Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Homesteaders Tale

Recently I read a review of a book entitled, "No Time on My Hands". It's the life story of Grace McCance Snyder as told to her daughter Nellie Snyder Yost. I first saw the book featured on Linda's blog Under the Gables. Here's her review of the book:



Grace moved to Nebraska in 1885 when she was three years old. Her family had moved from Missouri and lived in a sod house. I can't even imagine such a thing. Grace either kept some journals or had a fantastic memory because she relates stories up to her 80th year (she died at 100). Her memory for people and dates is amazing.

As a child she begged her mother for bits of cloth so that she could stitch them together as her mother did in quilt making. The title of the book refers to an adage of her grandmother which applies to her life also. These people had very little time on their hands. Each moment of the day was pretty much spoken for but Grace did find some time, while herding animals, to have some daydreams.

This is not a traditional piece of writing. It's more of Grace's streaming consciousness and occasionally tales end abruptly leaving you wonder if there was more to it. Never mind, it's a tremendously difficult and fascinating life.

Grace eventually does get fabric of her own and in adulthood she begins creating quilts. Not much time is spent discussing her quilting but at some point she reveals that her quilts begin to travel the country on display and one in particular (pictured below) called the Flower Basket Quilt is considered one of the top 100 quilts produced during the 20th century. It is now permanently on display in a special case at the Nebraska State Historical Society Museum in Lincoln.


There's two things for my bucket list, view Grace's quilt and visit one of the sod house museums.

The quilt was created during the second world war. It's patterned after the design in the center of a piece of china. The petit point design was created from the tiniest pieces, 87,789 of them. Yes, I said over 87,000 pieces! Now, that's patience.

Grace states:

"I made it of triangle shaped pieces so small that eight of them sewed together made a "block" no larger than a two-cent postage stamp. The effect is more like needle point embroidery than patchwork quilt piecing. I was sixteen months making the quilt, and I used 5,400 yards of thread in the sewing."

The book is 541 pages long but it never dragged, I remained interested from cover to cover.

Towards the end of the book she states, "If there has seemed to be overmuch of weather in this story, it is because there is overmuch of weather in Nebraska, and it still has much to do with what does on in the big state. Man, with all his inventions to make life easier and better and faster, has come an amazing long way in three quarters of a century. But when Nature whips up something really rough in the way of a storm, men and all their gadgets are stopped in their tracks."

This entry made me laugh because sometimes I feel that I also make overmuch of the weather.


But, Grace McCance Snyder was right, in rural areas there does seem to be overmuch of weather.


I do love the fact that we can see horizon to horizon. I like to see what's coming!


Lisa D. said...

That sounds like my kind of story. I love the kind of story that helps me see/feel how someone else lived, be it another time or another place.
I love that "overmuch weather". So funny. And I can NOT imagine making that quilt! Wow! That is amazing!

Judy said...

I have this book and have seen Grace Snyders quilts in Lincoln Nebraska where they had been displayed. The quilts are amazing. I spent 2 hours in the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and could have spent more time.

Anonymous said...

I read this book last year, saw it on someone's blog or post some where. it was a great book, loved it! had to have my library get it from another, it was worth the wait though, I would highly recommend it!

Anonymous said...

also, I would love to see her quilts! Pam

Vee said...

Amazing quilt. And one that took a great deal of time. Stolen time? Sacred time? Precious time to be sure. Now you have me wanting to see that quilt. How closely are you able to see the details on the original photo in the book?

Harriet said...

Many years ago, my family "camped" our way to Colorado. Nebraska was truly amazing. The rest areas were wonderful especially because inside were huge photographs of "sod homes". It was very moving to read the captions. What struck me was: 1) one picture showed a bird in a cage hanging outside of the sod home...reason given was since no birds were around to sing it was one way women were able to get relief from the constant sound of wind and only if they could afford a bird, 2) the homes shown were so compact and to me dreary that I gained a great appreciation for those home steaders who braved living in such isolation literally in a dirt house, 3) yes the wind blew and I was able to imagine the sound that actually drove people mad.

I will get the book and look forward to reading it. Thanks.

Terri said...

Thanks for the review. I'd love to read it.
I have been in two soddies in MN when we lived there and worked on the road. My hubby sold yellow page advertising and we drove to customers' businesses throughout the upper Midwest. On the road around Sleepy Eye, I think, there was a farmer who built two soddies that you could visit for a few dollars. They were surrounded by the tall tossled-out native grasses that were plowed under to make farm fields. The houses were furnished with old pieces, a treddle sewing machine, a pot- bellied stove with a cook top, a bed on the floor with a utility type quilt, a handmade cradle, and on the sewing machine there was a scrap book of newspaper articles (showing pictures with the owners) about soddies... how one was even built to be a two story home! Inside was dark and musty. My first thought was "No wonder they cooked outside - How could anybody stay sane over a winter in this place." These weren't people who were poor that came out west. They'd had to pay quite a bit to get supplies for the journey and to buy a wagon and horses or better oxen. So they were used to nice big homes with real floors and roofs, and separate rooms...
I'm always amazed at their courage and the hardwork they did.

lifeinredshoes said...

I must see that quilt...road trip!

Crafting Marfa said...

I LOVE this book, or at least what you've written about it. I think its going into my amazon wish list. I'm waiting to get an iPad and then just download my books so it will be a while before I get it. But I'm definitely going to get it. Thanks for telling us about it.

Joy said...

I have heard of the book, seen it, but never read it. I probably should as I live in Nebraska. And she's correct about the weather!