Young Pioneers, a.k.a. Let the Hurricane Roar, by Rose Wilder Lane (YA historical)

Book cover of Young Pioneers, by Rose Wilder Lane
Young Pioneers

“Newlyweds Molly and David are only sixteen and eighteen years old when they pack up their wagon and head west across the plains in search of a new homestead. At first their new life is full of promise: The wheat is high, the dugout is warm and cozy, and a new baby is born to share in their happiness. Then disaster strikes, and David must go east for the winter to find work. Molly is left alone with the baby—with nothing but her own courage to face the dangers of the harsh prairie winter.”

After a recent read of O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, I decided to try another book about pioneers in the Midwest—Dakota Territory—entitled Young Pioneers, by Rose Wilder Lane. Both books celebrate the pioneering spirit and are frank about the fact that circumstances were often so difficult that many pioneers gave up their dreams and returned to their families and previous occupations in the east. What struck me in particular about Young Pioneers was the passion and hope this very young couple feel about their life together in this rough and beautiful farmland despite the fact that they live in a dugout, in very primitive conditions. I’ve often wondered what drove so many to leave their comfortable or at least tolerable lives for circumstances so savage.

O Pioneers! makes a statement (from Part 1, Chapter 4) that applies very well to the characters in Young Pioneers: “A pioneer should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than the things themselves.” Living the dreams of Molly and David for the duration of this short novel allowed me to understand, just a little, the imagination and hunger for independence that drove these pioneers. I think the quest for Zion requires the same unrelenting vision and determination.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the novel that describes Molly, while living in a dugout, imagining “the idea of things more than the things themselves”:

The sun was setting, and faithfully she carried water to the seedling cottonwoods. Straightening her tired back, she looked at the raw hole in the earth that would be the cellar. She thought of the white house, sheltered by its windbreak of tall trees, surrounded by the fields pouring forth a wealth of wheat. Their home. The baby would never know any other. He would grow to boyhood and manhood in the big white house; he would work in the wheat fields and in the large barns; he would ride his own horse over the prairies. He would have no memory of a starved, poor life in a dugout.

The wind whipped her faded skirts. The rim of the sun, like a drop of dye, was spreading rosy color around the whole rim of the world. She lifted her face to the strong wind, and her expanding heart seemed to enclose the enormous land, the great sky, the whole West with its outpouring abundance of joy, of freedom.

The featured image came from Pixabay.