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"Shot strange beast mile and half north of here. Come help." When the builders returned to their work they saw the message, set out to help, and found the happy hunter standing beside

his quarry. 19

Life was vastly different, of course, from what people today are accustomed to. Food, for example, consisted of wild rice, potatoes, berries, game birds and fish, corn bread and porridge, salt pork, venison, milk and butter, coffee or a coffee substitute made from roasted grain.

Most people had so little money that they were able to make no more than a down payment on their land and to buy a few building materials. People avoided getting into debt and tried to get along with a bare minimum. Naturally, compared to today, not very much money was actually needed. In 1889, one dollar bought 12 pounds of sugar, 21 pounds of plums, 25 pounds of crushed rice, and 18 pounds of currants. Strawberry jam was 5c the pound, butter 12 to 15c the pound. 20 When a cow no longer gave enough milk, it could always be sold at the St. Paul slaughterhouse for $11-14, although the cow had to be taken there first, usually led along forest trails, paths, and down the roads, a walk of 80 miles. A train ticket to St. Paul would have cost $3, but the railroad was out of the question anyway because Cokato had no loading platforms. The birth of a bullock was always welcomed : full grown, it could pull a cart over that 80 mile distance.

All possible economies were made, all possible sources of income were exploited. For example, the root of the ginseng, so well known in China, was dug up and dried in Cokato also and was sold to willing buyers in the vicinity for as long as people can remember. There was not too much of it in the Cokato region, it grew deep in the forests and was hard to find, but the children of the Finnish settlers still remember digging up ginseng, drying the roots carefully, and selling it for good pocket money.

The axe, the mattock and the shovel were the best tools for clearing the land. In the winter the men cut the forest and hauled the logs to the railroad sidings, to be swapped for flour and food. In the spring the land was turned and plowed, and patches of oats, wheat and barley were planted, together with, inevitably, potatoes. When this planting was done, the men usually left to go to work on the nearby railroad construction jobs, while the women and children stayed home, did the necessary work in the fields, made hay, cut and harvested the grain. Sometimes the

19. Barberg, op. cit.

20. Lamson, Frank B. Cokato, Wright County 1888-1892. Personal Recollections. p. 12.


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