The Diary of Lizzie Dopps
Prairie fires were not uncommon.
In fact, we lived in constant fear of them during the hot dry
season--these monstrous infernos raging and leaping towards us like a
thing imbued with life, a demon gone into a wild frenzy.
To avoid a prairie fire, we plowed many
furrows around our fields and homes, leaving them bare, so that no dried
vegetation would feed these furies, but sometimes this did not stop them
and we had to fight these demons.
One such time I shall always remember.
It was just a little while before our Jennie was born.
One evening after darkness fell there was a rosy glow in the sky.
We felt sure it was a prairie fire in the distance.
If it was what we thought it was, we knew we were in for a long
night of fire-fighting.
Eli said, "Iíll go to bed and
try to get some sleep and rest (he had had a long hard day) and try to
be ready for it if it comes. Will
you sit up and watch, and if it comes up over yonder hill, call
After anxiously watching and waiting, there
it came in all its fierce, red fury, making a direct line for our home,
"Eli, it's coming," I
He arose immediately and neighbors came to
help. On and on it came
like a wild hungry animal let loose, greedy little red tongues darting
out, licking up and devouring everything in its way.
We had just harvested our grain and it was
stacked in the barn, full to the top.
Oh, was all our labor of sowing and harvesting, our little home
and all we had, perhaps even our lives, to be consumed by this mad, wild
The men tore up blankets and wet them in
pails and tubs of water and went at it with a vengeance.
On and on it came, over the fields of stubble. Now it was licking up the loose straw around the straw stack!
In the house it was light as day, a red
glare coming through the window, although it was in the dead of night.
Even if we escaped with our lives, I had another fear.
Would it effect my baby I was expecting?
The men were near exhaustion and when they
saw it so near the straw stack they thought they were licked and about
gave up to flee to safety.
One of them gasped out, "Eli, I
can't fight any longer."
At that Eli went at it all the
harder. It was like a whip
if he had to do it all alone. However,
when the others saw his determination, it seemed to give them new
strength and spurred them on to fight all the harder, to fight this
Miracles of miracles, at the very edge of
the straw stack and round about, the wet blankets had snapped the life
out of this wild thing. It
flickered a while and finally died.
They had conquered a prairie fire once more
and saved the home and perhaps the lives of courageous prairie settlers
In time our Jennie was born and was
alright. It seemed to me to
be an irony of fate that after I, having passed through this fright of
fire, she was to be born during the deluge of a rainstorm, the edge of a
cloudburst I have previously told about.
|© 2006 Laurie Arnold. All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy. She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders. web design © 2006 Ardie Grimes|