Stratton author recalls pioneer days in 'My Life on the Prairie'
STRATTON, Nebraska -- Fern Miller Nilson's ninth book, "My Life on the Prairie," is available at the New Life Christian Book Store, 212 Norris Ave. in McCook, and Accents Etc., 307 Norris Ave., in McCook, as well as other locations.
Fern, who just turned 89 and lives in Aurora, Nebraska, says she was encouraged to write the book as she shared with her friend about growing up on a homestead, sharing what it was like to attend a country school, and telling about the many storms her family encountered during her growing up years.
Fern's grandparents came to America from Kisa, Sweden, in 1886, in an old stock ship that was condemned after docking in New York Harbor and never sailed again.
Her grandfather exchanged his Swedish Kronor for $28 American dollars, and worked on the Burlington Railroad in Edgar, Nebraska.
Her grandparents homesteaded in a dugout near Stratton in 1892, where Fern's father attended all eight grades being offered.
Fern began walking the mile to her country school when she was five years old, carrying a Big Chief tablet and pensel, her lunch in a Caro syrup pail.
Her teacher was paid $60 a month.
Nilson's fatther was an inventor, first an extension on a combine elevator to run the grain into the bin. Soon he invented the "Miller Wonder Feed Mill," which were taken to the depot at Stratton and shipped out by train and sold to every state except Delaware, as well as in Canada. His most famous was the "Miller Disc," sold around the world.
Fern also writes about her experience in the dust bowl, as well as blizzards and the 1935 Republican River flood.
After graduating from Stratton High School, Fern entered McCook Junior College, graduating in 1943, and hired, at age 18, to teach 28 students, in Trenton for $1,005 a year.
"I began the school year with lots of confidence and had no doubt I could teach the classes and handle the students," she said. "I just assumed they would respect and mind me as their teacher -- and they did!"
"Life on the Prairie succeeded because underlying each aspect of its growth was a deep faith in God," Fern said. "Some of my first experiences had their foundation built on God -- from prayers of thanks at the table for each meal, to humble acknowledgement of God's protection during many storms, and to family prayers each day as we sought God's guidance and direction and His strength and health to walk through each day.
"God has given me a full life. I did not comprehend how much until I began reminiscing about 'My Life on the Prairie."