Hattie Inez Brooks is an orphan who has been shuttled from relative to relative until, at the age of 16, she learns she has inherited her Uncle Chester's homestead claim in Montana. The year is 1917 and Hattie, tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, sets off from Iowa to make a home for herself.
Her inheritance consists of a one-room shack, a barn, half a chicken coop and 320 acres of land that need to be fenced. Forty acres must be planted with wheat and flax before she can actually own the claim. She has nine months to 'prove up' the homestead.
Hattie Big Sky is a great story by Kirby Larson of a young woman's work and determination to make a go of this hardscrabble life. She braves blizzards, bullies, blisters, and helps birth a baby. There are disease, devastation, disappointment, and a stubborn milk cow to contend with. But through it all, Hattie learns self-reliance, the importance of loyal friendship between isolated homesteaders, and best of all, she finally learns to make bread that isn't heavy as an iron skillet.
Some of her experiences are told through letters to her friend Charlie, a soldier serving in France during World War I. She also shares tales of her hardships and happy times in newspaper articles that are published in the paper back in Iowa.
I really liked Hattie. I was in awe of her strength, good sense, and sticktoittiveness. Reading about her life made me grateful for my own indoor bathroom, running water, and washing machine. I have no outdoor 'necessary', no well to pump, and no water to boil on a wood stove to fill the wash tub. I don't have to milk a cow every morning or spend hot days clearing rocks out of a field or chase wolves off my property.
From Hattie, I learned a lot about what early settlers in America's West had to deal with. And, most of all, I learned I probably wouldn't have made a very good pioneer woman.