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The Lonely Frontier

My corset was hot!—because it was summer, in Texas, what did you think I meant?

I was fully embedded in my role as Mrs. Hedgecoxe, a rude antebellum liar trying to convince naïve dupes to buy land here. The naïve dupes were played by modern visitors, who did not believe me when I said “the weather in Texas is perfect, never too hot, never too cold, and always just the right amount of rain.” They did admire the Village’s retail opportunities, a general store that I assured them stocked both dress fabric and plows. Since we were inhabiting a year decades before the train reached Dallas, I explained the Depot as a proactive construction by a town confident of its future growth.

And then I asked if they were ready to make the arduous journey out see a typical farm, just like the one they could buy. We checked our water supply and set out. One and a half minutes later we arrived exhausted at the farmstead. We met the farmer, tending his bounteous fields, which must have had nearly 15 plants in various stages of death. Nearby an automatic sprinkler erupted, and I explained to the visitors about the strange sudden rainstorms in Dallas. A plane flew overhead and the farmer agreed that even the birds are much bigger in Texas. Skyscrapers loomed in the distance and highway traffic rumbled. Welcome to the Texas frontier!

The farmstead is one part of the village where it is particularly hard to tune out the modern world and experience the historic landscape, no matter how often the rooster crows. The original cabin was built in 1841, in an area that would become Grapevine but was then an unnamed, lonely outpost. The price of securing a profitable future on the frontier usually involved being the first westward-moving pioneer to stake a claim in some isolated spot that would someday host a town.

In their diaries, pioneer women list many hardships, including endless labor, vermin, disease and poverty. With all of that, they still found time to be plagued by loneliness. If they were fortunate enough to have anyone they could call a neighbor, that person might live a half a day’s journey away. Busy pioneers couldn’t afford that much travel time just to visit. You can imagine why cooperative work events like quilting bees and barn raisings were popular. They combined practical accomplishments with the chance to chat.

Isolation was one of the frontier’s terrors, rather less famous than rattlesnakes and blizzards. Next time you visit the farmstead, try to tune out the surrounding modern world. Imagine you are alone. Nobody is near enough to drop by for a visit, or to help you if your family falls ill, or the house catches fire. Day after day you are alone, with your burdensome labor and the hope that someday this place will be a town. Could you do it?

A field of sorts, an isolated farmhouse, and some skyscrapers!

A field of sorts, an isolated farmhouse, and some skyscrapers!

This frontier house is truly alone. Picture yourself here.

This frontier house is truly alone. Picture yourself here.

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