In a book I read about the Vikings, it mentioned the term Viking came from the Norse, fara í víking, which meant to go on an expedition. The men who went í víking then came to be known as Vikings. During the Viking Age (late 790s to early 1000), these Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe, Iceland, Russia, Anatolia, and even Sicily. They traded, sometimes raided, and often settled in new lands. Many had wives who stayed home and ran the family farm.
My husband has recently gone í víking. He’s working on a farmer-to-farmer project in Myanmar and trading ideas about sustainable agricultural practices. I’m taking care of our team of horses, thirty-six laying hens, two dogs, three cats, and making sure the pipes don’t freeze. Tomorrow is supposed to be -16 degrees F with a wind chill of 38 below zero. Yikes!
It seems like going to war is somewhat equivalent to going í víking. From what I’ve read, a lot of men thought of WWI as an exciting adventure, at least when they started. My great uncle Harry called it that in some of his letters from Camp Lee in Virginia and while training in France. Once he went to the front line though and saw firsthand the devastation, the shells, the gas, the machine gun bullets, and dead comrades, he didn’t write about it as an adventure anymore. He wrote about it as being terrible.
During WWI while the men went off í víking, the women on the home front took care of the farms and worked in the factories especially in the European countries where soldiering claimed the vast majority of young men. Yet, even in the U.S. the women often filled in for the millions of men recently shipped overseas. My grandmother Esther took care of her brother’s bees, helped with the farm work that he used to do, and worked as a teamster (driving a team of horses that is). Harry wrote;
“I can’t but help feel sorry for you people at home, Esther saying she was driving team. I hope she don’t work too hard. Of course there is good money in it if she can keep it up.”
It’s funny when I think of my grandma Esther, I think of her sewing or making potato soup or smelling the lavender clump in my mom’s garden, I don’t think of her driving a team of horses. I always knew she was a special woman, but I’m now finding out how incredible she was. Just like the saying, “Behind every successful man, there is a strong, wise and hardworking woman.” Although I’d add she’s probably not getting paid much either. I guess that’s why the Vikings always brought home a lot of gifts.