My Story As Told By Houses-- Part 1, The Soddycomments (16) October 12th, 2010 in Blogs
“We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills and winding streams with tangled growth as wild. Only to the white man was nature a wilderness, and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame. Earth was beautiful and we were surrounded with blessings of the Great Mystery.”
—Luther Standing Bear, Sioux Chief
Not everyone lives in a wood-frame house warmed with a central heating system and containing double-glazed windows, Hardi-plank siding, and solar panels for electricity. There are other ways to build our homes. Nipa huts, for example, are ideal for the Pacific islanders living near the equator. Made of bamboo and covered with thatched roofs, they allow breezes to pass through and ease life lived in heat that can be oppressive.
Tepee structures made of long poles and covered with hides meant that the Native peoples of our Great Plains could take their home with them as they followed the migrating bison. Mongolians too have a mobile home. The yurt has a lattice structure made of wood pieces brought from the lowlands. The traditional felt cover comes from sheep wool. A yurt can be taken apart and carried on the backs of yaks as these nomadic people follow their herds to different feeding grounds.
Chimney Rock in western Nebraska was a major land mark for pioneers headed west to Oregon and California.
The Qero people live in the high Andean mountains of Peru far above the timberline. These descendents of the Incas build their homes out of rocks. Further south in the lowlands of Chile, the Mapuche live in rukas, round buildings made from the plentiful wood in their part of the world. Many people in El Salvador still live in their traditional earth-pole homes.
People need a place to live and love, a shelter where they can eat, sleep, and carry on their family activities.
Throughout history and in places throughout the world, their buzzwords were not “Build locally and sustainably,” but that is what they were doing. They couldn’t bring in lumber from Oregon, siding from Australia, drywall from China, and tile from Italy. The materials they used—earth, snow, bamboo, and grass—came back year after year. They were green builders of the first order.
And so it was with the birth house of my mother, Elizabeth Brennan. She was born in 1897 in a one-room sod house. It was located not far from the North Platte River (“too thin to plow, too thick to drink”) near a small town named Lisco in western Nebraska. Lisco was named after Rube Lisco, an early cattle rancher in the area and employer of my grandfather. Not far downriver is located Chimney Rock (photo), that landmark sandstone spire that let pioneers on the trail to California and Oregon know their location.
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