Sod House

Mud Springs was the next home station on the line-a small house made of sod bricks with a wooden roof; the rider could sleep in a lean-to on the side, provided there were no guests from the stagecoach that shared the stop. Sod was an ecologically correct building material before there was such a thing: thick bales of grass and dirt, cut from the prairie, that provided good insulation created from a renewable resource. The grass had to have fairly thick and deep roots, or the dirt would simply fall away; preferred varieties included buffalo grass, little blue stem, wire grass, prairie cord grass, Indian grass, and wheat grass.

Sod bricks, roughly a foot wide, three feet deep, and four inches high were laid grass down and built up like Legos, alternating the courses for strength; a wall would be two or more feet thick, providing natural insulation against the cold and heat. Doors and windows were framed out with timber pegged into the sod bricks. They were rarely higher than one story. Cedar was the wood of choice for the roof poles and logs, which were then covered with a thinner layer of sod.

The interior could be smoothed over with a sandbased plaster; shelves were added on supports driven into the wall. In most cases the sod houses were seen as temporary structures, useful while you were establishing your farm or business. Once you were doing well enough to afford sawn lumber, you relegated the sod structure to some other use and built a larger house.