I used to daydream about life in the Old West and spending my hours like those characters from Little House on the Prairie. While looking through a stack of research books recently, I found Children of the West – Family Life on the Frontier by Cathy Luchetti and rejoiced. The photograph of smiling children on the cover captivated me.
Children are the lifeblood of any culture; they are the hope and the future. In the photographs, you see excitement, fear, pain, and undaunted enthusiasm. Every photograph shows our history through children’s eyes, and we are their legacy.
“I remember walking just ahead of that halted wagon, venturing out alone to gaze across that expanse of country. I recall so vividly the feeling of wonderment and perplexity at the bigness of the world and how I so eagerly struggled to stretch my childhood experience and imagination to comprehend some of its meaning and its promise.” Mary Ronan
Where does your interest in the Old West lie? Mothers who bore one child after another? Children who experienced life amidst the dangers of an untamed country? In this book, I read about women who feared miscarriage and those who feared how they’d feed and clothe one more baby.
Expansion brought pain—and growth
Close-knit families spread across the mountains and prairies west of the Mississippi, but the bonds of love did not make them immune to pain. A man who lost his wife and was left with 10 children to rear could grow bitter. A widow with mouths to feed may resort to sad means to survive. Children learned to work and valued it, yet were also forced into labor and denied educations.
Christianity exploded into every facet of pioneer life. With the Bible in the home, children learned to read and established faith and morals. Schools dotted the countryside and towns, keeping the children busy—except during harvest.
The children grew strong and survived. They built towns and worked farms. They became business owners, doctors, lawyers, and politicians. They became parents and worked to instill the values their parents had taught them. Those are the children of the Old West and they are the heroes and heroines of our historical novels—real people, real lives, and a real heritage.
DiAnn Mills combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. She has 50 books in print and has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Her Sworn to Protect won a 2011 Christy Award in the Contemporary Romance Category. Breach of Trust won the same award in 2010. Her latest, The Chase, releases next month. DiAnn is the Craftsman mentor for the Christian Writers Guild. Visit her online.
Photo: From the front cover of Children of the West by Cathy Luchetti, available at Amazon.com