Hattie Big Sky is by Kirby Larsen. It was published in 2006 by Delacorte Press in New York.
It is a work of fiction, but this first-person narrative sounds so real the author had me fooled. She actually based her story on the life of her great-grandmother who did begin a homestead effort all alone in eastern Montana.
Hattie, in the story, was an orphan who had been shuffled from one relative to another until she ended up in the home of an older couple who were shirt-tailed “relatives” willing to take her in. It was not a good situation and when she was only 16 her aunt who was not aunt at all tried to pawn her off on a totally unrelated person as a boardinghouse maid of sorts before she could graduate from high school.
This was a mixed feeling disturbance for Hattie who didn’t like school and didn’t want to be a maid either.
She was saved by a letter. Uncle Holt, not really her uncle, who suddenly interrupted the discussion by remembering he had picked up a letter for Hattie at the post office. Aunt Ivy attempted every maneuver she could manage to snatch that letter and then to peek over Hattie’s shoulder to read it.
The letter was from the neighbor, Perilee Mueller, of a real Uncle Chester whom she had never met. Inside was a will/letter from Uncle Chester. It informed her that she was heir to his house and contents, a horse and cow. Included was the claim to his homestead property if she could only meet the requirements.
Finally, Hattie would have a place to truly belong, with a house of her own. Little did she guess the price she would pay for that blessing. She summoned the courage to make this step much to the chagrin of Aunt Ivy who thought she was totally crazy.
When she arrived at her new home she quickly believed Aunt Ivy might me completely right. Would she be able to handle this difficult experience? Time and many surprises put her to the test. Build a fence? Plant rye and wheat? Would she succeed in saving the claim?
It was a book that made me want to take a flashlight beneath the bed covers like I did as a child before my dad caught me and told me to go to sleep.