Saturday, July 4, 2009
In Farmer Boy, the only book of the Little House series about Almanzo's youth, Almanzo and his family rode into Malone to celebrate Independence Day.
This book tells us that everything was different that day as the Wilder family traveled: Almanzo wore his new suit, nobody was working in the fields, everyone was in their Sunday clothes driving to town. The sidewalks in town were crowded, but the stores were closed. Flags were everywhere and the band in the Square played tunes like "Yankee Doodle".
When the band stopped playing, the minister prayed, and then everyone rose, the men took off their hats, and the band played the National Athem, which everyone sung. There was a reading of the Declaration of Independence and two men made political speeches.
Pink lemonade cost a nickle a glass. Almanzo and his cousin Frank get into an argument over whether Almanzo is scared to ask his father for a nickle because Frank had one and bought himself a glass of lemonade, not sharing even a drop.
It is here that Almanzo and Father have a discussion over money. Almanzo asks his father for a nickle to buy some lemonade, but Father takes out a silver half-dollar and asks Almanzo if he knows what it is. Almanzo knew that it was half a dollar, but then his father tells him it is something that Almanzo had never thought of before: "'It's work, son,'" Father said. "'That's what money is; it's hard work.'"
As Father goes on to explain, Almanzo could take that half dollar and buy a suckling pig with it, raise it and then it would raise a litter of pigs worth four or five dollars each. Or Almanzo could buy the lemonade with it, drink the lemonade and it would be all gone.
Cousin Frank and the other boys are surprized and impressed when Almanzo shows them the half dollar, and Almanzo decides to get the most value out of it, like Father suggested.
Then the band is marching down the street, the flags are waving, and the cannons are fired.
The chapter ends with Almanzo and his father having a discussion of how America was made, and I can imagine this discussion made quite an impression on the young Almanzo and his future. Here is the last paragraph containing Mr. Wilder's wise words to Almanzo:
"'This country goes three thousand miles west, now. It goes 'way out beyond Kansas, and beyond the Great American Desert, over mountains bigger than these mountains, down to the Pacific Ocean. It's the biggest country in the world, and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America, son. Don't you ever forget that.'"
Happy Indepdendence Day everyone!