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Free Land!

My Grandma came to northwestern North Dakota when she was nine years old. Her foster family had left a two-story painted home with a yard of trees back in Minnesota. The rolling hills looked immense to her. One endless sea of waving grass--no roads, no telephone poles, no landmarks. She said it was frightening to her, and I often wonder about the dismay of the women when they first saw their new home.

Usually the man wanted the adventure ... and the wives and daughters went along with the dreams. What else could they do? Many homesteaded because they had no money to buy land elsewhere, but others were lured by the love of a new experience. For the advertised "Free Land!" In the end they all paid a dear price for their free land, and many who wanted to turn around and leave couldn't. They'd spent all their money to come.

Of the early homesteaders, many more left than stayed. Those who stayed and proved up their claims were a hearty bunch of pioneers--men, women, and children. Few of us today would want to compete with their determination and courage.

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