In 1904, 25-year-old Carrine Gafkjen traveled to bleak, blustery North Dakota to stake out a 160-acre homestead. After living alone for 6 months, barring her door against coyotes and walking 10 miles weekly for drinking water, she meets the conditions of the Homestead Act, and the land is hers. This is just the beginning of a remarkable true story of pioneering courage.
Later, despite harsh winters, crop failures, illness, and backbreaking sunup-to-sundown work, Carrine and her homesteader husband raise 6 children (and all 6, at her insistence, attend school and college: no small feat, often involving treacherous trips through mountains of snow, not to mention the trials of college expenses).
Carrine’s resilience and ingenuity weave a common thread throughout this book. When she decides to raise turkeys, she buys turkey eggs, tricks her chickens into sitting on them, and hopes they’ll accept their “offspring”. At 35-years-old, 8-months pregnant, with no doctor within 25 miles, Carrine admits she shouldn’t have been “jumping up and down from a lumber wagon” all day, hastening the baby’s arrival that night, delivered with the help of a neighbor. Essential to survival on the prairie is the family’s reliance on the support and fellowship of other immigrant homesteaders.
The short stories in Nothing to Do but Stay offer a spirited glimpse of an indefatigable woman and our pioneer past.