Sunday, February 28, 2016

Another little house out west...

Little House on the Prairie 

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Don't forget to check out others' reviews using the links here and here
Linky chose not to work so well for us this month, so links only posted to each of our sites, but not simultaneously on both! :(
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I can relate to Pa's evaluation that there were too many people 
living in the Big Woods now. 
Though to those living in a city this may seem preposterous! I am a country girl at heart. Although I was born in a city and spent my first 4 years living there, my memories are of my grandmother's 180-acre farm and every critter, varmint, and building thereon! :) 
I now live in a very small town, and am fortunately at the edge of it, 
but have decided I definitely prefer living around livestock and open fields!
People can be scary! :)
Talk about travel delays! At one point in their journey following days of rain,
  they had to wait a week before the creek went down and the mud dried so that Pa could dig the wagon wheels out of it and go on. (12)
And it's not as if they were staying in a hotel during that week, either! Now that's what I call "roughing it"! The water level was deeper than Pa thought as they crossed the creek, and Jack, their watchdog didn't make it with them. Although as they prepared to cross Laura had asked Pa to put him in the wagon with them. Of course I'm saying out loud to myself as I read, "Yes, Pa, you should put Jack in the wagon! Don't take chances!" So I was angry with Pa for his lack of protection of Jack. Personally, I thought it was mean to make Jack walk the whole way anyway--he should have been in the wagon at least part of the time! Poor guy!

Again, we get more proof of the various dangers involved with frontier life at the time. Poor Ma trying to help lift the logs for the house and luckily she only got a sprained ankle/foot. I kinda blamed Pa again...and he admitted
  "I blame myself," said Pa. I should have used skids. 
  It was Providential that the foot was not crushed. Only a little hollow in the ground had saved it. 
Not as if you could hop in the car and head to a doctor or hospital or you could call an ambulance. If you were hurt, you were hurt and had to make do. Fortunately, it didn't take long for Ma to heal, though there was no 'staying off her feet' or 'resting' in the meantime! 

I loved the story of the two bachelors who had each purchased farms adjacent to one another and then built one house that spanned across both property lines. 
  One man's bunk was against one wall of the house, and the other man's bunk was against the other wall. So each man slept on his own farm, although they were in the same house and the house was only eight feet wide. They cooked and ate together in the middle of the house. (87-88)
Many of us would freak out at having to live in a house only eight feet wide. Just think of the size of houses now, comparatively! I thought these two were pretty smart! 

And Pa being surrounded by a pack of 50 wolves! Oh, my goodness! Fortunately, he was on horseback and was smart enough and able to keep the horse from running. It reminded me of one time when I was mowing with a push mower alongside the road. The grass was rather tall and I was advancing a few steps and then backing up so the mower could 'breathe' and not stall. As I took a step backward, a flash of color caught my eye and I stopped and looked to my left, and crossing the road was the largest snake I have ever seen in the wild. It was as long as the road was wide and it's head was almost to my feet, just about 6 inches behind me! I. Was. Petrified. I knew I shouldn't move. I should stay still. I figured the sight and sound of the mower might be an advantage, something to distract it from me. So I stood still, turned my head back toward the front and kept my eyes looking downward until it had finally slithered all the way past me and was a good 10 feet or so from me and I lit out as fast as I could and felt I was literally running for my life! I can't remember a time I was ever so glad to be in my house as I was that day! And I was grateful that my children hadn't been outside at the time since they were only 2, 4, and 6 years of age! That snake had a colorful pattern of yellow, green, brown/tan, and some red that I had never seen before and have never seen since. I was just grateful it had decided I was not a threat. Oh, and I left the mower running and refused to go back outside. My husband shut it off when he arrived and pushed it back to the house. As you might imagine, I was quite wary for the next several days when I went outside. And I couldn't stop thinking how grateful I was that I hadn't stepped another 6 inches back directly into its path. It still makes a shiver run up and down my spine at the memory. Much as I'm sure I would have reacted if that pack had then surrounded my house at night and howled! Thank goodness they were safe and snug in a house by then! 

Being careful with the fire in the fireplace because the top is nothing more than wood strips woven together. Granted they are green, but eventually they will dry out and become a fire hazard! I could relate to Laura's description of their first meal in the house when Ma was able to roast a prairie hen in the new fireplace. That had to be a good feeling after all the days and nights spent "camping out." Though eventually the wooden part at the top did catch fire, and luckily, Ma was able to put it out before the whole house burned down! Talk about stressful!

And then the digging of a well was so dangerous! Pa's method of sending a candle down before going down into the pit reminded me of the way they used to send canaries down into mines to determine whether the gas was too lethal to allow men to descend and work underground in that location. If the canary was still alive and breathing, much as whether the candle was still lit, once pulled up from underground, that was a sign it was safe enough for humans to survive. Poor Mr. Scott had thought using the candle was unnecessary, but he soon discovered otherwise when he passed out. Luckily Pa realized soon enough and was able to climb down the rope, tie Mr. Scott to the bucket/rope and climb back out. Then they were able to bring the man up along with the bucket and he was alive. But it was close! Way too close and Ma broke down and lost it.
My goodness gracious! Scaring a body to death, all for the want of a little reasonable care! My goodness! I--" She covered her face with her apron and burst out crying.
  That was a terrible day. (156)
Then as they neared the end of the well digging, Pa's spade suddenly went all the way into the ground, up to the top of the handle and he yelled "Pull, Scott! Pull!" Though Pa didn't wait and started climbing up the rope hand over hand to get out, proclaiming
  "I'm blamed if that's not quicksand!" 
  "A good six feet of this rope's wet," Mr. Scott said, winding it up...."You showed sense in getting out of that hand over hand, Ingalls. That water came up faster than I could pull you out." Then Mr. Scott slapped his thigh and shouted, "I'm blasted if you didn't bring up the spade!" 
  Sure enough, Pa had saved his spade. (159)
On that aforementioned 180-acre farm of my grandmother's we had what was called a "running well," where water bubbled up out of the ground 24/7. Fortunately the water level never accumulated too high, and wading in that water was a shock to your feet and your whole body (If you stayed in it long enough!), it was sooooo cold! And wonderful to drink! On the "back" of that farm was a spring that had been tapped so water could be provided to the cattle...and me when I was back there! 

Pa had mistakenly assumed the Indian path that ran alongside the site of their house was unused. Not so. It turned out it was used constantly when Indians were living in the area. That provided some scary times for Ma when Pa wasn't around. They would literally just walk into the house and take whatever they wanted. Of course, it was their land, so in effect, they felt whatever the white folks had brought onto their land was theirs to have if they wanted it. Not sure I could disagree with that philosophy overall, and I appreciated Pa's ability to treat them respectfully and not fear them overly much. 

I wasn't sure I agreed with Ma when she made Mary and Laura string the beads they had found to give Carrie a necklace. Carrie was so young she couldn't understand not to pull at it and break the string holding the beads, so Ma's solution was to put the necklace away until she was old enough to wear it. I don't know. I would have let the two girls keep their beads and do with them as they wished. But that's me. I feel it's important for each child to have things of their own in addition to communal belongings. I had never heard of malaria out west during the frontier days. I have always associated it with other countries and more tropical climates. But they were all sick at the same time and Jack had actually accosted the black man who was a doctor to the Indians as he passed the house. He entered and discovered them and then had Mrs. Scott come to take care of them until they began to recover sufficiently they could care for themselves once again. Wow, but for Jack (Who Pa hadn't wanted to bother putting in the wagon before crossing the swollen creek.) they might have all died. And then poor Jack wouldn't stop trying to attack the Indians and eventually had to be chained all the time. I felt so very sorry for him. I cannot abide seeing an animal chained. 

While I do not agree with the "Manifest Destiny" doctrine employed by white people and other immigrants to the U.S., Pa explained it to Laura:
  "When white settlers come into a country, the Indians have to move on. The government is going to move these Indians farther west, any time now. That's why we're here...White people are going to settle all this country and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick. Now do you understand?"
  "Yes, Pa," Laura said. "But, Pa, I thought this was Indian Territory. "Won't it make the Indians mad to have to--"
  "No more questions, Laura," Pa said, firmly. "Go to sleep." (237)
Out of the mouths of babes... When word gets out that the U.S. government is supposedly coming to move these white settlers off Indian land, Pa decides not to wait for such forced displacement and they hitch the ponies to the loaded wagon and take off for land located even further west. 

I cannot imagine all the work required to build a new house with every relocation.
Just think of it... Pa had already built two homesteads and now there would be a third. 
Again, as with the first book, the details of the work required were amazing.
I loved all the woodworking described in this book! 
I am enjoying this saga immensely!
Are you reading along with us?
Looking forward to Farmer Boy next month. 
I will be interested to see which of these books are my favorites 
by the time I've read the whole series. 
I believe I've liked both of the first two about the same.
How about you?


  1. I thought about the green twigs in the fireplace drying out, too. Pa should have made a rock and mud chimney. Just my opinion.

    1. I would agree except for the amount of work! Geeminy! Climbing up and down, collecting rocks the right sizes, etc. Though it wouldn't have burned! :)

  2. I love this series as well. I just finished Little House on the Prairie with my five year old daughter Penelope and we started On the Banks of Plum Creek. I just visited Pepin and Walnut Grove last week and hope to have a blog of my trip up soon. Great review!

    1. Can't wait to read your review, Laura! I hope you'll allow me to link it to my LH Read-Along page! How neat to have visited these sites! So glad you stopped by!