Country at HeartI always wondered about homesteaders — not just the houses but the people who originally built them. Why did they settle in that particular place? Why was the house built where it was? Who lived there? Did they live alone or with family? How many kids? Any animals? Did they inherit the land, buy it, or did they "squat" on someone else's land?

Houses were usually built near a road and not too far away from the rest of civilization, unless someone had no choice but to build on land where their ancestors lived. Many poor families, like mine, didn't have a homestead. They rented their houses, and I do not consider renters to be homesteaders, because they do not own the land nor the house.

I think of homesteaders as people who originally settled on a parcel, built their house from the ground up, settled in and stayed there forever. That was the case with one of the property owners that I consider a homesteader, and the one whose house I think may have been built by her husband or is one that she inherited from her parents or some other relative.

To me, homesteaders are real "country": backward but rugged, hard-working, overall-wearing men and little, old, bonnet-wearing ladies with snow white hair tromping around in ground-length, calico dresses. But, of course, that description more properly fits those homesteaders from bygone centuries — with one exception. Our neighbor, Miss Munn, as we called her.

That dear soul was an older lady who lived down in the lane about three-fourths of a mile behind our house. Now to me, she was a real homesteader. She had a house that I had never seen before or since. She was somewhat eccentric, and at that time kids didn't talk to (or with) older people as they do today, but I had a million questions floating around in my mind for her. For one thing, I was curious to know who built her house and why her house was made unlike everybody else's. It had a wide, open-ended hall running the length of the center of the house. I even imagined a dog trotting right down the center of that dwelling ... and that's why it's called a "dog-trot" house.

Sadly, she lived alone in that big old house on a large parcel of land. She, like many country folks, didn't have running water, electricity, a telephone, nor indoor plumbing. She had an old fashioned, stinky outhouse just like everybody else; however, I do not believe she lacked modern conveniences due to poverty but due to her choice to live on the land like a real homesteader. Her house was well-built and well maintained. I loved walking through that wide, open hall and peering into the side rooms. I still recall an antique picture that hung on one of the bedroom walls — one that I longed to own someday.

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