I always knew, of course, that the Nebraska Sod House would need a front door, but somehow both Will and I kept forgetting to build one. Now, the need for a door is definitely at hand, and it's high time to get busy making one. Some homesteaders, in a hurry to move into their soddy, simply hung a piece of canvas to cover the doorway, but Will wanted something sturdier than canvas for Ruby's door. By "borrowing" some boards from the wagon that had brought them across the prairie and using some scrap wood from packing crates that he had dismantled, Will managed to assemble enough wood to build a "real" door for the soddy.
This is my rough sketch of a segment of the door's interior side. The homemade latch was commonly used on the prairie. A short wooden bar was fastened loosely to the door at one end, and the other end dropped into a notched wooden block fastened to the wall or door frame. The door could be unlatched from the outside by pulling on a leather thong fastened to the bar and hanging out through a hole a few inches above the bar - thus, a latchstring hanging out became a symbol of prairie hospitality. If no company was wanted, the settler locked up by pulling in the latchstring.
The simple door is made by using three boards and adding stabilizing cross pieces.
The wooden latch bar has been attached, and the notched block is fastened to a sturdy board.
The exterior of the door has a wooden handle that I cut from a scrap piece of window frame that I found in my stash. It was exactly what I was looking for!
I stained both sides of the door to achieve the look of old wagon wood. When the door was finished, Will applied a generous coating of oil.
Will fashioned door hinges from pieces of leather that he keeps for mending harness. After he sells his corn crop, perhaps he'll be able to afford iron hinges.
For now, the stiff and sturdy leather works just fine. The latch bar and the latchstring have been attached, and the door is ready to hang in the door frame.
The latchstring is out on the exterior side of the door.
The board with the notched wooden block is attached to the door frame. Because the door is set at the outside of the deep doorway, the notched block couldn't be attached to the interior wall of the house.
The soddy has a working door!
Welcome! Come on in - the latchstring is always out!
At last, Will and Ruby have a strong door that will add to the coziness of their snug sod house. With the arrival of autumn and harvest time, they're starting to also look ahead to months of a harsh prairie winter. The door will be much appreciated when the north wind begins to howl across the plains.