The author Willa Cather and I have at least one thing in common: neither of us had any interest in living on the Great Plains.
Born in Virginia, nine-year-old Willa initially found Nebraska’s wide sky and endless landscape almost physically crushing.
“As we drove further and further out into the country,” she said, “I felt a good deal as if we had come to the end of everything—it was a kind of erasure of personality.”
It was April 1883. The land, Cather later recalled, was “as bare as a piece of sheet iron.” The family planned to join Willa’s paternal grandparents on their homestead about a dozen miles outside the town of Red Cloud.
Less than 18 months after they arrived, her father decided he wasn’t cut out for farming and moved the family into a modest rental home in town. Willa Cather lived in this two-story, three-bedroom house with no running water and no electricity along with her maternal grandmother, her parents, her six siblings and their hired kitchen girl—all eleven under one roof. Cather stayed in that home into her young adulthood.
I recently visited Willa Cather’s childhood home with my book club. We’d read My Antonia and O Pioneers, and knowing the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author’s childhood home was less than a three-hour drive southwest of Lincoln, Nebraska, we decided to visit the setting in which Cather had set so many of her novels and stories.
…I’m doing something a little differently today, writing a post as part of Tweetspeak’s Literary Tour series, about my recent trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska, to visit author Willa Cather’s childhood home. Join me over there for the tour?