Little House on the Prairie Historic Site
Left:Samuel Gordon Lindsey, my grandfather's brother, in 1913; age 20.
In 1888 my great-grandparents moved from Illinois to settle a homestead in Nebraska. By 1893, they had erected not a one-room but, proudly, a two-room home on the prairie, where my great-grandmother Sally (Sarah Elisabeth Hartman Lindsey) sat one summer day writing a long letter to her niece, enchantingly named Eyrie. What I especially like is that Sally explains how the babies are napping while she writes. So many times when my children were small, my own letters began: “The boys are now asleep, so I have a moment to answer your letter.”
Some things never change! Sally begins:
I am (nearly) alone this afternoon, with my babies Beatrice and Gordon both asleep. Jimmie went 5 miles away to see a sick horse this morning, taking Wayne with him. Mabel and Jim are at Sunday School 3 ½ miles distant since dinner. And I have a quiet time in which to write. You know, Eyrie, few of the homesteaders have another room where they can go and read or write undisturbed.
Sally goes on to describe a summer of severe drought, punctuated by a few severe thunderstorms. During one of these storms, her husband Jimmie was struck by lightning. While he was recuperating, some old friends
who used to live in J’s native town in Ohio, came eight miles to see him. They are well-to-do people spending a few months here for their health. They brought him some oranges, a can of peaches, and Gordon a new dress. After Wayne had eaten of the peaches, his papa was telling him we would move east where fruit grows and then we could have some. I was out, and when I came in, Wayne said, “And Mama don't you think they grow on trees”! It has only been a year since he learned there was such a thing as a tree. He scarcely ever sees one, they usually die in the first year.
In fact, Wayne, who was four at the time, did grow up to see many trees; and indeed, the Lindseys did move east, eventually settling in Kansas in 1895—the year that my grandfather, Paul Jones Lindsey, was born in a covered wagon as the family was traveling in search of their permanent home. It is sad and strange for me to think that my great-grandmother long outlived the two babies who lay napping that day while she wrote to Eyrie. Samuel Gordon Lindsey (after whom my own little Sam is named) died in France, 31 July 1918, at the Battle of the Aisne-Marne. And Edna Beatrice Lindsey Smith died in 1922, aged 31; though so young, she was already the mother of six.
Thinking of them all -- Sally, Eyrie, Beatrice, her children -- brings to mind the following tender-hearted poem that I have loved since girlhood:
THOUGHTS OF A MODERN MAIDEN
Throb of my heart, throb of my heart,
How did you get here, where did you start?
Ages ago in some lowly thing,
Pulsating since with unceasing spring?
Through countless lifetimes, from mother to young,
Heart throb, heart throb, a rhythm has sung.
Once in a queen, twice in a slave,
Wife of prince, wife of a knave.
Mother to daughter, down through the years,
Some heirs to gladness, some heirs to tears.
Defended by vassal, seized by a lord,
Sentenced to death but saved by a word.
Women of virtue, women of shame,
Women of desert, women of slum,
Down to my grandmere, sweet and demure,
Down to my mother, patient and pure.
Why was I forged as a link in this chain?
What of the past shall I break or maintain?
Heart throb, heart throb, wonder past knowing,
Where did you come from, where are you going?
by Edith M. Roberts