Monday, July 1, 2013

Picturing Pioneer Days

Miss Kitty and the boys of Gunsmoke

Here's the thing: I grew up watching television shows such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Have Gun...Will Travel. This means that I have a lot of back-ground information about The West and what went on in the pioneer days. All of that is coming in handy in reading Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson with my friend's 8th grade daughter. The story takes place in Montana in 1918 and this student doesn't have much knowledge about that time in American history.

This means she doesn't know how to picture in her mind spurs, a sod house, a wash bucket, calico, a prairie dog, or a stitched sampler. All things mentioned in the book.

They don't make Westerns any more (and if they did they would be so violent I wouldn't recommend watching them), so she has no references to that time in history. Is that part of our heritage disappearing?

I suggested she rent the DVD Sarah, Plain and Tall based on the book by Patricia MacLachlan, to get an idea of what Hattie was having to deal with - blizzards, wolves, horse-drawn wagons, barbed wire fences, and wood stoves. Or maybe she could watch one of the Little House DVDs.

If any of you, dear readers, have suggestions as to a movie or TV show that might help her fill in some of the blanks, I would be happy to hear about them.

Thanking you in advance!


  1. What about the movie Silverado? It was fun (and safe). Or maybe she could catch a few episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman--they still rerun those on TV. As a girl who lives in the West, with pioneer ancestors myself, I think it's sad that so many have no experience with that culture. Here in Utah, we celebrate Pioneer Day every year on July 24th.

    1. Thanks, Lark. I have not seen 'Silverado' myself but it looks like it might be a good one. I adore Kevin Kline. I forgot about Dr. Quinn. My student might like that one as her parents are both physicians.

      I am glad to know that the Pioneer Spirit is alive and thriving in Utah! I wonder how far along in American history the schools get nowadays. Apparently, not far enough...

      I appreciate your suggestions and will pass them on.

  2. Sarah, Plain and Tall is a wonderful way to introduce your student to pioneer days. The Hallmark series actually had a sequel, maybe too. The second one deals with the devastation of drought. Caddie Woodlawn is a favorite of mine, Belle. Not sure if there is a movie about it, though. Your wonderful library system, with all those lovely signs, would be of some help, I'm sure. Being a "Little House . . . " lover, those are also great.

    1. Thanks Penny. I had forgotten about the sequel to 'Sarah'. I just checked and there actually is a 1989 movie based on the book 'Caddie Woodlawn'. One reviewer said it was 'too bright and clean' for the time period but it might be fun to watch anyway!

    2. I appreciate knowing that "Caddie Woodlawn" is a movie. Thank you. I'd love to watch it to see how well it follows the book.