Loneliness pervaded the lives of pioneers on the American plains, including those in the empty expanses of West Texas. In The Lonesome Plains, Louis Fairchild mines the letters and journals of West Texas settlers, as well as contemporary fiction and poetry, to record the emotions attending solitude and the ways people sought relief.
Hungering for neighborliness, people came together in times of misfortune -- sickness, accident, and death -- and at annual religious services. Fairchild describes the practices that grew up around these two focal points of social life. He recounts the building of coffins and the preparation of bodies for burial, the funeral rite itself, and the lost and lonely graves. And he tells the story of yearly outdoor revivals: the meeting sites, food, and the tangential courting and mischief.
In doing so, Fairchild skillfully draws a moving picture of life in West Texas during the frontier-rural period of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
LOUIS FAIRCHILD is a professor of psychology at West Texas A&M University who lives in Canyon, Texas. He is the author of They Called It the War Effort: Oral Histories from World War II.