A Look Back in History: Reality TV and the Severe American Winters, current weather serves as good example of what our ancestors faced

Submitted photo The Kutztown Mennonite Meeting House, erected in 1952, serves our local (Wenger) Old Order Mennonites, who have expanded southward into the Oley Valley in recent years.
Submitted photo The Kutztown Mennonite Meeting House, erected in 1952, serves our local (Wenger) Old Order Mennonites, who have expanded southward into the Oley Valley in recent years.

The current winter storms that occurred this month, with freezing weather well below 0 degrees, may be just the type of climatic weather our frontier pilgrims faced when American historians recorded natural disasters faced by these American immigrants, whose modest resources were challenged in the wilderness land in which man and beast had to struggle to survive.

As a former American history teacher, I must admit that the current inclement, brutal weather is a good example of our ancestors faced the harshness of the North American winters, where not everyone survived including man and beast. Thus, Puritan pilgrims had a lot to learn from American Indians and their indigenous folkways.

In 2014, modern Americans with their sophisticated technology are just as humbled, still facing the awesome winter blizzards as frontier Pilgrims of 1620, where man’s intellect and ability to provide shelter, store and distribute food are vital to his survival. Our first frontier pioneers were the original reality winners on the American continent! Each time my wife and I drive by Mennonite carriages on the historic Forgedale Road near Boyer’s Junction, leading from the Oley Valley to their Kutztown Sunday Mennonite meeting house, I am reminded of early Massachusetts’ Pilgrims who sought freedom of religion in 1620.

But few historians, other than local farmers, really know how exasperating farming was in the bitter cold of the North American continent. My hat goes off to these horse and buggy PA Dutch who still preserve our belief in the Almighty, living a life that preserves our Christian Fellowship, not easily achieved unless you are a devout follower of Jesus Christ. They followed Biblical scriptures that became the foundation of a humanitarian American civilization.

That is all the more reason why we owe our forefathers gratitude for establishing the United States utopian democracy based on Christian love, having escaped Old World hatred and narrow-minded thinking to begin a New World of Free Thinking Humanitarians.

Unlike the amusing reality TV television shows of today, American pioneers faced climatic weather changes, which were a heroic challenge to their belief in God, and the ability of humans to create a better society in the future of planet Earth.

Richard H. Shaner is director of the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown.

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