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Grass Houses

Hay, said the horse, people in grass houses shouldn't throw Bermuda bluegrass (Okay, I'm speaking off the hoof, now). Grass houses are usually seen as buildings fashioned in the shapes of beehives. They were originally made by many Caddoan and Wichita tribes in the 16th to 17th century in what is now the western United States.

Grass House

But they are still built today. The term "grass house" may create the image of a home that was flimsily constructed, but these are actually quite strong.

The construction of a grass home was started by having someone draw a circle in the area that would be used for the house. On that circle, they would set crotched posts, and beams would be laid within the posts. Poles would be set in a row, closely against the original crotched posts. These poles leaned inward, and they were laced with rods made from willow. The tops were brought together before being fastened securely. These formed the peak of the grass dwelling.

Once this frame was secure, heavy thatches of grass were bound by slender but sturdy rods. Where the rods joined together, the builders would tie a tuft of grass that was mainly ornamental. Two poles were laid at right angles to one another, and jutted out in four projected points. These were then securely fastened to the roof apex. Over the center of the roof, where these poles crossed, a spire would be added. These were made from grass bunches and were at least two feet high.

Originally, grass houses had four doors, opening to each compass point. Today, unless the house will be a ceremonial structure, only two doors are generally built. These are made on the East and West sides of the grass house, to allow for morning and evening light.

Making a Point ...

The original grass houses had fireplaces in their centers, and a hole would be left high on the roof for smoke to escape. The four beams that project in the peak of a grass house point to the four points of the compass and this is significant, since it is believed that these points are the entryway where powers will descend in order to help man.

The spire on top of a grass house was placed to be the zenith of the animating force of nature.

The fireplace in these homes is considered to be sacred and although it was used a lot, it was used reverently. They placed couches of a sort against walls. These were made from a framework fitted with woven reeds. Mats or robes were spread on top of the reeds.

Grass houses can only be built by those who have learned the skill needed to assemble them securely. They are attractive inside and out. They are designed generally for warm climates, and the Wichita still use these houses. They may be small or massive, and some are large enough for multiple families.

When it was time to build a grass house in a Caddo village, men and women worked together in the construction. The buildings are stronger than they look because of the rods, poles and thatching used to build them. Thatch is an effective insulator, which helped to keep the house warm, even when the weather outside was cold.


So, the moral of the story is: people in grass houses should horse around a bit and even build an addition to their fine herb dwellings.

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