THE PIONEERS pgs 46-51
Many of the first settlers who came to Iowa had come from states where the farms had been made in the woods. They were not acquainted with the prairie farm where there were no stumps to bother the plow. For that reason they were anxious to find a farm in or near the woods along the streams; and some perhaps intended to grub out the trees to make a farm like the one they had been used to in the former home.
All the time that men had been doing this in the older states, the wide prairies were waiting and inviting them to come where no labor but breaking the sod was needed. Millions of acres, then untouched by the white man, were ready to be tilled. But very many men were afraid that a prairie farm would not be worth very much, just because they had never known anything about such land. Some, indeed, believed that these beautiful Iowa prairies were only deserts. Where the very finest of the Iowa farms are now it did look very barren in that early day.
If a family had come from a wooded land; and if they had never seen such wide open stretches of country it is not strange that they wished to cling close to the streams where there was a narrow belt of timber. Besides, there is a homelike feeling where the woods and streams are found together; for the trees seem to offer shelter and the stream is company on lonesome days.
Far away in the eastern states men were trying to make a living on hilly and rocky land when all this wide country was almost free. Only a little money with some hard work was necessary to get a start, and then the reward would surely come. Any one can work with some spirit if there is something to work for and if he is sure to be given his share.
The wise settler who came early into the new Territory selected his farm along the edge of the timber near a stream. He made sure to get a piece of timber land and a larger piece of prairie adjoining. The woodland gave him logs for his house, fuel for his fires, and fences for his lots or fields; and the game of the woodland and the fish of the streams kept him in food. He did not need to dig a well, for he probably found a living spring of water at his very door. The prairie land gave him hay and a place to grow corn and a garden the very first year in the new land. Really, the pioneer in such a place was almost a king in his possessions.
The fine old homesteads, and only a few of them are left for grandchildren, were made in just that way. The old house and the big barn built on the edge of the woods have great beams hewed out of the trees on the farm. Perhaps the old wood house and the brick oven remain. The woods pasture is yet the feeding place of cows and horses and sheep; and the stream is yet a place where children may go boating and fishing. No one ought to leave such a place to spend the summer or the winter among strangers or to live in a great city.
Only those boys and girls who have lived in the newest part of Iowa have any idea of how the prairie appeared in those long-ago days. Once in a while along the railroad track a small strip of natural sod may be seen. The wild flowers in bloom in June in such out of the way places will show what was once all over the prairie during the summer. From early spring until late in the fall a great variety of wild blossoms could be seen, and gathered without the consent of any one.
There was the tall, coarse, knife-edged, slough grass; the blue-jointed stem and the sweet-scented lowland blades; the fine, short tufts of the uplands and hills. The first kind was good for thatching roofs of stables and for covering stacks of grain and hay; the second made the finest hay for horses and cattle; while the third was good only for grazing. The upland grass made good hay, but when it was dry and the wind blew, no one could keep it together.
As for the prairie flowers � they were too many to be described. The cowslip, the buttercup, and flag, or blue lily, came early along the low, wet places; the white lady-slipper was hidden in the grass of the lowland; the timid violets clung to the woodland at first but later in the season the open prairie became blue with them. Soon the phlox or Sweet William in many colors appeared; the sheep sorrel sent up its pink blossom and sour leaf; and the wild indigo spread its branches to the sun until the pod was ripe.
In summer the red and the tiger lily swayed above the lowland grass; the wild rose offered a beautiful blossom along with some sharp thorns; and the primrose hid itself in the oat and wheat fields. As autumn came on the Black-Eyed Susans appeared; the gum weed made a forest of strong, stiff, and tall stalks which, when broken off, yielded an excellent gum. If one went about some sunny day and broke these stems square off the sap would come out, and soon become hard and dry. It could then be chewed like any gum; and it had not been made in any factory. Boys have often dreamed of making fortunes by collecting this gum and becoming gum merchants.
But it would take many pages to tell about all those prairie scenes which many now living have seen. But it is quite certain that the boys and girls of today will not see them.