When I was a kid, I spent a couple of weeks each summer with my dad's mother in a very rural part of East Texas. She lived in a two room house with no running water. Laundry was taken down the hill to her well and boiled in a black cauldron, then hung on a barbed wire fence. Her chickens were free range before anyone knew what that was. Going to the outhouse was a challenge because a pair of geese lived in the tall grass nearby and would attack anyone on the path.
My play house was under some old oak trees. Boards and bricks served as shelves where I stocked canned goods (empty vegetable cans) and dined with imaginary friends. The best days were spent picking blackberries for cobbler.I couldn't go too far into the woods because there was a moonshiner's still somewhere nearby. Fortunately, the patch was within site of the house.
These memories came to me while working on my story about a young woman in the Colorado Territory. Trying to figure out how the family wash got done in the middle of winter, how to keep food on the table and learning to survive made me realize how brave our ancestors truly were.
Old photographs from the 1800's tend to show people dressed in their Sunday best, grimly staring into the camera. Now, I understand life back then wasn't for sissies. I'm in no way comparing myself to hardy souls who came before me, but I think I have a better appreciation of their grit, determination and fortitude.