Dean Butler brought the Almanzo Wilder from Laura's books to life in Season 6 of Little House on the Prairie. We watched while Laura pined away for Almanzo, a man several years her senior. It would take a new job and Laura's newfound maturity to turn Almanzo's head; but as soon as it happened, their romance flew by, Laura and Almanzo married, and they were busy building a life of their own in Walnut Grove.
For this Little House fan, Dean's portrayal of Almanzo on the show, was the first time any thought had been given to the man with the unique name. But long-time fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books had met Almanzo James Wilder many years before, in the one and only book in the Little House series about Almanzo's childhood, Farmer Boy.
Almanzo is not quite nine years old when we meet him, trudging down the road to school with his older brother and two older sisters, bundled against the harsh New York winter weather in clothes that Mother had made.
We learn a great deal about Almanzo and his family from Farmer Boy: daily life for Almanzo on the farm, his love of horses, his tremendous appetite, the lessons he learned from his parents, and how they celebrated holidays and special occasions.
In this installment you get the feeling of love and importance of family that is prevelant in all the Little House books; and the reader is treated to Christmas with the cousins at the Wilder's house. You'll also learn about Almanzo's trip to the County Fair, a fair that is still held to this day. But it is Father's gift to Almanzo at the end of the book that is perhaps the greatest moment of Almanzo's young life.
Almanzo had admired his father's Morgan horses since the very beginning, and it is his hope that one day Father will see him as big enough and mature enough for Almanzo to raise his own Morgans. After returning Mr. Thompson's pocketbook and earning a two hundred dollar reward, Almanzo asks his father if he can buy a colt with the money. Imagine Almanzo's surprize when Father tells him to leave his money in the bank and that he will give Starlight to Almanzo to break him and drive him, and he will be Almanzo's to sell or keep as he sees fit.
While The Long Winter remains my strong favorite from the Little House series, Farmer Boy also holds a special place in my heart. I remember how tough it is proving you are grown up enough to do things.