I THRESHED WITH APRON or great belt separator (as it was called)
This picture was taken in 1913. My Father standing on the side board and Uncle Anton feeding.
In 1870 my grand father, John Novotny, Sr., sold the farm near
Cedar Rapids, Iowa and made preparation to come to Nebraska with
the entire family. He was at the age of 65, grandmother was 45.
Their children were John Jr. 23, Frank 20, Joseph 18, Terezia 15,
Anton 10 and Charles 8. They rigged two covered wagons to make the
trek of 370 miles. One of these wagons is still in good
preservation at my place. As they preceded west along broad Platte
Valley and then into the hills, there was more and more wild game
deer, antelope, prairie chicken everywhere. All the land was green
and showed signs of great productivity and a great future.
Trying to get established in farming was very difficult. My
grandfather on different occasions tried to borrow money and not
even that could be done. Not even when offered 25% interest. Times
were so hard that some new-comers could not stand the trials and
returned from where they came.
The first serious experience in the fall was when all the
prairie grass was dry, tall and extended as far as the eye could
see. A prairie fire swept the land which with a strong wind
traveled very fast. So barren was the country rendered by these
fires that trees had no chance t c get started; let alone mature.
My father said most of the fires were started by Indians in the
fall, in quest of wild game for their winter supply of meat.
Everything was left in a one vast charred and blackened countryside
and indeed a very sad situation.
In August 1874 another catastrophe over-ran the country. This
time it was grasshoppers (locust). About three o'clock in the
afternoon the sun was hidden by a vast cloud of them coming from
the north and when they descended all vegetation, corn and
As time went on these settlers became hardened and had a better
understanding of the land about them. The land was good and they
believed that the Great American Desert could be tamed and made
liveable. The more prairie there was broken, the more rain there
seemed to be falling. As they say rain follows the plow. More
settlers came and times were improving. My father got a homestead
claim for himself in the year 1883. Here he built a homestead
house. This little building is still in good preservation on my
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