Happy As a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880 by Rolf Johnson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Happy As a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880

Happy As a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880

by Rolf Johnson
     
 

In 1876 Rolf Johnson and his family left Illinois for Phelps County, Nebraska. There they faced the challenges of pioneering on the Great Plains: digging wells, building sod houses, plowing and planting crops, and fighting prairie fires. Johnson's diary goes beyond individual conquest, however, and provides insight into the great cooperative endeavor of plains

Overview


In 1876 Rolf Johnson and his family left Illinois for Phelps County, Nebraska. There they faced the challenges of pioneering on the Great Plains: digging wells, building sod houses, plowing and planting crops, and fighting prairie fires. Johnson's diary goes beyond individual conquest, however, and provides insight into the great cooperative endeavor of plains settlement. Rolf's Swedish family and neighbors worked and socialized with other Swedes just as nearby Danish settlers remained in close physical and cultural contact with other Danish immigrants. A very eligible ninetten-year-old bachelor, Rolf also offers touching vignettes on the rituals of courting.

Abruptly, with no explanation in his diary, and with no itinerary or prospects, Rolf left home in 1879 "with the intention of going west for a season." His departure may have been sparked by the marital fervor exhibited by a female suitor. Rolf felt he was "not quite prepared to leave the state of single blessedness for that of double misery." In Sidney, Nebraska, he ran with the "sporting" element, who showed him photographs of "fast women of the town stark naked." He found employment with a wagon freighter headed for the Black Hills, where he saw Calamity Jane in action. Rolf's education continued until the diaries end in Cubero, New Mexico, in 1880. He returned to Phelps County in 1882 and remained there for most of his life. Rolf's lively diaries offer an entertaining eyewitness account of pioneer life and an unmatched resource for historians.

Editorial Reviews

Journal of the West

"A fascinating insight into late 19th-century agricultural practices, economic and ecological challenges, and the complexities of community building. . . . Wonderful and lively insight into various American Indian cultures."—Brad Birzer, Journal of the West

— Brad Birzer

Journal of the West - Brad Birzer

"A fascinating insight into late 19th-century agricultural practices, economic and ecological challenges, and the complexities of community building. . . . Wonderful and lively insight into various American Indian cultures."—Brad Birzer, Journal of the West
Library Journal
This diary is in many ways as charming as its title. With the enthusiasm and innocence of young adulthood, Johnson records several years of his life as a first-generation Swedish American farmer in Nebraska and the greater Plains region. His entries vividly depict the scenes and people of the late 1870s and early 1880s, ranging from farming to the girls he courted and the various accidents, fights, and other events common to frontier life. His ethnic identity as a Swede is not a prominent part of the story, although he mentions reading a "Danish" book and makes reference to other Swedish pioneers. Editor Jensen, an anthropologist with the Nebraska State Historical Society, could have done a better job in the introduction of relating the bigger picture of Swedish immigration into the Plains, but he does give much detail about Johnson's life and family. This title will be of great interest to regional libraries, but outside the region it will be most appropriate for larger Western historical collections.--Charlie Cowling, Information Svcs., SUNY at Brockport Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
A lively account of the pioneering life by an eligible young bachelor Rolf Johnson, whose family moved from Illinois to Nebraska in 1876 to settle on the plains. His journal chronicles such events as digging wells, building sod houses, plowing and planting crops, witnessing a hanging, and courting. With an introduction by an anthropologist with the Nebraska State Historical Society. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803276147
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
08/28/2000
Pages:
282
Product dimensions:
6.06(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author


Richard E. Jensen is a research anthropologist with the Nebraska State Historical Society. He is coeditor of Eyewitness at Wounded Knee (Nebraska 1992) and author of numerous articles for Nebraska History magazine.

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