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Week 16: October 26, 2001

Continued from previous page.

Far from the rush of enthusiasm predicted from our dozen participants, this week we have witnessed a valley in quiet reflection. Everyone has been absorbed in thoughts about the remarkable experience that has taken place here. Notions we all had in mind at the start of this endeavor have been re-shaped and re-defined in countless ways across the five months spent on the frontier. The personal journey undertaken by all of our homesteaders has prompted everyone to reassess their lives. The Clunes, about to return to a new and luxurious house overlooking the beach in Los Angeles, talk of re-evaluating priorities when they return home. Aine and cousin Tracy, both 15, are eager not to forget what they have learned on the sometimes painful moments they experienced here. Aside from the new confidence that they feel, they talk of looking to start afresh, wanting to turn their back on gratuitous consumerism and re-evaluating the sincerity of friendships. As for the Glenns, Mom Karen is eager to maintain the closeness the intensity of homestead life has prompted with children Erinn and Logan; meanwhile, husband Mark has a real fear of being dragged back into what he sees as the craziness of our frantic and fragmented 21st-century lives. In the Brooks family, it's been an affirmation of the values they had hoped to take away: pride in self-reliance and a strengthening of their characters from experiencing such simplicity of life.

After witnessing the roller coaster of emotions that has driven our families across this amazing experience, what can we take away from everything that has occurred in the making of THE FRONTIER HOUSE? To encapsulate such an answer would take hours -- at least the six hours that will be devoted on screen when the series is aired. But, above all, I hope the incredible efforts our viewers will witness when the series is shown will prompt them to think carefully about this crucial moment in American history. As I write I wonder, What would those original pioneers of the American West make of our experiment to recreate their lives? I suspect if they could glimpse the world we inhabit, they would be mystified at our purpose: Having come so far, why would we even wish to spend a day in their shoes? For me, at least, this has been a sobering experience. Gone is the romance those "Wild West" movies and TV shows once promised. Instead I see a world of daily challenge, danger, and near-impossible odds. The facts speak for themselves: barely 30% of homesteaders ever managed to "prove up" their land in the West. For the remainder, the encounter was simply too harsh. Mother Nature, sickness, hunger, and poverty often won the day. Their frustrations still dot the landscape across the West; ruined shacks stand as testament to their endeavors. By witnessing first hand just how hard those struggles were, one cannot fail to recognize the formidable spirit that built America. If our venture proves anything, it's that every one of those pioneers deserves our admiration by daring to dream for a better life.

The Homesteaders
Animation of homesteaders
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