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Date Posted: 09:29:37 05/05/02 Sun
Subject: The Frontier House
I hardly need to say much about this one, if you've been following over at FS, they've done a great job of covering it. If you haven't followed, here's a thumbnail sketch for you:
This program was shown over 3 or 4 days and 4 or 5 hours, I think, on PBS. They took three families and tried to transplant them back into the 1880 pioneer life of Montana. They spent 5 months living with only those things that would have been available to them in that time frame. That is, those who didn't cheat did. They had budgets based on the times, built there own cabins, grew crops, raised livestock, had school, engaged in community interaction and prepared themselves as if they would winter on the prairie.
In the end they received a written assessment from pioneer experts on whether they would have survived the ordeal of prairie life. None was judged to be a sure thing, one young couple, the Brooks, came close, except for their quantity of firewood.
Couple 1, the Clunes, was a wealthy business owner and his wife from California. They had a teenage daughter, a teenage neice and 2 young sons with them. I thought they were a bit whiney and arrogant. The children, especially the younger ones were better then the parents. When times got hard, they over-spent their budget, cheated a little and then found ways to rationalize it. After the experience, they went back to a life of opulence without much sign that they had learned any new values from their experience.
Couple 2, the Glenn's, was a middle class Tennessee woman and her 2nd husband. They had a teenage daughter and a young son from the wife's first marriage with them. The parents here were whiner's too, the children much less so. Mr. Glenn learned he would thrive better in a simpler life, he hated his wife's kids because she was different when they were around, and he and his wife were a lousy match. Mrs. Glenn learned she didn't love her husband very much and she couldn't tolerate his dislike for her kids. The kids seemed to actually learn some good values from pioneer life, but they returned feeling a sense of loneliness and boredom in modern life. Based on what had happen on the prairie, the Glenn's broke up; but IMHO their break-up was inevitable.
Couple 3, the Brooks', were by far the most likeable. They too were from a middle class background, but seemed to be grounded in a less materialistic lifestyle. They were a young couple who got married on the prairie after Mr. Brook's father and brother had come out to the prairie to help build the cabin. I think being younger, filled with love and not having to contend with children made their experience easier. They seemed to come away from the experience richer in their souls for having participated.
I would love to see them redo this experiment using 5-6 families, so they could have a better sense of community and using people who came from poorer, simpler backgrounds, even farm backgrounds in this century. I'd like to see how those who have more heightened survival skills now, would do surviving in an envirinment that made different demands on them.
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