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Buried up to his ears in debt, Fighting the heat, and cold, and wet, His chances worse than an even bet–You’ll find the homesteader.

Eyes burned out in the summer sun, Skin like a beefsteak underdone; You’d think him fifty — he’s thirty one — But then, he’s a homesteader.

Winter comes, and his note is due (Summer was dry, and nothing grew), So he sells his gun, and a cow or two, And hopes, does the homesteader.

Rough and broken his acres lie, Half of them white with alkali; But they mean  that thing he could’t buy– A home–to the homesteader.

One part hero, and three parts fool, All of him bulldog grit, as a rule. He’s slow to learn, but he stays in school. “Here’s How,” Mister Homesteader.

Elliot C. Lincon Rhymes of a Homesteader, 1920

                    ABOUT THE EXHIBIT: The settlers who advanced upon the northern high plains struggled to establish homesteads in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The lure of owning 160 acres of land (later 320) at minimal cost – but at great labor – was forcefully enticing.  In the face of formidable odds against them, such as drought, wind, cold, remoteness, and primitive tools, these determined people established homes, planted fields and gardens, and raised livestock.  Unfortunately, climatic conditions and economic forces conspired against them over the decades.  Many persevered, and many sold out and moved on. As a former resident of the Judith Basin in Montana, I have long admired these stalwart people.  Recently I have returned with my 8×10 inch view camera to record on sheet film their rapidly diminishing remnants.  Their abandoned structures and resting machinery, set against the immensity of sky and land, evoke in me a profound respect for their courage and resiliency.  May these images honor their frontier spirit. Lee Silliman

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