May 10, 2012

On Montana

I completely understand why someone might want to live in eastern Montana today, but what could have possible seemed like an upside in the 19th century? It's 90 degrees in the summer, it's 30 below in the winter, there are hardly any trees, and rattlesnakes have been observed [...] Was life in the 19th century so painful that living wasn't even desirable? Pioneers worked for 13 hours a day, slept as soon as it got dark, bathed in their own sweat for six months, shivered and fought pneumonia for the six months that followed, and inevitably starved to death. That was as much as you could ever hope for; it was their version of a satisfying life. I have to assume that pioneers saw the inhospitable landscape of Montana and immediately realized that most of their settlement would die within a year, which actually seemed reassuring. "This is perfect," they no doubt concluded. "Maybe I'll be dead before Christmas!"

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