Burning The Midnight Oil

Melissa SandfortAgricultural Anthropology

When I tell people where we live, I’ve actually had a couple folks ask if we had indoor plumbing. They picture rural Nebraska with outhouses and well water that we have to carry in with buckets. (We are on well water, but it has a pump and we have an operating sink!) We’ve come a long way since then, but it was about 1936 when southeast Nebraska got electricity and 1938 when my grandparents got rural electricity through REA.

Until that time, Grandpa and his family used to burn kerosene (or coal oil) lanterns to do chores in the early morning hours or into the evening.

To think, just last week my brother was harvesting corn across the road at 10 p.m. Equipped with lights and GPS, he could work through the night. I guess the combine was burning the midnight oil, so to speak, but back in the 30s, they literally had to burn oil to get any work done.

Until our next history lesson…