It was not all work and no play in the 19th century Wild West.  One of the cheapest and most enjoyable past time was picnicking.

A family would wake up hours earlier than usual to get the chores of the day out of the way. Then, to the excitement of the children, it was time to leave. Horseback was the best mode of travel, over valleys and hills covered with sage bush.

Father would be in the lead, a child or two riding with him, and mother following on her own horse. The children would be chattering away, and for once, the lines of exhaustion etched on the Pa and Ma’s faces would have softened.

As they climbed the mountain, they left the stifling summer heat behind and the air became clearer. Ma would belt out a tune and the whole family would join in. Sage chicken, startled, would jump from the bushes, making the younger children giggle.

Finally, they would stop in a patch where the grass was as soft as a carpet. Cottonwood provided a welcome shade and a creek nearby a fresh supply of trout. Grasshoppers provided the bait and a birch pole the fishing rod. Father would sit on a stone, flanked by his sons dangling the rod in the creek water. He would fish only what the family needed.

Soon, the delicious smell of trout frying in butter rends the air. Meanwhile, the children gather service berries and when they return the meal is ready. After cleaning off their picnic lunch, the family head to the creek and using their cupped hands as bowls, they drink fresh water from the creek.

The afternoon is spent in play for the children, while Ma and Pa share a rare quiet moment, without chores that need to be attended to.

The sun goes down and it’s time to head back home, tired but rejuvenated for another week of hard, backbreaking work on the farm.




Doctor Arthur Hertzler, a doctor in the west, recalled in his autobiography an episode that happened when he was younger. For a couple of weeks, he had suffered sharp pains in his back which exuded into his groin area. On seeing a doctor, the diagnosis was that young Arthur Hertzler was growing too fast.

One of the biggest problem in the west when it came to medical care, was misdiagnosis. It was often vague and attributed to the fact that the doctor himself had absolutely no clue what was causing the disease. Doctors had no laboratories and instruments to help with diagnosis.

Menstrual cramps, known today to occur as a result of the uterus contracting, was believed to be caused by uterine congestion. This congestion came to be due to the patient (Of course a woman) reading too many romantic novels! The solution? Avoid reading romantic novels or indeed any literature that stimulated the mind and body. So much for cramps easing!

Mental illness was the most misunderstood human disorder. Some doctors believed it was caused by an oversupply of blood in the brain, while others thought it a punishment from God for a wrong doing. Many sufferers of mental illness in the west was caused by syphilis which is today known to be a sexually transmitted disease.

Untreated, syphilis progressed to the tertiary stage and attacked the brain tissue, resulting in mental illness.

The insane were often locked up alongside criminals, or kept somewhere in the house, out of sight from normal people. If the insanity was thought to have been caused by evil spirits, then the spirits were removed physical—beating the devil out the poor patient. A drill was also sometimes used to construct a means of escape for the evils spirits locked up in the skull.

On a lighter note, many spinsters suffered from hysteria. It was believed to be caused by sexual deprivation. The treatment –marriage.