Burrowing Under

Apparently, living underground is not just for prairie dogs.

Yes. People did it, too. I’m not talking cave people; no, these were early settlers. Specifically, early Nebraska settlers. And luckily for Rose, one of them squatted on her farm.

After Congress passed the Homestead Act in 1862, 160-acre tracts of land in Kansas and Nebraska were open to settlers for free. All they had to do in return was show improvement to their stake within five years. But once they arrived, they encountered a problem they hadn’t expected. There weren’t any trees on the prairie, ergo nothing to build a cabin in which to live.

American Spirit, however, was not so easily discouraged. So, these enterprising newcomers took a lesson from the prairie dogs and burrowed into the land. If they were fortunate enough to have a hill or slope on the parcel of land they chose, they simply dug into the side of the hill, creating an earthen cave. Cut some bricks from the abundant prairie sod to add a built-up (and, sometimes, out) 4th wall, and, voilà, your dugout was ready for move in.

So, why do I care—or more importantly, why does Rose care—about this little quirk in pioneer habitat? Because, some 60 years later, she stumbles upon a little dugout on their property. A little hidey-hole where she can go when she needs to be alone, when the stress of her new life gets the better of her, or when her presidential candidate loses and she’s afraid the world she knows is lost forever. Oh, wait! That last one is me. Sorry.

Rose’s little dugout will prove to be symbolic of many of her life struggles.

As for me, I’m wishing I had one I could burrow into for, say, the next four years.

PS: Want to see what a dugout looked like? Here’s a website with more information.

2 thoughts on “Burrowing Under

  1. Zan Marie says:

    The dugouts have always fascinated me. I’m not sure I could enter one due to my claustrophobia, but I find their ingenuity amazing.


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