Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Homestead Adventure Venture Crew Style

In a world filled with television shows like Survivor, Deadliest Catch, and Man vs. Wild, and thrill-seeking activities such as bungee-jumping and sky-diving, what do you consider adventurous? Sky-diving? White-water rafting? Driving cross country without navigation assistance such as GPS or a map? Swimming with sharks?

How about traveling to a foreign land where you don’t know the language or customs, adopting farming as a new profession, and living off the land to survive? Would that be a welcome challenge for you or something too adventurous for your tastes? This is exactly what homesteaders encountered when moving westward to file for free land.

By Park Guide Allison La Duke

Homestead National Monument of America stands for everything that homesteaders endured and experienced during their adventurous journey from other lands or states to claim their homestead of 160 acres. Even if they traveled from New York City or Boston, the geography and climate of the Great Plains and further west is drastically different from the forested states of New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

Of course European immigrants would have the added difficulty of a different language and culture to adjust to once they arrived. In addition once you found your homestead, you had to create some sort of shelter, find water and a source of fuel for fire, and begin preparing the land to grow crops. Not only did you have to deal with the daily chores of living, but also for many they were very isolated. The next homestead wasn’t always close by and typically going to town for store-bought supplies was planned well in advance. So, I’ll say that it was an adventure of sorts for any person who dared to homestead, and only those that were strong and had a bit of luck with them succeeded: 40% of all those who filed a homestead claim received their land patent after living there for 5 years. The connection between real adventure and homesteading still exists today. One could homestead in Alaska until 1986 (only 25 years ago!), and some people say that Alaska is the last wilderness in our country.

Today in 2010 Homestead National Monument of America is noticeably connected to adventure. Through the Friends of Homestead, who has chartered a new Venturing Crew with the Cornhusker Council of Boy Scouts of America, Homestead is involved in adventure experiences. The Venture Crew 82, chartered this year, is made up of young men and women ages 16-20 who are interested in outdoor recreation, leadership, travel, and socializing. They have gone rock climbing, volunteered at the monument’s monthly deer survey, and visited Badlands National Park via distance learning technology equipment.

They plan to visit South Dakota this summer for a week long adventure of outdoor recreation, traveling, and learning about the area. For more information about the Venture Crew 82, go to http://www.nps.gov/home/supportyourpark/venture-crew-82-sponsored-by-friends-of-homestead.htm.

So if you ever thought homesteading was boring or without risk, think again. Homesteaders experienced tornadoes, dust storms, illness, loneliness, locusts, freezing winters, and the daily challenge to make ends meet. Today we remember their adventures with the Venture Crew 82 in a modern way.

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