawn mower, back and forth and back again, chemigating the pasture in probable hopes of becoming dandelion-free and resembling a slick suburban lawn, while the pups run alongside, romping in the wake of the sprayer.

Pioneer in spirit alone.  I claim to be closer, but who am I fooling? Living where no one lived before, building our own home, scratching out a living on the land… I read yet another story of one who left the “stresses” of the city for the “simple life” of the country, bought the little ranchette complete with old cow.  Their life does not depend on it.  Theirs is no more than a petting zoo lifestyle.  Is it wrong?  Of course not.  But dare we call ourselves pioneers as we sit back in the heat of the afternoon under the shade of the veranda and sip sweet tea as the stock rests idyllic beneath the old oak tree?

3 Responses to “The farce of the pioneer woman”

  1. Gin Getz Says:

    Just back from my morning chores, newly inspired, and had to update and revise this post.


  2. Okay, well, so you’re not a pioneer woman as we read about from the past but don’t sell yourself short, either, you are as pioneer as they come these days…we’ll call you a modern day pioneer woman! Do I need to mention the little cabin by the river? Not so many luxuries down there but you didn’t have a problem with that!

    Oh, the mules…I remember them. They always seemed to be gazing longingly over the fence…


  3. “Pioneer” is a relative term. The old-time pioneers had a rough life by today’s standards, but not so much harder (and probably healthier) than people who worked in factories and other urban professions, let alone down mines or crewing sailing ships. Compared to people doing office jobs, Gin, you are a pioneer. Or perhaps “frontierswoman” is a better term?

    Otherwise why just go back to the pioneers of the Old West? Why not compare ones life to that led by the Native Americans centuries ago? Or to the Stone Age? We don’t do that so everything is relative. We get to choose the comparisons that we make.

    I’ll be honest, sipping wine whilst having your shoulders massaged is a little way from real hard pioneering. But enjoy these little things, each is a gift. You can enjoy the occasional bonus without feeling that you must prove something with every breath and movement.


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