Millie Vinduska, 88, of Pilsen knows what it is like to live out on the vast open prairie of eastern Colorado in a sod house with no plumbing or electricity.
“I loved it,” she said. “It was a challenge.”
She married Robert “Bob” Vinduska in October 1946, after he returned home from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. She was 19 years old.
Bob decided to farm and was attracted by the cheap price of land out west. He bought approximately 320 acres including a farmstead near Burlington, Colorado, for $25 an acre.
The Vinduskas lived on their farm during the growing season and returned to Pilsen for the winter.
Their Colorado sod house had stucco siding with two rooms and a lean-to wash house. It was old, but the water was excellent, being deep, cold, soft mountain water.
The first wheat crop produced a bountiful harvest. Grain bins were filled and excess grain was piled on the ground.
Bob and Millie were excited about the potential extra cash and dreamed about buying an accordion and refrigerator.
However, one night a cloudburst occurred, and much of the wheat on the ground was ruined and washed away, along with their hopes for something extra.
Millie was pregnant with their first child that summer. One day, while Bob was away visiting a neighbor, she was sitting at the kitchen table making out a catalog order for baby clothes.
Suddenly, the dog started barking ferociously, and Millie saw a rattlesnake come crawling into the room, rattling its tail, coiling, and hissing at her. It had come through a hole in the stucco.
Millie screamed, yelled at the dog to hush him, and then jumped up on the windowsill with her feet on the table.
“I had wanted to see a rattlesnake,” she said, “and there it was, right in front of me.”
Every move she made put the viper in attack mode, so she kept very still. After a while, the snake crawled under the stove.
Millie kept her place until the ugly serpent finally crawled out the same way it had come in.
Two days later, they found a large rattler under a tree in the front yard, and Bob killed it.
There were a lot of prairie dogs in the area. Millie enjoyed their presence. Every evening they would come out of their burrows and bark.
During rainy spells, buffalo wallows scattered throughout the plains would fill with water. These little water holes attracted wild ducks and geese.
They had two pets, a goat named Goat and a dog named Touser. The two became pals and sometimes walked together into Vona, the nearest town. Bob would find them there when he stopped to pick up the mail and would bring them home.
Whenever Touser was gone, Goat would walk around and around the house, bleating for the dog.
Goat liked to jump on top of the cab of their 1938 Chevy truck. Bob kept it parked under a tree, and the voracious forager liked to stand on her hind legs and eat the tree leaves.
“She did that for a few minutes, then jumped off and ran away,” Millie said. “She knew Bob didn’t want her on his truck.”
One time they were away for a few days visiting relatives. When they came home, they discovered that Touser had killed their 10 chickens and dumped them all on a pile.
Their daughter Laurel was born that November, and a year later, in December, Kay was born.
The couple were contemplating selling their farm and moving to a farm in South Dakota when 20-month-old daughter Laurel contracted polio during an outbreak in the Pilsen community.
While Laurel recovered, it was the end of the couple’s Colorado farming experience. They sold the farm and moved to Wichita, where Bob took a job. They had four more children, Lillie, Carol, Joe, and Robert.
In time, they moved back to Pilsen, where Bob farmed for a while and then opened a garage. He died in 1988.
“I’ll never be sorry about our time in Colorado,” Millie said. “I was happy and comfortable there. The thick sod walls made it cool in summer and warm in fall. It was good.”