On the farm where I grew up, northwest of Lake View in Sac County, Iowa, my great grandfather Jeff Kruser once had a dugout home in the side of a hill.  He emigrated from Denmark and came to this part of Iowa on a cattle drive in 1876.

The Dugout


How long his abode did last,
The dwelling he had made,
Is lost in the mists of the  past;
No record I know has stayed...

When I, a boy there grew,
The dugout I never knew,
Nor the house that followed it;
In another, my mother knit.

But if imagine, I may,
I'll try to build again,
And hope it resembles the way,
It was assembled then...


Upon his chosen land
Jeff Kruser plowed a furrow,
And with his laboring hand,
A hill did partly burrow.

Its side he did indent,
Its slope he did inlet;
Inside this notching went,
A framework that he set.

In front were walls of turf,
Skimmed from prairie soil:
Blocks of sod, grass and earth,
The walls of turf and toil...

And the walls upon the ground,
Did corner and meet the dent;
And channels were shoveled round,
Where rainfall running went...

From wall to wall,
Across it all,
He laid together thick,
A ceiling of willow stick...
And above and over them,
Some cattail leaves and stem...

He put ample branches to support
A roof of prairie sod;
And where an edge was short,
He put a rooted clod.

If part would crumble and drop,
From the turf that lay atop...
The cattail and willow
           He'd layer'd below,
           Would dirt there stop...

The floor was made of rock,
From flattish stones he found,
Here he stepped in sock,
Up off the very ground.

By the dugout wall,
He built a simple stall:
To tether horses together,
And shelter them, side by side,
In, out of the weather,
Horses to work and ride...

A lean-to hovel,
With manger there to feed,
A place to lean a shovel,
And hang the harness in need.

Inside his dwelling space,
He built a burning place,
A fireplace made of rock;
And nigh was kindling stock.

A chimney sealed with clay,
Up through the roof did poke;
A gray wisp was carried away,
As hearth did heat and smoke.

His door did face the dawn,
Admitting the morning sun...
Outside, a prairie lawn,
And below, a creek did run
     Thus the abode, now gone,
               Of my ancestral one!  
           John Riedell


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Site Last Updated on 05/05/13