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Life in Pioneer Times, page 4

    The settlers were separated from their neighbors often by miles. There were no church houses, or regular services of any kind to call them together; hence, no doubt, the cheerfulness with which they accepted invitations to a house-raising, or a log-rolling, or a corn husking, or a bee of any kind. To attend these gatherings, they would sometimes go ten or more miles. Generally with the invitation to the men, went one to the women, to come a quilting. The good woman of the house where the festivities were to take place, would be busily engaged for a day or more in preparation for the coming guests. Great quantities of provisions were to be prepared, for dyspepsia was unknown to the pioneer, and good appetites were the rule and not the exception. The bread used at these frolics was baked generally on johnny or journey-cake boards, and is the best corn bread ever made. A board is made smooth, about two feet long and eight inches wide, the ends are generally rounded. The dough is spread out on this board and placed leaning before the fire. One side is baked and the dough is changed on the board, so the other side is presented in its turn to the fire. This is johnny-cake, and is good, if the proper materials are put in the dough and it is properly baked. At all the log-rollings and house-raisings it was customary to provide liquor. Excesses were not indulged in, however. The fiddle was never forgotten. After the day's work had been accomplished, outdoors and in, by men and women, the floor was cleared and the merry dance began. The handsome, stalwart young men, whose fine forms were the result of their manly out-door life, clad in fringed buckskin trousers and gaudily colored hunting shirts, led forth the bright-eyed, buxom damsels, attired in neatly fitting, linsey-woolsey garments, to the dance, their cheeks glowing with health and eyes speaking of enjoyment, and perhaps of tenderer emotion. In pure pioneer times, the crops were never husked on the stalks as is done at this day, but were hauled home in the husk and thrown in a heap, generally by the side of the crib, so that the ears when husked could be thrown direct into the crib. The whole neighborhood, male and female, were invited to the "shucking," as it was called. The girls and many of the married ladies generally engaged in this amusing work.

    In the first place, two leading expert huskers were chosen as captains, and the heap of corn divided as nearly equal as possible. Rails were laid across the piles, so as to designate the division; and then each captain chose alternately his corps of huskers, male and female. The whole number of working hands present were selected on one side or the other, and then each party commenced a contest to beat the other, which was in many cases truly exciting. One other rule was, whenever a male husked a red ear of corn, he was entitled to a kiss from the girls. This frequently excited much fuss and scuffling, which was intended by both parties to end in a kiss. It was a universal practice that taffa, or Monongahela whiskey, was used at these husking frolics, which they drank out of a bottle; each one, male and female, taking the bottle and drinking out of it, and then handing it to his or her neighbor, without using any glass or cup. This custom was common and not considered rude. Almost always these corn-shuckings ended in a dance. To prepare for this amusement, fiddles and fiddlers were in great demand, and it often required much fast riding to obtain them. One violin and a performer were all that was contemplated at these innocent rural games.

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The Lives of Our Ancestors

        

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