Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thoughts on Bless All the Dear Children



I've long said the final Christmas episode, "Bless All the Dear Children," is my least favorite Little House Christmas show. Recently, I watched this episode again. While my overall opinion hasn't changed, there are some good moments to celebrate or at least mention. Let's start with my nitpicks and then end with the positives.

Nitpicks

  • Pa's narration opens the episode by stating this story takes place in the winter of 1896. Rose Wilder was born in 1886. She would have been 10.
  • Pa also says that while they were used to cold winters, the winter of 1896 brought with it warm temperatures (hence people walking around with no coats and their sleeves rolled up in December in Minnesota). That year, the Midwest had experienced a long Indian summer, but by Thanksgiving temperatures were well below average with some areas reporting record breaking cold (-50).  
  • Mr. Edwards gets into a bar fight, which is why Almanzo leaves Rose and she is abducted. Didn't he pretty much stop drinking after the whole incident with Albert? 
  • Somehow Samuel hid in the back of their wagon undetected even though they had to ride half a day to get to their first stop?
  • Mr. Edwards doesn't apologize. Not when Almanzo feels guilty and breaks down or when Laura is upset they will never find Rose. 
  • The star in the sky leading them to Samuel after he runs away is just too corny for even me.
  • The Carters living in the little house on Plum Creek will never sit right with me. 

Enjoyable Moments
  • Seeing the family together and happy. The Wilders endured Almanzo's illness and paralysis, a tornado destroying their first house, the loss of Royal Wilder, the loss of Baby Wilder and Rose contracting small pox, Jenny Wilder almost dying twice, and the death of Laura's beloved brother, Albert. Thank goodness we see some happy times, too.
  • The way the actors portrayed a married couple in crisis. By now, they should be experts at it. We should remember, however, that neither was married and Melissa Gilbert was only 19 when this episode aired. 
  • Mr. Montague delivering presents to the Carters and Jenny Wilder dressed as Santa Claus. Though he rallied against the commercialization of Christmas--something I'm pretty sure never came up in the late 1800s, he puts aside his feelings when the Wilders are delayed and the Carters have nothing to give their boys. 
  • A strong Almanzo defending his family. When they find Rose, Patrick Norris still believes the story his wife has told him about the little girl she brought home belonging to them. It doesn't take long for him to grab his gun. Though Laura pleads with both men to stop it, Almanzo isn't about to back down from protecting his family. Seeing him so dedicated to his family is not new, but if you think to how despondent he was back when Rose was born and he thought he would never walk again, this strong protector is truly a different man.
  • Sam being adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Norris. Not sure everything was legal, but they all ended up happy.


What do you think about this episode? Do you share any of my nitpicks or enjoyable moments? Were there any other things that make it or break it for this episode?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Do You Remember "The Little House Years?"



How many of you remember the three-part clips episode, "The Little House Years?" It's easy to forget, since it isn't included on the DVDs. I spoke to Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder) about it once. He eluded to a rights issue, but didn't know the exact nature of the issue.

Sitting around the table at Thanksgiving with Mary and Adam Kendall, Laura shares some of the family's journeys and memories. This is one great way to share the history of the Ingalls family with adopted brother, Albert.

I don't remember all of them, but scenes from when they left the Big Woods, when they bought the house on Plum Creek, when Charles lost his crop and had to travel to find work with the railroad, when Laura ran away, and several others are included. You also catch a glimpse of a young Shawna Landon in the library picking out a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book.

It is my sincere hope that this part of season 6 is one day released. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Best Laid Plans: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos




The Best Laid Plans

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.


Almanzo dragged himself away from their kiss. Laura had just accepted his proposal, and he wanted to settle how they would get from sitting here along the shore of the lake to being man and wife.

“Do ya think ya could be ready to get married next month?” he asked. “That’ll give me time--”

“Wait a minute,” she interrupted. 

“What?”

Her eyes widened. “Did you just say, ‘next month’?”

“Yeah.”

“You know Pa wants me to wait until I’m eighteen.”

Almanzo shrugged. “But, I don’t wanna wait. I love you and I wanna spend the rest of my life with you.”

Laura's cheeks flushed red. “Manly, I want that too, but Pa would never approve. He wants me to finish school … and he doesn’t think I’m ready for marriage yet.”

Almanzo felt lines crease his forehead as he struggled to understand how his proposal just took a turn in the wrong direction. He crossed his arms over his chest. 

“What do you think, Beth? Are ya ready to be my wife or not?” He didn't hide the annoyance in his voice.

Laura gazed up into his face, her eyes shining with as much love as ever. “I want to be your wife more than anything else in the world," she said with a sweet tenderness that threatened to soften his resolve.

“So let’s get married right away.”

Laura turned her head away. The conversation clearly troubled her. “What are we going to tell Pa?”

Almanzo shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing. We’ll go off and get married and then come back for your things. They’ll be nothing left to say.”

Laura pursed her lips. A sure sign he wouldn't like what came next. “I can’t do that.”

“Don’t you love me?”

“Of course I do, but I love my pa, too. I wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t talk to him first.” 

Almanzo shook his head. “Beth, I don’t understand ya. You just said he would never go for us getting married right away, but now you wanna talk to him first.”

Laura put her hand on his arm. “Manly, I don’t want to run off and get married without Pa’s blessing. It would be like we were doing something wrong. I don’t want our life together to start off that way.” Her eyes pleaded with him to reconsider.

Almanzo knew how she felt, but he still wished she would change her mind.

“What if your pa says no? Are you telling me we’ll just put aside our plans and wait for two years?”

Laura stood up and paced the grassy area by the lake. “I don’t know. Maybe we will end up running off anyway, but I have to tell him, Almanzo.” She put a finger to her lips, a hint that her mind was considering what to do. “Why don’t you tell him the reasons you want to get married right away?”

He smirked at her. “You want me to tell your pa that I don’t want to wait two years to be closer to you?”

She slapped his arm. “Is that the only reason you want to get married right away?” 

Almanzo flashed her a crooked smile. “You know it isn't, but I want to start our life, Beth.”

Laura blushed. “Oh Manly.” 

He opened his arms and she snuggled into his embrace. He enjoyed smelling the lemon verbena she sprinkled in her hair. 

“If we get married next month, we can start working toward the farm of our dreams that much sooner. I wanna build you a big, beautiful house with a porch to watch the seasons change. I wanna hear the sound of our children’s feet running on that porch when they come home from school each day. I wanna be able to look out across the prairie and see nothing but our farm and our livestock grazing in the pasture.”

“It sounds beautiful,” Laura whispered into his chest.

He widened the gap between them and held her at arm's length. “It will be. I wanna give you the world.”

“You’re all I need, Manly.”

His heart swelled. Gosh, how I love her.

“You deserve it all.”

Laura smiled. He wanted nothing more than to give her everything.

“I can’t help how I feel about you, Beth. I don't want to  wait two years to start our life together. ”

Tears glistened in the corners of her eyes. “I know what you mean.”

Two years seemed like an eternity. He wanted to share his life and his dreams with her. He never imagined such a thing a few years back. She seemed so young then. But, now, all he could think of was making her his wife and creating a happy life together.  

Laura jumped back when the idea came to her. “How about I talk to Ma tonight? I bet she would let us get married right away.”

Almanzo frowned. “But, your pa has the final say.” 

“I know, but if Ma goes for it, then maybe she could talk to Pa and she--

“No,” he interrupted. “I don’t want your ma doing my dirty work. Besides, your pa would never trust me again if he knew I was going behind his back.” Almanzo shook his head, realizing Laura would never agree without Charles’s permission. “I’ll talk to your pa.”

Laura squeezed him with all her might. “Thanks, Manly. Why don’t you come over for supper tomorrow night.”

Almanzo chuckled. “All right, I’ll come by tomorrow, but you need to know that no matter what your pa says, I am not waiting two years.”

They had a quiet ride home from the lake. He remained in serious thought about tomorrow's supper and his meeting with her pa. He didn't want to make Laura choose between them, but Charles couldn't be allowed to keep them apart. He respected the man, but if Laura was old enough to teach and old enough to accept his proposal, she certainly could decide to marry him now. Almanzo hoped he wouldn't be disappointed. 

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Flashback: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos




Flashback

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.


Laura had spent the last few days at home. The events at the blind school still haunted her. It could have ended so differently.

With Adam, Hester Sue, Ma, and Mrs. Oleson away petitioning for more aid for the blind school, Laura and Mary planned to spend the night together at the school with the children. Sitting in front of the fireplace, they recalled memories from their childhood.

Then the knock came.

When Laura opened the door, a stranger pushed his way in. He had two others with him, one injured. They forced Mary and Laura to find a place for the injured one to lie down. Scared, they had listened to the man’s orders. He made it clear he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them.

The injured man had lost a lot of blood. He needed a doctor. That’s when the man in charge ordered Laura to run off and find the town doctor. When she couldn’t find Doc Baker, her mind frantically raced for how to help her sister. That’s when she ran home harder and faster than she ever thought she could. She slid on mud and the pouring rain made it difficult to see, but when she saw the oil lamps burning through the windows of the little house on Plum Creek, she felt Mary had a chance.

“Whoa!” Almanzo’s voice pulled Laura away from her thoughts. “Great Jehoshaphat, Beth. Barnum could have trampled you.”

Her eyes wide, Laura clutched her hand over her heaving chest. She dropped her head back and closed her eyes, trying to breathe slower. She heard Almanzo climb out of his buggy.

“Are you okay, Beth?” He cupped her elbow.

She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m sorry, Manly. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

“Well, that’s plain to see.”

Tiny lines appeared in the middle of Almanzo’s forehead. “Let me tie up Barnum. I think we should step into the restaurant and get you a glass of water.”

She nodded. Her knees felt like they would buckle under her if she stood much longer.

“Nellie! Nellie!” Almanzo called.

“I’m coming,” she sing-sang before marching through the swinging door from the kitchen. “What can I do for you – ” Nellie’s attitude changed the instant she saw Laura alongside him. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

Almanzo pulled out a chair. “Why don’t you sit down, Beth. Can you get her a glass of water, Nellie? She’s not feeling well.”

Nellie crossed her arms over her chest. She crinkled her nose in that smug expression Laura always wanted to slap off her face when they were kids.

Almanzo cleared his throat. “Now, would be good.”

Nellie raised her nose in the air and stormed off to the kitchen.

By the time Almanzo sat down across the table from her, Laura had propped both elbows up on the table and dropped her head into her hands. At a different time, she would have felt mortified by her childlike behavior. Today, the frightening memories overwhelmed her. Maybe I shouldn’t have returned to school just yet.

Nellie plunked her glass of water on the table, sloshing drops over the rim. “Can I get you anything else?”

“Not right now, thanks.”

She harrumphed before turning on her heel and stomping away.

Almanzo sat in silence as Laura sipped her water. Even that turned soured in her stomach. This had to be one of the few times she wished Manly were off in Sleepy Eye making a delivery. She didn’t think she had it in her to carry on a conversation.

He must have sensed her trepidation, because he said nothing for quite a while. When he did, he softened his voice and smiled the crooked smile she adored.

“Are you feeling better, Beth?”

She shook her head. Not yet.

“Can you tell me what’s bothering you?” His blue eyes shone with concern. “Do you need to see Doc Baker?”

Laura waved a hand at him. Poor Doc Baker. Mary and Pa had told her that when he arrived at the blind school, the bad guys knew Pa wasn’t the town doctor. When Mary let Doc Baker in, the man with the gun knocked him out by belting him in the head with the stock of his rifle.

“I’m sorry, Manly.” Her mouth seemed so dry. She sipped her water again. “It’s just I keep having nightmares about those men coming to the blind school.”

His mouth formed an “O” but he didn’t speak.

“I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Almanzo slid his chair closer. “I’m sure it was scary.”

She nodded. “Manly, I didn’t know what to do.” She felt the tears pricking her eyes. “He asked me to get the doctor, but Doc Baker wasn’t around. I ran all the way back to the blind school before I realized there was no way we would get out of there alive unless I found someone to help us. So, I ran home. My legs hurt, but I had to keep going. Even once I got Pa, I had no idea how we could outsmart those men.”

Laura appreciated that Manly didn’t speak or ask questions. She and Ma had talked after she got home, but she had needed time to think about what had happened to them. Maybe talking to Manly would make things easier.

Another sip of water loosened up her throat. “The worst part was once Pa knocked out the man upstairs. Jed, I think his name was. Pa had given the injured man ether, pretending he would operate on him. Once Mary let Doc Baker in and the other guy realized Pa wasn’t the doctor, he screamed up the stairs and told Jed. Pa punched him right out and told me to turn down all the lamps and lock the door, and not to open it for any reason.”

She felt her heart pounding in her chest. Manly must have seen the fear on her face, because he reached across the table and put a hand on her arm. He didn’t say anything, but he squeezed her arm for a second.

“I heard gunshots. I wanted to yank the door open and find Pa and Mary, but I couldn’t.” She pushed her hair back behind her ears. “I remember when we lived in Kansas. Pa had gone off to hunt. He told me to leave my dog Jack tied up and not to untie him for any reason. While he was gone, some Indians showed up. I wanted to untie Jack, but Mary wouldn’t let me. When Pa found out, he got so angry with me. He explained later why he didn’t want me to untie Jack.” Laura shifted in her seat. “It took all my strength to stay inside that room while I could hear gunshots and fighting around me. That’s when I remembered Kansas and how Pa always does his best to protect me. So, I stayed put … though I was too scared to turn off the lamps.”

Laura wiped the tears away. She felt tired. Maybe she should just head home instead of going to school. The bell had already rung.

“I’m sorry you and your family had to go through that, Beth.” He shrugged. “I had heard a bit about the Brandywines being recaptured, but I didn’t know what really happened.”

Laura stared at her folded hands on her lap. “Thanks for listening, Manly. I feel a little better now.”

“Beth, you can always come to me if you are in trouble.”

She raised her gaze. His face flushed, and he swallowed hard.

“I … uh … mean if your Pa isn’t around, of course.”

Laura covered her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. His embarrassment gave her something else to focus on instead of the harrowing ordeal. She reached across the table and put her small hand over his. His skin was rough and tan from years of farming.

“Thank you, Manly. You always know how to make me feel better.”

Almanzo rubbed the back of his neck. “I best be getting back to work. Unless you need me to drive you home.”

She shook her head. “No, thanks. I’m ready to go to school. Not sure if I will stay all day, but I will try.

He stood and pulled her chair out. I could get used to this. She hadn’t thought of anything frivolous like her feelings for Almanzo since the incident. Maybe this would help her put the ordeal behind her.

She thought back to the time not long ago when Bartholomew Slater’s bad behavior at school almost pushed Miss Wilder and Almanzo out of town. She would have missed them. Almanzo had been a good friend to her, even though he did not understand she wanted more than just friendship. Maybe one day.

As they strolled onto the platform of Nellie’s, Laura took a deep breath.

“You know, Beth, you don’t give yourself enough credit.”

She stopped short. “What do you mean?”

He turned her to face him. “Laura, you’re smart and brave. You stick up for what’s right.” The breeze grabbed hold of a wisp of her reddish brown hair and he tucked it back into place. “Just ask Bart Slater about that. It’s because you rallied the schoolkids to stand up to him that my sister and I are still here.”

Laura felt the blush creep up her cheeks. 

“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, Beth. One day, you’ll make some lucky man a fine wife.”

Laura’s grin touched both of her ears. “Thanks, Manly. I appreciate you saying so.”

As they walked together toward the schoolhouse, Laura thought about what he said. Shy and quiet, Almanzo didn’t waste words. That’s why what he said meant so much to her. When she glanced up at him, he flashed her another crooked smile. Maybe that lucky man will be you, she thought.



Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bargain E-Book: A Prairie Girl's Faith by Stephen W. Hines


The first in-depth look at the spiritual path of legendary storyteller Laura Ingalls Wilder.

With her extraordinary God-given pluck, the creator of the epic Little House series survived the harshness of frontier life—from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelenting loneliness. Yet in every season, Laura found strength through her relationship with God.

Now, several generations later, Laura’s insights about work and rest, trust in the face of hardship, and the value of faith are more relevant than ever. Through Laura’s discerning newspaper pieces as an early advice columnist, interviews with people who knew her personally, and extensive investigation by Stephen Hines, we witness an authentic faith that comes not from pretending all is well but from growing through difficult times.

With photos and authentic recipes from the Little House era, A Prairie Girl’s Faith also opens a wider window into the lives of pioneers as it offers a revealing look at the beliefs, character, and culture into which Laura was born and grew to maturity.

Praise for A Prairie Girl's Faith

“Because of my father’s role in the Little House on the Prairie television series, I have long admired Laura Ingalls Wilder and the values she portrayed so memorably in her books. It’s no secret to her readers that faith was central to the Ingalls family. This compelling discussion of Laura’s spiritual journey is most welcome and satisfying.”
—Michael Landon Jr., actor, director, writer, and producer




File Size: 28544 KB
Print Length: 215 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook (February 6, 2018)
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B072812TYM



Order from Amazon or other online retailers.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Little House TV Cast Reunion in Walnut Grove


Did any of you get a chance to attend the Little House TV Cast Reunion in Walnut Grove. I heard Stan Ivar and Hersha Parady were unable to make it, but based upon all the photos on the Facebook page and from fans, it was a blast. 

Watching all this unfold online made me miss my divas and wish that we could have all gotten together like we did in 2014.


Well, maybe we will make the 50th reunion. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Through Eyes of Green: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



Through Eyes of Green

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

Almanzo saw them at the bottom of the school steps. Laura smiled and laughed with a young man he didn’t recognize. He tensed up when he saw her put her hand on the boy’s shoulder. They chatted as they walked towards the Feed and Seed.

“Hi, Manly,” Laura said when she reached him.

“Howdy, Beth.” The boy seemed close to Laura’s age. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is Dylan Walters.”

The boy extended his hand. “Almanzo Wilder,” he said with a nod.

“He just moved here from Minneapolis with his pa,” explained Laura.

Dylan stood with his books slung on a strap over his shoulder. “Yeah, Pa wanted to get out of the city for a while.”

Laura peered up at him, her lips opened in a wide smile. “Can you come over for supper tonight, Manly?”

“I wish I could Beth, but I gotta finish working on the barn.”

She sighed. “Maybe Sunday after church then.”

Almanzo nodded. She was clearly disappointed, but she knew what farm life was like. “Sunday it is.”

She turned to face her friend. “Would you like to come over tonight, Dylan? Ma’s apple pies are the best in town.”

He shrugged, as if he hadn't a care in the world. "Sure. Pa’s in Sleepy Eye and won’t be back til late. I woulda gone with him, but he didn’t want me missing school. Wasn't looking forward to cooking for myself. I’m pretty bad.”

Laura laughed, making Almanzo wish he hadn’t turned down her invitation.

“Why don’t you come home with me now then? Maybe Albert and you can go fishing later.”

“Sounds good. Your brother is a nice kid.”

“See ya later, Manly.”

“See ya, Beth.”

Almanzo returned Dylan’s wave. He watched as Laura passed her schoolbooks over to him. He heard the boy say, “Why does he call ya Beth?”

“I’ll tell you on the way home, but I have to stop off at the Mercantile for a slate pencil first.”

Almanzo stared at them for a few moments. Dylan seemed awfully friendly around Laura. He wondered if the boy was interested in more than just friendship. He couldn’t wait to get done his work so he could ask Eliza Jane about him.

*

Eliza Jane didn’t understand why Almanzo was so interested in Dylan. He had never shown a burning desire to talk about her other students.

“How much time does he spend with Laura?” asked Almanzo.

Suddenly aware of why he was dying to know about the young boy she replied, “Surely, you’re not jealous,”

He shifted in the wagon seat. “No, course not, it’s just…” He glanced over at Eliza Jane who was trying to stifle a laugh. “Well, maybe a little.”

“That’s ridiculous." She pursed her lips together as she often did when she found something funny. "Laura only has eyes for you.”

That didn't mean Dylan didn't have eyes for Laura. Of course, he trusted her, but she could be a bit naive at times. “And how do ya know that?”

“Almanzo, she brightens up the minute you walk into a room. Haven’t you ever noticed the way she looks at you?" She shook her head. "You don’t have anything to worry about.”

He prompted Barnum into a trot, only half convinced that Eliza Jane was right.

*

Laura rode home with Almanzo Sunday after church. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“Yeah.” He focused his eyes on the road.

“Then why are you so quiet?”

He shrugged. “Nothing wrong with being quiet.”

She placed a hand on his shoulder. “No, but it usually means something is on your mind.”

She already knew him so well. That made him feel a bit better. “What’s the story with you and this Dylan kid?”

“The story?” The skin on the bridge of her nose crinkled. Confusion was a good sign.

“He sure likes spending time with ya.”

“Well, he’s a bit behind in school and I’ve been trying to help him catch up.”

That made sense. “Oh.”

She leaned back and stared at him for a few moments. “You didn’t think there was anything else going on, did you?”

Yikes, this was not the way he had wanted this conversation to go. “Of course not,” he rushed to say. “It’s just…ya know…” Flustered, he blurted out, “Did ya tell him we were courting?”

“It never came up. We talk about schoolwork mostly. That and his ma. She died last year. That’s why his pa moved out here. He’s trying to get away from the memories.”

“That’s too bad,” Almanzo said with genuine sympathy.

“I don’t know what I would do if I lost Ma or Pa.” She glanced over at him. “Or you,” she added with a kiss on his cheek.

That was just what he wanted to hear. “Don’t worry, Beth, I ain’t going nowhere.”

*

Dylan figured it might just work. He had asked Laura to tutor him until he was caught up at school. Of course, he never planned to catch up. And the more time they spent together, the more Laura would see that she belonged with him, not that annoying Almanzo Wilder. He pretended to like him to stay in good favor with Laura, but he was a rival for her affections and, as such, Dylan despised him.

The weather had gotten colder at the beginning of November, but there were a few nice sunny days which could fool people into thinking spring was on its way instead of winter. On such a day, a frustrated Laura sat on the school steps with Dylan, instructing him on what he needed to do to improve his grades. She obviously didn’t understand why his work hadn’t gotten better since the tutoring sessions began two weeks ago.

“How about we go down to the lake to study today?” he suggested.

She raised her eyebrows. “I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of homework to do, and I need to finish my chores before I go out with Almanzo tonight.”

Ugh, him again. He was so tired of hearing about Manly. He flipped out his lower lip into a pout.Maybe being silly would sway her. “Aw come on. My pa let me borrow the wagon so we don’t have to walk.”

Her hesitation told him she was considering it. She was probably too polite to really say no. “Well, all right, but let’s stop by the Feed and Seed so I can tell Almanzo where I’ll be.” He shook his head, but drove her there without a word.

“Howdy, Beth.” He glared at the boy next to her on the wagon seat. “Ya bringing Laura home, Dylan?”

A self-satisfied grin spread across the boy’s face. “Naw. I’m takin her down to the lake.”

She smiled. “I should be home in plenty of time to go out with you tonight.”

His eyes remained fixed on the boy when he responded, “Can’t wait to see ya. I’ll be by about five-thirty.”

“I’ll be ready. See ya, Manly.”

Dylan chirruped to the horses and Almanzo watched the wagon pull out of town. He didn’t like the glee he saw in the boy’s eyes. That boy was up to no good. Almanzo tried to go finish his work, but thoughts of what Dylan was planning distracted him. After twenty minutes he ran to the schoolhouse to see Eliza Jane.

He took the stairs two at a time and pushed open the door. “Hey Sis, can ya walk home today?”

“Certainly, are you going somewhere?”

“I gotta find Laura.”

She stood up from her desk, concern etching her face. “Is something wrong?”

“I dunno. She went out to the lake with Dylan. Can’t explain it…he just looked like he was gonna cause trouble.”

“Now Almanzo, you shouldn’t let your jealousy make you think ill of the boy.”

He clenched his hands by his sides. “I’m trying not to Sis, but he seemed real happy to see how bothered I was when he told me they were going out there.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you sure you didn’t imagine it?”

Enough of this. He was wasting precious time. “We’ll talk about this later. Right now I have to find her.”

Almanzo jumped into his wagon and slapped Barnum into a gallop. He couldn’t ignore his instincts. He just hoped he would be in time.

*

Dylan sat close enough to smell the perfume Laura had dabbed on that morning. He was confident as he pretended to pay attention to her conjugating verbs that she would find him a much better suitor than Almanzo, who was too insecure and awkward for someone as feisty and strong-headed as Laura. She needed a man who could tame her wild nature and make her into a good wife and homemaker.

Laura slammed her palms down on the book in her lap. “Dylan, you’re not even listening to me.”

He widened his eyes to appear contrite. “I’m sorry Laura, you just smell so good.”

Laura blushed. She didn’t feel comfortable when he spoke that way. “Thank you, but you really need to focus on your English.”

“I’ll try.” He did his best to sound sincere when he really had no interest in schoolwork.

Laura leaned in to show him what she had written on the slate. She could see Dylan staring at her and chose to ignore him. “Now, if you look at the verb “extract”…”

She pushed Dylan away as soon as she felt his lips on hers. “What are you doing?”

“Aw, come on. You know you’ve been wanting me to kiss you.”

She stood as the heat of anger flushed her face. “How dare you!”

When he stood up, he was several inches taller than her. “What’s the matter? Almanzo never kiss you before? Wouldn’t surprise me none if he was too afraid to show you some love.”

A loud smack filled the air as her palm slapped his cheek. A bright red splotch appeared. "I’ve had enough of this. Consider your tutoring over.”

Laura picked up her things and turned to walk away. Dylan grabbed her arm and squeezed it.

“Let go of me,” she ordered.

“I’m just trying to show you how much I care about you.”

Both her arms now in his grasp she struggled to free herself.

*

From his wagon seat, Almanzo could see Laura trying to pull away. He slapped Barnum.“Ha Barnum! Ha boy!” he hollered.

Laura turned to see a wagon coming up fast. She didn’t care who was in it. She just wanted to get away as quickly as she could. She pushed hard against Dylan which caused him to lose the hold he had on her left arm. She slid her dinner pail down into her hand and swung it at his head. He reeled backwards, holding onto his head with both hands. Laura ran towards the wagon, seeing Almanzo on the seat.

Almanzo pulled Barnum to a stop and jumped down. He caught Laura in is arms and held her close. “It’s all right, Beth. I’m here.”

“Oh, Manly,” she panted as she tried to catch her breath.

“Did he hurt you?”

She shook her head. “He just doesn’t like to take no for an answer.”

Imaging what must have transpired Almanzo became incensed. “Stay here,” he said.

“Almanzo don’t.” But he never heard her. He was half way to Dylan, who was scrambling up into his father’s wagon. He pulled the boy off, tossing him to the ground. They wrestled, but Dylan was no match for the stronger, larger Almanzo.

He straddled the boy and held him by the shirt. Pointing his finger in Dylan’s face he spoke through clenched teeth. “You stay away from her.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” he taunted.

“You better be. Because if I see you near her again, they’ll be picking pieces of you off the ground.”

He leaned on Dylan with all his might as he stood. The boy grunted. He walked back towards Laura who was standing by his wagon.

“Manly, look out!” she screamed right before Dylan tackled him to the ground.

Almanzo tasted blood when his chin hit the dirt, causing him to bite his lip. He flipped Dylan off his back and grabbed Dylan and pulled him into his fist. Then he dumped the boy on the ground.

He pointed at him. “Don’t ever try anything like that again.”

Dylan swiped at his bleeding lip with contempt. “This ain’t over, Wilder.”

“Oh, yes it is,” replied Almanzo. He wiped away the blood dripping down his chin. He glared at the boy before helping Laura into his wagon.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

He nodded. “I’m fine. Let’s get you home.”

*

When Almanzo stopped his wagon in front of the Ingalls's farm, Laura embraced him. She touched his swollen lip. “I’m sorry about all this.”

He shook his head. "You got no reason to be sorry.”

“You knew what he was up to all along." She lowered her eyes. "I should have seen it.”

“No, I was plum jealous is all.” He caressed her cheek. “The thought of another man laying his hands on you…” Almanzo shook his head. “It just drives me crazy.”

“I understand.”

His eyes widened. “You do?”

“Do you think it never bothered me when you were courting those other women? I spent a lot of time wishing I were older so you would notice me.” She smiled in embarrassment. “Christie Norton had to be the worst. Knowing you were together made me dislike her even more.”

Almanzo allowed himself to chuckle at her admission. “None of them could hold a candle to you. They don’t have your fire.” He pulled her close and kissed her. 

A creak from the barn door interrupted them.

“I didn’t know Almanzo was bringing you home, Half-pint. You’re late.”

Admitting she had been foolish in trusting Dylan was nothing compared to explaining things to Pa. “He wasn’t supposed to. I got into a bit of trouble today and Almanzo rescued me.”

“What kind of trouble?” he asked when he saw Almanzo’s lip.

Laura wasn’t quite sure what to say. She was embarrassed to admit what had happened, and feared how he would react. “Can we talk about it when I get inside?”

“I gotta go anyway,” said Almanzo. “Eliza Jane is probably sick with worry after how I rushed off earlier. Can we have supper in town tomorrow night instead?” He glanced at Charles. “If it’s okay with you, Mr. Ingalls.”

“From the look of that lip, I say you both deserve a night out. Laura can go if she wants.”

“Thanks Pa.” Laura hopped out of the wagon. “I’ll see ya tomorrow, Manly.”

“See ya, Beth, Mr. Ingalls.” Almanzo tapped his horse and headed towards home.

Laura told her parents what happened with Dylan and how Almanzo showed up just in time.

“Well, I’m going to ride out to talk to Mr. Walters,” an angry Charles said.

“Please don’t Pa. It will only make it worse,” said Laura.

“Half-pint, who knows what would have happened if Almanzo hadn’t showed up.”

“But he did, and I’m fine. Really I am. Besides, I think Almanzo scared him off. I don’t think he’ll be bothering me anymore.”

Charles looked at Caroline for advice. “Why don’t we give the boy a few days to apologize before we go talk to his father? Who knows, maybe he regrets it already.”

Charles pulled the pipe out from between his lips. “I won’t say a word for now, but if that boy touches you again, I want to know.”

Laura nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Caroline squeezed her shoulders. “Why don’t you go upstairs and relax for a bit before supper?You’ve had quite a day.”

“I think I will.”

Caroline watched Charles’s eyes follow Laura up the ladder. He gazed over at Caroline with a frown and then disappeared outside. She knew it was taking all his self-control not to drive to the Walters place. She had a good mind to go over there herself. Thank God for Almanzo.

“Laura,” Caroline called up the ladder.

“Yeah, Ma.”

“Why was Almanzo at the lake this afternoon?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’m just glad he was.”

“Me too.”

*

Two days later, Laura stopped by the Feed and Seed on her way out of town.

“Hi, Manly.”

“Oh, hi Beth. You stay after school for something?”

Laura wasn’t sure if she should tell him, but he would probably find out sooner or later. “Mr. Walters stopped by to see me.”

Almanzo jumped off the platform. “What did he want?”

“To tell me he’s taking Dylan back to Minneapolis." She sighed. "I guess this isn’t the first problem he’s had with him since his mother died.”

He stood with both hands on his hips, the way Laura often saw him stand when he listened. “How did he hear about it?”

“He saw Dylan’s swollen lip. He told his pa some of what happened and I filled in the rest. Dylan’s never come back to school.”

“I’m glad we won’t be having any more trouble with him.”

She nodded. “Mr. Walters wanted me to pass along his apology to you.” She wasn't sure she should ask, but she simply couldn't keep her curiosity from getting the better of her. “Manly, what were you doing out at the lake that day?”

He shuffled his feet nervously and diverted his gaze when he answered, “Didn’t like what I saw. He had you in that wagon and he looked at me with this …I don’t know…mischief in his eyes, kind of like daring me to stop him. I got scared about what might be happening between you two." He shrugged. "It was foolish, I guess.”

“Yes it was,” she said matter-of-factly. “When are you going to learn that you’re the only man I want to be with?”

He flashed her a crooked smile and pulled her into a sweet kiss.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.