I've been thinking abour our ancestors, who'll I'll refer to as pioneers instead of homesteaders. I'm thinking of those who first crossed the Appalachians in the 1700's, those who made the long, hard trip to California and the Oregon Territory in the 1840's, the Mormon pioneers to Utah, the "sodbusters" of the Great Plains, and those who went to Alaska in search of gold. Yes, they all had it rough, because it was a different, "rougher" time. Some were able to take advantage of the Homestead Act during the limited time period it was in effect. Some, pre-dating the Homestead Act, were able to simply claim a piece of land as their own, yet still many throughout the long period of settlement of our country purchased their land. In truth, the Homestead Act was more propaganda than panacea, a way to get population (hence money) out into the Great Plains (known up to that time as the Great American Desert) to the advantage of the railroads. My own great- grandparents missed the last Oklahoma land run by only days and went on to purchase a "homestead" in the Dakotas. That land was as much theirs as if they'd filed a claim, the work was every bit as hard, and I certainly wouldn't want to face my ancestors and tell them they weren't "real homesteaders." Some had funds, some didn't. The reason they did things the hard way was not because they had some "homesteader's standard" to live up to, but because there was no other way to do things. Certainly, no homesteading family of any means turned their backs on the newest labor saving invention, truly they embraced the technology of the day. They sought comfort in their homes. Take the sod-house farmers, for example. When they came to a point where they could purchase wood for a frame house many chose to keep their soddies. Because they had some notion of being "true homesteaders?" No, because the soddies were cooler. They were all farmers, because that's how you ate. There were no separate categories for homesteaders, farmers, etc. If times were rough, no one turned down work off the home place. A good read is "Sod House Days - Letters from a Kansas Homesteader 1877-78" by Howard Ruede, University of Kansas Press. Which brings us to us. None of us are "real homesteaders", all of us are "modern homesteaders" though we like to look for the similarities between ourselves and these pioneers. Both catagories embrace an incredible variety of people, places and motives. Most of us are probably more accurately termed re-enactors, history buffs, idealists, environmentalists, or lunatics. Like the pioneers we seek to better our lives for probably many of the same reasons they did - freedom, finances, and faith. Like them, some of us have funds and some don't. The difference is we search for something rare in our world that was commonplace in theirs. Those of us who embrace some of the old ways need to humbly remember that such a choice is a reflection of this modern world and not theirs. They would have thought us strange indeed to want to go backward. If we want to be "true homesteaders" maybe we should model our pioneer ancestors and come together as community emmulating a time when neighbors helped neighbors, advice was given gently, certain subjects just weren't accepted in polite conversation, and good etiquette was the rule of the day.