I took the same article and had ChatGPT rewrite it from a New Englander's point of view: What do you think?
LIVING ON THE PRAIRIE: A New Englander's Perspective
From the cozy, history-steeped towns of New England, the prairie life of the American West seems as distant as the moon. Imagine swapping our lush, tree-lined landscapes for a horizon that stretches unbroken as far as the eye can see. Out there, the elements aren't just a mild inconvenience but a daily battle, with scorching summers and bone-chilling winters.
In the days of westward expansion, those hardy souls who ventured onto the Great Plains faced a stark reality: no forests meant no wood for building. Instead, they found buffalo grass, as integral to the prairie as our maple and pine are to New England. This tough, root-matted grass became the settlers' unlikely building material.
Early prairie dwellers often started with a dugout home, carved right into a hillside. Imagine that – living in a hole in the ground! They'd then expand it with sod, creating what they probably called 'cozy' but was likely anything but. Over time, these sod houses, or 'soddies,' evolved into more sophisticated structures. The settlers used a grasshopper plow, a far cry from our familiar horse-drawn plows, to cut the sod into strips for building.
These sod homes, with walls a yard thick, were surprisingly effective. Cool in summer, warm in winter, but let's not romanticize – they were no New England cottage. Heavy rains were a menace, and the roofs, sometimes sprouting flowers, were a quaint touch but hardly a substitute for our sturdy shingles.
Life on the prairie was a far cry from our New England villages. Wood was scarce, so they burned buffalo or cow chips for heat – imagine getting used to that smell! Water was a luxury, not taken for granted like our plentiful streams and wells. And the isolation – miles from the nearest neighbor – makes our quaint, sometimes insular towns seem bustling in comparison.
We might shake our heads, wondering why anyone would choose such a life. But it's thanks to these 'sodbusters' that the Great Plains were settled, playing a crucial role in the expansion of our nation. It's a stark reminder of the diverse challenges and lifestyles that have shaped America, as different from our New England way of life as the prairie is from the forest.
Recently, I took a class with Steve Little on using Artificial Intelligence in genealogical writing. Below you will find an article I wrote awhile back about living in a soddy on the prairie. I asked ChatGPT to translate it into a Midwestern dialect and here it is.
LIVIN' OUT ON THE PRAIRIE
Well now, let me tell ya 'bout prairie life, where the summers sizzle and the winters bite. Out here, it's you, the land, and a whole mess of critters - from pesky bugs to slitherin' snakes. When our forebears trekked out to the Great Plains, they found themselves a whole new challenge. No forests for log cabins here, just miles of tough buffalo grass.
That grass, with roots thick as a preacher's bible, was what we had to work with. Early days, folks would carve out a home right in the hillside, a dugout, you might call it. Then, as time went on, they'd expand, using sod cut from the earth to build up walls for a proper house.
Now, building a sod house, that was no Sunday picnic. First, we had to cut the sod - big, heavy strips of earth and grass. The old grasshopper plow, once it came along, sure made a difference. We'd lay those sod strips, grass side down, making walls thicker than a winter stew. Had to leave a gap for a door and windows, of course. And the roof? Well, that was a mix of wood, maybe some tar paper, and a lighter layer of sod. Come spring, you might just see flowers sprouting up there!
Inside, it was simple but practical. Some folks hung cheesecloth from the ceiling to catch the bugs and bits falling into their supper. Cozy in the summer, snug in the winter, those sod houses were. But let me tell you, a heavy rain could test your patience. And heating? We burned what we had, mostly buffalo or cow chips. Takes a bit to get used to that aroma, I'll tell ya.
Water was as precious as gold out here. Some were lucky, settling by a spring or stream. Others had to dig wells, and that was no sure bet. Winters could be lonely, with your nearest neighbor miles away.
You might wonder, why'd anyone choose this life? It was tough, no doubt. But those sodbusters, they were determined. They turned the Great Plains into a place folks could live and work, helping to stretch our nation into what it is today.
Hot summers, cold winters, dirt, bugs, mice, and snakes were an everyday part of living on the prairie during the expansion of our United States. Pioneers moving to the Great Plains soon realized that a log cabin was not going to be built on their homestead. Buffalo grass, a thick grass with heavily matted roots was to the prairie as trees were to the forest. Buffalo grass was the raw material available to build shelters
for the new settlers.
Many pioneers began their life on the prairie in a dugout cut into a hillside later to be expanded on several sides with sod to create a “cozy,” if not very clean, home. As time went on, the settlers would build an actual sod house with a door and windows. The laborious job of cutting sod with a spade was soon replaced with the use of the grasshopper plow that greatly eased the work of building a soddy. Strips cut approximately six inches deep and one foot wide by two feet long were used to build the walls. Laying the sod, grass side down and two to three rows wide, created a wall about three feet thick. A space was left for the door and windows were framed. Every few rows, the direction of the sod was changed to increase the strength of the wall. The roof was made in several ways most commonly by creating a wooden frame, sometimes covered with tar paper or straw, with a thinner layer of sod on top. Eventually, the roof might sprout a spring flower garden. Inside the house, the homeowner might hang cheese cloth from the ceiling to catch the bugs and grass that would drop down on the evening meal.
The sod house was cool in the summer and warm in the winter although susceptible to heavy rain. They lasted a long time, frequently becoming a storage room or barn when a newer home was built. Wood was sparse so most of the soddies were heated with buffalo or cow chips. Eventually the family got used to the smell. Water was precious and hard to come by. Fortunate settlers settled near a spring or stream otherwise it was necessary to dig a well, a chancy and dangerous activity. Winter brought long days of loneliness with the nearest neighbor miles away.
We might think that this life was unimaginable and wonder why anyone would choose to live in this way, but although failure was high, the sodbusters brought settlement to the Great Plains by the early twentieth century thereby helping to expand the United States.
Like me, you may have noticed that Ancestry.com has not had "The Source" or the "RedBook" online for awhile. I actually went out and bought the "The Source" Third Edition because it was no longer available on the website. It is back and you can find it at http://wiki.rootsweb.com
In honor of Father's Day - pictures of my father and grandfathers
This is a horrible picture of me on the left but a great picture of my dad holding my sister, Terri. He would be under 40 at this time, probably closer to 35. In the picture below he was about 20. I think this was an ROTC picture although it could be when he first joined the army.
Here is my grandfather, James H. McManus Sr., My father said he was about 25 when this picture was taken.
And my other grandfather, Dr.Milton Lee Orr.