O Pioneers

Glossary

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Amazonian

Referring to the Amazons, a mythical group of female warriors who were said to live in the Scythia (located on the African Continent).

barren

Unable to produce offspring or fruit; in reference to land, it suggests a lack of growth or development.

Bohemians

A group of people signifying their continued allegiance to a historical nation that existed within the borders of the present-day Czech Republic. The nation was independent until the fifteenth century, when it was absorbed into Hungary.

colic

A disease suffered by lifestock characterized by pain and spasms in the abdomen.

distemper

A disease which affects horses, dogs ands cats whose symptoms include fever and vomiting and which results in severe dehydration. Without treatment, this dehydration often leads to the death of the animal. At the time of the novel veterinary medicine was ineffective and inaccurately applied; consequently, distemper was a very serious affliction.

drouth

An archaic spelling for drought, a period of dry weather which results in a shortage of water for the necessities of life.

engraving

An art where a design is embedded on a block or plate in a way that allows ink to be applied and result in the replication of the design.

grain elevator

Invented in 1842 by a man named Joseph Dart, grain elevators distributed grain throughout silos (tall wooden buildings) to be stored in bins. When the grain was ready to be transported, it would be carried down to the loading area, even directly onto the train or wagon, by gravity alone.

habitable

Something which is suitable for supporting or encouraging life.

hammmock

A sheet made of woven rope or string which can be strung between two trees or poles or hung for the ceiling creating a hanging bed.

homestead

A dwelling and piece of land acquired under the Homestead Act of 1862. The Act opened up the newly-acquired Western lands to settlement by making 160 acres of land free to anyone who could build and live in a dwelling and produce crops from the land for five years.

indolent

lazy, resistant to work

magic lantern

An early form of a film projector, magic lanterns consist of an enclosed lamp with a small slit. Pictures were then placed in front of the slit, and the light behind them caused them to be enlarged and protected onto a sheet or wall.

moorings

ropes or other bindings which secure a vehicle to a spot, such as a ship in harbor.

nightcap

A cap worn to bed which was believed to protect the wearer against dangerous night drafts.

pioneer

A word coined in the early 1500's from the french word for foot soldier, it refers to a person who is the first to enter a new territory, do something in a new way, or make headway against an apparently insurmountable problem.

prairie

While prairie literally refers to an area of rolling hills with dense grassland and few trees, the term has taken on the larger meaning of certain areas of the western United States which eastern residents came to inhabit during the period of Western Expansion, spurred by the promise of cheap land.

Providence

When capitalized, usually a reference to God enacting his will; when uncapitalized, it refers to the guidance or vision of God, or sometimes the more secular luck or prudence.

sauerkraut

A traditional Norwegian dish consisting of cabbage which has been salted and allowed to ferment.

scythe

A long curving blade fastened to a long stick, used to cut grass and hay and perform other agricultural tasks.

skittish

Shy, with a tendency to start or panic.

slovenly

Something which is dirty and untidy in appearance or habit.

sod house

A house built of strips of sod. Sod was used usually because timber was scarce and sod provided good insulation against the cold winters.

sovereign

relating to a royal or divine authority

tableland

This onomatopoeic term refers to a flat area which is elevated, such as a large, flat plain on the summit of a hill.

telegraph pole

Before the telephone became common or inexpensive, messages were sent by telegraph. Wires were strung between tall poles and people at certain spots along the line would tap out messages in code which would then be picked up at other spots. The poles were very tall to prevent vandalism, as the cutting of even one line would do tremendous damage to this communication system.

ulster

A man's overcoat, usually long and made of strong fabric, and meant to be worn in the colder months.

unsparing

Not sparing, constant, either liberal or unmerciful.

vacillating

Unable to make a decision, indecisive.