Although it might seem surprising, young single women homesteading alone or in groups was not uncommon. Many different types of people - in fact you might say every type imaginable - filed on homestead claims, for a variety of reasons. The Ammons sisters' reasons for leaving St. Louis for South Dakota, a combination of health and financial reasons, were common to many. For a number of young people, both men and women, homesteading was a temporary affair, a few months of holding down a claim to gain ownership of land that they could sell or mortgage to get a start in whatever life they had chosen. Others saw the value in the land itself, and with the industrialization of the East, land prices had become so high there that homesteading on the Western plains was their only opportunity. The more permanent settlers sometimes looked down on those who got their deed and left the land without improving it, calling them 'landgrabbers.'
Their story is filled with too many adventures to be briefly described. They barely survived a fierce blizzard, helped to outwit claim-jumpers, lived through a plague of rattlesnakes, a severe drought, and prairie fires - and no matter what happened, the mail had to go through and the newspaper had to be printed. The Land of the Burnt Thigh (the title, by the way, comes from the Indians' name for the Brule, the story behind which is explained in the book) was filled with colorful characters, from cowboys to Indians to the many different settlers who became the Ammons girls' neighbors and friends. The book is well and engagingly written, so filled with interesting detail and incidents that it kept me eagerly turning the pages - well, clicking away at the Kindle page-turner, to be precise.