Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder is now available on DVD at Amazon.com.
While there is some uncertainty whether this DVD includes the first Beyond the Prairie movie and its sequel, fans have anxiously awaited the release to DVD.
Using Wilder's books as the source of inspiration, Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder finds a teenage Laura Ingalls (Meredith Monroe), Pa (Richard Thomas), Ma (Lindsay Crouse), and Laura's three sisters living in De Smet, SD. Eventually she meets the dashing Almanzo Wilder (Walt Goggins), they marry and set up a little house of their own.
Crop failures, the death of their infant son, a chimney fire destroying their home, and a bout with diphtheria that leaves Almanzo permanently impaired, leads the Wilders to the decision that they must say goodbye to Ma and Pa and leave De Smet in search of new opportunities.
In the sequel, the Wilders end their journey in Mansfield, Missouri, where they purchase a small farm and some apple trees. They meet a man who helps out around the place since Almanzo is still weakened by the effects of his stroke. Their daughter, Rose, experiences some trouble at school, and Laura travels back to De Smet, SD to see her dying father one last time.
I always felt these movies were a nice way to honor Laura's legacy. While they followed the books more closely than Michael Landon's Little House on the Prairie series, I still felt they took a bit of creative license in spots. Almanzo and Laura consummate their marriage in a field. That was a stretch for me. Rose is only a toddler when they leave De Smet at the end of the first movie, but she is at least 5 or 6 at the start of the sequel, which finds the Wilders still riding in their covered wagon to Missouri. The scene between Laura and her dying father is very touching, but it almost seems like they wanted to infer that Charles Ingalls (Pa) was responsible for Laura writing her books so that Rose wouldn't forget about their triumphs and trials. As Laura enthusiasts know, it was Rose, who was an adult and also a well-established writer, that prodded her mother to pen her now classic books.
I plan to purchase this DVD. If this is only the first movie, which seems likely, I hope it sells well so that they release the sequel.
I know it's been a while, but I figured I would add a new poll for Thanksgiving. During Season 6, Little House on the Prairie ran what was known as "The Little House Years". Laura and her family are around the dinner table and she is sharing stories from their past.
This is a clips episode and features the episodes like 100 Mile Walk, Journey in the Spring, and other favorites. I always loved this series of episodes because it was way for Albert to learn more about the family he had been adopted into.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this episode in this post.
A quick bit of trivia, these episodes are not included on the Little House on the Praire DVDs. Last I knew there was some rights issue that prevented it from being included in the original DVDs and the Mega-Pack.
Laura ran and ran and looked everywhere while calling for Grace. She felt very
guilty for not watching her baby sister during the tree planting fun that the
family had been having. Ma and Pa's voices were faint as they called for Grace
in the Big Slough. But Laura tried to think of what she would have done as a
little girl, where would she have gone to. Laura didn't think that Grace would
want to go into the high grasses or in the mud of the slough. Grace must have
come this way.
As she continued to run, her sides began to hurt from the heavy breathing. She
came to a stop and ended up at the edge of a little valley. The bank sloped down and at the bottom was
Grace among a sea of violets. Laura climbed down the bank and Grace happily showed her big sister the "sweet" blossoms. Laura gathered Grace into her arms and hugged her as she caught her breath. Then together they headed toward the house.
After leaving Grace with Mary, Laura headed to the slough to let Ma and Pa know that Grace was safe. It was past lunchtime when everyone was together again in the house. Laura described the violet area to Pa and he told her that it was an old buffalo wallow.
After their lunch, at which only Grace was hungry, Pa headed out to finish the tree planting. Ma helped Grace hold her tree as Pa planted it. Inside the house Pa put a nail into the wall and hung the wooden bracket that Ma's china shepherdess always stood on. Both the bracket and the shepherdess were as beautiful as they had been back in the Big Woods. He also put nails over the door for his rifle and a shiny new horseshoe. Laura brought the fiddle and Pa sang a beautiful song about the horseshoe.
The house was a home. It was a tight squeeze but everyone was together and they were finally on their own claim. Pa promised that rooms would be added later on. He would make a little place for a garden and spend time raising hay and cattle. It truly was a happy home.
After the first night in the new house, a new day dawned and promised to be a
busy one. Pa set out with the shovel on his shoulder. He was off to dig a well.
While Mary kept Grace busy, Ma, Laura and Carrie set out to finish unpacking and making the house a home. They pulled everything out of the house. But there
was too much stuff and they were having a problem fitting it all back into place. Pa was back home with a new well dug before the ladies had it figured out. He went off again to build a cover for the top to keep Grace safe.
After trying many different things, the house was finally put in order. Trunks, beds, table, chairs, whatnot and all of the other belongs were finally in place. After dinner Pa and Laura worked on making a window and hanging a front door. They they put tar paper on the outside of the house. Tar paper was not pretty but it kept out the wind from coming in through the cracks in the walls.
At the supper table Ma decided that she needed to do some baking. Pa promised to go to find some firewood from Lake Henry. Laura and Carrie begged to go with Pa. They missed seeing trees. There were no trees to be seen anywhere on the Dakota prairie. Pa assured then that pretty soon there would be plenty of trees because the government was making everyone plant trees on each tree claim. Soon there would be plenty of trees for shade.
Early the next morning Pa headed out to Lake Henry for the load of firewood and Laura took Ellen to drink from the well. She enjoyed her time outside alone. She rolled on the fresh grass until she discovered a grass stain on her dress. Soberly she headed back to the house.
The girls unpacked their pretty belongs and set them on the whatnot to make the room look homey. Ma was just about to put up the shelf for the china shepherdess when she heard Pa outside. He seemed excited and the whole family went out to see what was going on. Pa had a wagon load of little trees. He explained that they were cottonwoods that had grown as seedlings from The Lone Cottonwood that they had seen when they came from Brookings. Carefully he pulled one tree from the wagon.
"This one is for you Caroline, where do you want it? he asked. Ma wanted it right outside the door to provide shade for the house. One by one more trees were planted by each of the family members and those was their special trees. Soon the whole house had a windbreak of cottonwood trees.
"The last tree if for Grace. Send her out to help me plant it Caroline".
But Grace wasn't in the house. They looked around the house and she wasn't there. Where could she be?Soon everyone was running and screaming for Grace. Laura headed for the big slough. She prayed that Grace hadn't gone in there, they would never find her in that tall grass.
It was moving day and every member of the Ingalls family was happy. Ma and Mary were happy that this would be their last move, forever. Laura was happy because she was looking forward to living outside of town. Carrie was happy to see the homestead. Pa was happy to be moving again, anywhere, and Grace sang and was happy because everyone else was happy.
After the breakfast dishes had been washed and dried, Ma packed them into the tub to ride safely in the wagon. Pa had taken the stove and stovepipe, along with the table and chairs and loaded them in as well. He tugged on his beard and decided that he had to make 2 trips to the homestead to get it all there with a place for all of his girls to ride in the wagon. So as he left to unload this trip, Ma and Laura rolled the beds, packed the lamps and prepared for his next load. It was all ready for him when he returned. The last item to be tucked safely into the quilts was the fiddle.
The family climbed into the wagon. They were on their way home. Ma noticed that Laura wasn't wearing her sunbonnet and beckoned her to do so. Laura didn't like wearing her sunbonnet because she couldn't see past the bonnet's sides. Reluctantly she pulled it on and looked straight ahead at the backs of her father's horses who were leading the way.
Carrie noticed a beautiful set of horses in the distance. Pa told her that they were the Wilder boys'. Almanzo was driving and his brother Royal was beside him. The boys had homesteads in the area. Laura looked at the beautiful animals and wondered how much they cost. Pa told her that they must cost nearly $300. That was a lot of money and Laura could only dream of such a matched pair of beauties.
Soon they came to the homestead. Pa had built a rough shack the day before and Ma chuckled at the sight of it. Pa promised that he would finish building it later that day and they would all be moved in soon. There were no windows and no door, but there was a root cellar. It was a very small house, but at least they were there and no one could jump their claim.
By the end of the day, the curtains was put up for the bedrooms, the beds were made and the stove was set in its place. After dinner the family spent the evening enjoying the peace of the open prairie. The stars were twinkling overhead and the frogs in the Big Slough were croaking. Pa asked for the fiddle and played a song. Ma sighed and declared that she would hang the bracket for the china shepherdess as soon as the roof was finished over their heads. When she was safely in her place, it would finally be home.
The surveyors had come back to reclaim their house. The Boasts had gone out to live at their claim, and there was nowhere for the Ingalls family to live except in Pa's unfinished building in town. Carrie and Laura walked to town with Mary between them and Pa's wagon following close behind. Laura felt lonely and scared in a new world with so many people in it.
They came to town and to the building. It was a long building with a door in the front, windows on each side, and a door at the back. Sunlight could be seen coming through the crack in the wall boards and the knotholes. Pa noted to Ma that he had much work to do to finish the building but he thought that they would be warm enough now that spring had come. He would soon put up some siding to fill in the crack in the walls. Ma requested a staircase to the loft but then portioned off some rooms with some sheets so they would have a place to sleep until real walls could be built.
Moving in was completed and night fell. There were streams of light coming from the windows of buildings across the street. Sometimes feet walked along the sidewalk in front of the building. At last the night was silent but Laura felt crowded.
In the morning she awoke to Pa singing and she was surprized to feel snow on her face. Pa came over and told her that there was a foot of snow on the bed. Laura and Mary lay still as Pa dug them out and then watched as the did the same for Carrie and Grace. Then they all hurried to dress by the warm stove. BRRR.
Ma moved the breakfast table close to the stove near Mary's chair. She warmed her shawl and wrapped Grace in it. They swept the snow into the corners of the room. Pa promised to make a partition to keep the heat near the stove. Laura and Carrie helped to hold the boards as he sawed and nailed them.
In a few days the snow was gone and the warm weather returned. Birds flew overhead without stopping on Silver Lake. They didn't like to be near a town full of people, and neither did Laura. She wanted to be out on the prairie with the grasses, the wolves and Pa's fiddle. She asked about moving to the homestead and Pa promised that they would move as soon as he sold this building.
Carrie loved living in town. She would sit by the window and watch the things going on outside it. Sometimes Ma would let her go to visit the little girls across the street but mostly the little girls would come to visit Carrie. Ma would rather keep Carrie at home. One day Ma thought that it would be good practice for Laura to teach school if she taught the little girls. So, when they arrived she sat them down and gave them lessons to learn. At the end of the day Ma invited them to return each day for Laura to teach them more. Every day they came but it became harder for Laura to teach because they fidgeted so much.
One day they didn't come. A crowd had gathered across the street. Ma was anxious until she saw Pa coming towards the house. He came in and told them to prepare to move to the homestead. The crowd had just learned of a murder outside of town. One of the local men had moved out to his homestead and was murdered by claim jumpers. Pa headed out the door again on his way to get a load of lumber and someone to help him build a claim shanty so they could move to it tomorrow. No one would be able to jump their claim.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cutural Organization (UNESCO), one in five adults is illiterate. Two-thirds of them are women and 72 million are children out of school.
Since its foundation in 1946, UNESCO has dedicated itself to keeping literacy high on national, regional and international agendas.
UNESCO celebrates the power of women’s literacy on September 8, 2010 with International Literacy Day. This year they will, "celebrate women’s empowerment through literacy and pay tribute to the women and men who work behind the scenes who help others acquire literacy skills and enter a world of opportunities."
For more information about International Literacy Day 2010, please visit UNESCO's website.
Laura was eager to show Pa the sack of almost empty beans hidden in the pantry. It was now full of money.
"Caroline, what have you girls been up to?" Pa said looking into their smiling faces. The sack held fifteen dollars and twenty fve cents. While Laura and Ma started supper they filled Pa in on what had happened while he was away. But before they were done talking, a wagonload of seven strangers pulled up to the door. Now that Pa was home the strangers could sleep on the floor near the stove. That next morning there was hardly time to talk because there were so many men for breakfast. Laura could hardly keep up with the dishes. By the time she finished, she had to begin peeling potatoes for dinner. She didn't care, she was helping Ma and Pa get rich.
One morning she saw Pa driving a load of lumber towards the townsite. Ma had told her Pa was putting up a building for them on the townsite. Lots in town were going fast and Pa thought he could make money by putting up a store building. They still had six months before they must build on their homestead. That week the house was filled with steady boarders, men who were building houses on their townsite or on their homestead claim. You could see Main Street growing up from the muddy ground. Within two weeks on the brown prairie a town had sprung up. New unpainted buildings pushed up thin false fronts, some even two stories high.
The supplies in the Surveyor's house was starting to run out and Ma had to buy supplies in town. They weren't making as much money now, only a few cents profit from every meal sold. One day at the lunch table Laura overheard a man say he was putting up a hotel. His wife was due on the next lumber haul and he expected to be doing business within the week.
As suddenly as the hurry had begun it ended. One evening it was just Pa, Ma and the girls at the table. It was quiet, peaceful and cool. "Laura and I counted up," Ma said. "We made over forty dollars." Laura was hoping they could save it towards sending Mary to college.
Pa said he expected the surveyors to show up any day now and he warned Ma to be ready to move so he could turn the house over to them. That next morning they washed the bedding and started to pack.
Mr. Hinz and the two Mr. Hartbornes boarded at the surveyors house, sleeping on the floor in front of the stove. During the afternoons their hammers could be heard pounding on the framework of their new buildings. Pa seemed to have been gone a long time. Ma would not let any more strangers sleep in the house. It was warmer outside and the rest had to sleep in their wagons. Ma still charged twenty five cents for supper and still lots of men came to eat.
Late in the afternoon on the fourth day Pa came home with the news that he had gotten the claim. He told the girls all about his adventure. He said when he got to the land office he couldn't get anywhere near the door because there were that many people. He had to stand in line and wait his turn. Pa said he had to wait for the second day before it would be his turn. When the land office closed on that first day Pa had gone to get some supper at the hotel. It was there that he overheard one man talking about the very piece of land that he had picked out last winter. Soon after Pa finished his supper he made fast tracks back to the land office and settled down on the doorstep to spend the night. He wouldn't be the only one. About forty others soon joined him and next to him was the two fellows he heard talking. By sun up there must have been a couple of hundred men pushing and shoving against him in that line.
Just as the door opened one of the men held Pa back and told the other to get in. As Pa started to fight back another man jumped in to help. It was Mr. Edwards. Pa said he would have never gotten the claim had it not been for him. Edwards just started that fight and as soon as Charles ducked inside the land office he snuck out. It was some time before the crowd quieted down. Pa tried everything to persuade Mr. Edwards to return back to DeSmet with him, but to no avail. But he did send along his greetings.
"Well girls, I've bet Uncle Sam fourteen dollars against a hundred and sixty acres of land, that we can make out to live on the claim for five years. Going to help me win the bet?"
After the hustle and bustle of last night the house was quiet once again. Ma packed a lunch for Pa to eat on the way to Brookins in the morning. Noise outside the window pane alerted them more men had arrived. Five of them to be exact and they were on their way to Huron. Pa knew they had to put them up for the night or they would freeze to death traveling through the night. Ma made them supper and then sent the girls up to bed early with instructions to lock their latched door and not to come down until they were called in the morning.
That next morning they girls laid in bed. Downstairs they heard the strangers talking and the breakfast dishes clatering. At last they finally left, but now it was too late for Pa to set out for Brookins. He would have to go in the morning because he wanted a full day's sun. That night there were more strangers and the next night even more. They felt stuck because they couldn't refuse them shelter. So Ma came up with the idea to charge them twenty five cents a meal and twenty five cents for shelter overnight for man or horse. Every day strangers from Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even New York gathered around the supper table.
When the last wagon load of men finally left, Ma called the girls downstairs. She told them Pa had left for Brookins before sun-up. Mr. and Mrs. Boast would help keep an eye on things and they would be staying in the house. Ma would sleep upstairs with the girls. That evening they had another wagonload of visiters. The men hadn't finished eating when another wagon brought more men into the house. Again while feeding them a third wagon showed up. Now there were fifteen men. Where on earth would they all sleep? The floor would be crowded. Finally at last they were all fed and the dishes all cleaned. Ma carrying Grace followed the girls upstairs and fastened the hatch door behind them, being sure to lock it into place.
During the night a ruckus downstairs shook the entire house. "It's all right Laura, Mr. Boast is down there," said Ma. Laura soon fell back to sleep. In the morning Ma shook her awake. While the others slept, Laura helped with breakfast. The men got into their boots and Ma and Mrs. Boast hurried breakfast. There weren't enough dishes to feed everyone so Laura had to wash them quickly. At last the men were gone and Ma called up to Mary and then she and Mrs. Boast cooked more breakfast. Laura washed dishes and set the table one final time. Last night's rukus was due to the men bringing bottles and a jug of whisky into the house. With a crowd of fifteen drunks Mr. Boast thought it best to let them fight it out.
That new day brought a man with a load of lumber. He planned to build a store on the townsite. He pleasantly urged Ma to board him while he was building. Next came a man and his son from Sioux Falls. He too brought lumber to build a grocery store. They also begged Ma to board them while they built, to which she agreed.
"If Ingalls doesn't hurry back, we'll have a town here before he comes," said Mr. Boast.
One Sunday evening Pa's fiddle was singing. Outside the door a strong voice sang along. Standing on the other side of the door were two men covered in snow, one of which was Reverend Alden. Everyone was pleasantly surprised, for the last time they saw him was on the banks of Plum Creek.
"And here are my country girls all grown into women!" Reverend Alden's voice bellowed.
Laura was choked up with joy at seeing the Reverend.
"We are glad to see you again sir." Mary's face shone with brightness.
It was then the Reverend noticed the blankness in her eyes. He looked at Ma and then to Mary again. Ma quickly introduced him to Mr. and Mrs. Boast. The Reverend then introduced his young traveling companion as Reverend Scott Stewart. As the two men stood by the stove thawing, the ladies prepared a fine meal. Pa returned from the stable with two more homesteaders, both of whom were on their way back to settle on the Jim River. Reverend Alden said there's a settlement on the Jim, a town called Huron. The Home Missionary Society sent him out to look it over and make it ready to start a church there.
After the men had eaten supper Reverend Alden came into the pantry where Ma and Laura were washing dishes. He thanked Ma and told her how sorry he was for Mary's affliction. Ma said it was God's will and she was thankful that all her children were spared the worse from scarlet fever. He then told Ma about colleges for the blind and a very good one was located right in Iowa. Ma was interested, so Reverend Alden promised to make inquiries. "We can't afford it, but perhaps later if it doesn't cost too much we might somehow manage. I always wanted Mary to have an education."
"We must trust in the Lord to do all things for our best good," he said, and with that they held a short prayer meeting before saying goodnight. Laura knew then and there that she would be glad to work hard and go without anything for herself, so that Mary could go to college. The Boasts soon went home and once again Carrie's bed was placed down near the stove for the tired travelers.
Tucked away upstairs sharing the remaining bed, the girls talked about the blind school Reverend Alden had mentioned. Mary worried about the cost. "Ma knows," Laura whispered and she then promised, "I will study hard, so I can teach school and help."
The following morning the men enjoyed a good hot breakfast, after which the Boasts were invited back over for another preaching service. Pa played the fiddle and they all sang a hymn. As the team and wagon pulled away, Reverend Alden said, "You have had the first church service in this new town." He then promised to be back in the spring to organize a church.
"What's the name of the town that's going to be here?" Carrie asked.
"It's DeSmet, named for a french priest who came out here pioneering in the early days," Pa answered as they headed back into the warm house.
Pa knew with two homesteaders here already he had better make tracks for Brookins tomorrow morning come rain or shine.
Day after day the Christmas feeling lasted. Each day after her chores were done Mrs. Boast would come and spend time with the girls. Thus far they were having a warm winter season and Mrs. Boast invited them all to her house for New Year's dinner.
Laura showed up early to help Mrs. Boast rearrange the furniture to make room for everyone in the small shanty. The table sat in the center of the house, one corner almost touching the stove. Mrs. Boast sat there and served the food from its hot top. First there was oyster soup and with this soup she served oyster crackers. The girls had never seen nor tasted anything so good. Next came hot buscuits with honey and dried raspberry sauce. Followed up by a dishpan full of tender salty popcorn. All of which was served on Mrs. Boast's pretty dishes on top of her brand new tablecloth.
"It's a good beginning for 1880," Pa declared. "If this is a sample of Dakota winter, we're all lucky we came west."
Mr. Boast agreed and mentioned he was thankful he had his claim already filed. He only wished the same for Charles. During the upcoming week Pa too would have his claim filed. He figured he'd set out in the morning for the land office in Brookins. That night a wind full of snow was blowing and Ma worried about Charles leaving.
Mrs. Boast would come over almost daily during those winter days and played in the snow with the girls. Late one afternoon she took Laura to her house and gave her a tall stack of newspapers that she'd brought with her from Iowa. When Laura read them all, she could return them and take more back with her. Mary was excited when Laura plopped them into her lap. They couldn't wait for the supper work to be done so Laura could read. Seems neither could Ma. "Never mind the work Laura, read us a story." While Laura read, Ma and Carrie got supper ready. She read stories of a dwarf and caves and where a beautiful lady became lost in the cave. At the most exciting part Laura read the words "To be continued". They scrambled to find the paper with the end to their story. It was a story that continued on and on through the whole stack of newspapers.
On stormy days Mrs. Boast brought her sewing and knitting. One day she told them about whatnots. She taught Pa how to make and adjoin three shelves, each with three corners and of various sizes. All were then pieced together to fit snugly into the corner of the room. When Pa finished the one he was working on for Ma, the women cut pasteboard and made scalloped edges to place on them for a trim. Pa then carefully painted the whole whatnot, Ma just loved it.
Ma and Mrs. Boast talked about homesteads. Mrs. Boast had brought with her enough seed for two gardens, Ma need not worry about seeds. Every evening Pa also played the fiddle and the Boasts sang. Laura had never been so happy. For some reason she was the happiest of all when they were all singing.
Laura quickly dressed and hurried downstairs to help Ma with breakfast, but Mrs. Boast was already there helping her. "Merry Christmas," they both said as Laura glanced at the Christmas table. Each table setting was placed as usual, but on the bottoms of the plates were packages of all different sizes. "You see Laura, we didn't hang our stockings last night," Ma said, "so we will take our presents off the table at breakfast."
Laura went back upstairs and told Mary and Carrie about the Christmas table. "We can't have presents," Mary worried. "There isn't anything for Mr. and Mrs Boast!"
"Ma will fix it," Laura answered. She then took Ma's present, hidden in Mary's box and held it behind her back as they headed downstairs. She quickly placed it on Ma's plate and noticed there was a little package on Mr. Boast's plate and another on Mrs. Boast's plate.
It wasn't long before the men came back into the house from doing the morning chores. They were all so happy in the warmth, full of good smells from the cooking and in the presence of good company. Mrs. Boast got to open her present first since she was company. In her package Laura recognized Ma's best Sunday handkerchief. Mrs. Boast was delighted. So was Mr. Boast; his present was the wrist-lets that Ma had knitted for Pa. Pa loved his socks and he admired the necktie Laura had made for him. Ma then unwrapped her apron and complimented the girls on their sewing and stitches. She was even more surprised when she found a new Sunday best handkerchief tucked away in it's pocket.
They then all admired Mary's bed shoes and Carrie loved her red, white, and blue mittens. Then Laura opened her package. Inside was an apron made out of the same calico as Ma's. Each didn't know the other was making an apron for the other and although Mary and Carrie helped make both of them they kept it their little secret. Then came the best part of all, Ma put the blue coat on Grace and pulled the swan's down hood over Grace's golden hair. She looked beautiful, but Ma took it off her right away as she didn't want Grace to be spoiled with all the attention. There was still one more package at each of the girl's plates. They quickly unwrapped them and found a pink cheesecloth bag full of Christmas candy, a present from the Boasts.
Christmas breakfast consisted of golden fried mush, hot biscuits, fried potatoes codfish gravy and a dish full of dried applesauce. After they were done eating, Pa and Mr. Boast went to get the bobsled, which was still stuck in the Big Slough. The girls cleaned up the house while the women washed the dishes and started preparing for dinner. With such good company the morning flew right by.
When the men returned with the bobsled, dinner was almost ready. They cleaned up and everybody took their places around the dinner table. The table once again looked beautiful. There was roasted rabbit, bread and onion stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, johnny cakes, hot biscuits and cucumber pickles. After their meal, Ma surprised everyone and brought a dried apple pie from the pantry.
When clean up was done, Laura and Mrs. Boast put on their outer gear and trudged through the snow to a tiny nearby house. Pa, Mr. and Mrs Boast, and Laura set all of the Boast's possessions inside and helped set up house. Then they all headed back to the surveyor's house for the remainder of the day. While the men played checkers Mrs. Boast had one more surprise. She made them all fresh popped corn. They all sat around eating and talking and laughing till chore time and supper time and the time Pa would play his fiddle.
"Every Christmas is better than the Christmas before," Laura thought. "I guess it must be because I'm growing up."
It snowed all day. "Well it's going to be a white Christmas," Pa smiled. The surveyors house was full of secrets. Mary knitted socks for Pa's Christmas present and Laura made him a neck tie. Together in the attic she and Carrie made an apron for Ma and Mary stitched a fine piece of muslin to make a handkerchief to tuck in its pocket.
From an old blanket Ma cut bed shoes for Mary; Laura made one and Carrie made the other. And every morning while Carrie made her bed in the attic, Laura and Mary knitted as fast as they could a pair of gloves for her. Grace's present was the most beautiful and they all worked on it together. From a swan's skin Ma cut a little hood. She then sewed every stitch on the hood herself because of the delicate hide. Laura and Carrie pieced out the lining and Ma sewed it in its place. Then out of one of Ma's old woolen cloth dresses she cut a little coat. Laura and Carrie sewed the seams and Mary sewed it's hem. Ma then added soft swan's down to the bottom and to the cuff of each arm. The coat was as blue as Grace's eyes. They were anxiously waiting for tomorrow morning to come.
Pa had gone hunting earlier and brought home a big jack rabbit. It was now skinned and cleaned and hanging frozen in the lean-to. It would be roasted tomorrow for Christmas dinner. That evening snuggled in the warm house they settled in for a bowl of hot cornmeal mush.
At supper they talked about other Christmases. Tucked away upstairs was Charlotte from the Christmas in the Big Woods. The tin cups from Indian Territory were now gone, but the thought of them made them think of Mr. Edwards and they wondered where he had ended up. "Wherever he is let's hope he's as lucky as we are," Pa said. They then talked about the Christmas when Pa got lost in the blizzard for three days and nights. Only to find out he was no more then a hundred yards from the house. Mary's favorite Christmas was the Sunday school Christmas tree. They all decided this would be the best Christmas yet because Carrie was older and they now had Grace.
When supper was finished Pa went and got his fiddle. He played while everybody sang. Through the music and the roaring storm outside, Mary could hear the faint holler of a man's voice. Ma started up "Charles! Who on earth?"
Melissa Gilbert shares her life in a courageous, edgy memoir. In Prairie Tale, Gilbert tells the story of her complicated life that was very different from the life of the character who made her famous as a child star, Laura Ingalls.
Talking about the loving and often tense relationship with her mother, the death of her father, her time hanging with the Brat Pack, her television career, Michael Landon, and more, Gilbert opens her heart to draw the reader into her life story. Gilbert shares how she met her biological family, dealt with feelings of being unloved because she was given up for adoption, how she buried the pain with alcohol, and eventually overcame her addiction.
Inviting readers into her roles as wife, mother, and actor, Gilbert shares her story with eloquence. Perhaps this is why the many vulgarities caught me off guard. Not because I expect her to be as wholesome as her characters, but because unlike Alison Arngrim's memoir, where the style allowed for the inclusion of some vulgarities without interrupting the flow of the prose, the cruder words in Prairie Tale, seem to be dropped into the middle of an elegant story and leave you wondering if they are placed there for effect. This took away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but I still thought Gilbert did an excellent job with how she brought the reader along her journey.
Little House on the Prairie fans and fans of Melissa Gilbert will enjoy this one, even if the language is a bit shocking.
Title: Prairie Tale Author: Melissa Gilbert Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment ISBN-10: 1416599142 ISBN-13: 978-1416599142 SRP: $26.00
I just posted a new survey for the month of July in the sidebar. This one asks if you've read Alison Arngrim's book, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and what you thought of it. Feel free to expand your thoughts here.
After breakfast Pa took his gun and set out to look for those wolves. It was past noon before he returned and he was late for dinner. Ma kept his food warm in the oven. Stomping the snow from his boots he hung his gun back up over the door and then washed his face and hands. He apologized for being late and mentioned he had traveled further then he intended. Pa figured he traveled better then ten miles tracking those wolves. He went across the lake and found the tracks that the girls had made last night. On the high ground Pa discovered a wolves' den.
"Girls there were two big buffalo wolves at that den last night," Pa told them. He also mentioned it was an old den and they'd likely been living there for some years, but they hadn't been there this past winter. "They only took shelter there last night and from the time they left it this morning they never stopped. I followed them far enough to be sure I couldn't get a shot at them. They left for good," he assured them all. Laura was glad they got away.
"That isn't all Caroline," Pa announced. "I've got some news. I've found our homestead".
"Oh where Pa?" Laura, Mary and Carrie asked.
"It lies south of where the lake joins Big Slough. There's a rise in the prairie that will make a nice place to build. On the quarter section there's upland, hay and plow land lying to the south and good grazing on all of it. It's near a townsite too, so the girls can go to school". Ma was glad. "It's a funny thing, I'd been looking around the country for months and had it not been for chasing those wolves I likely wouldn't have come across it at all. I'll get out to Brookings and file on that claim next spring," Pa promised.
If you are looking for a book that is funny, irreverent, and courageous, look no further than Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim. In a style you come to expect from the woman who portrayed Nellie Oleson for many seasons on Little House on the Prairie, Arngrim shares her story from her childhood, the years she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, her years on Little House, and beyond. This is a woman who isn't shy about opening up, and you'll love her for it.
I found this great video clip a while back, which you'll find below. Watch this, and you'll pretty much know what to expect for Arngrim's writing style.
Confessions of a Prairie Bitch was a very enlightening read. I must live under a rock because I didn't know Arngrim came from a family of entertainers, nor did I know the identity of the person who abused her for years; both of which seem like fairly common knowledge.
Argrim provided a great deal of behind the scenes stuff and spoke of many of her co-stars. I wish she had been a bit kinder to Melissa Sue Anderson, but overall, I didn't feel she exposed any horrible or damaging secrets. She spoke lovingly of her time on the set, and shared how portraying Nellie helped her deal with the problems at home. She also spent some time talking about the late Steve Tracy, who played her husband, Percival Dalton.
As a fan of the show, I have always felt that Arngrim and Tracy had such wonderful on-screen chemistry. It is such a shame he passed away so young. Argrim speaks of that loss, Michael Landon's passing, her role as an AIDS activist, and her involvement in PROTECT.org.
I read Confessions of a Prairie Bitch in under a day. The minute it arrived, I opened it up, and I pretty much didn't stop reading until the kids cried of starvation. So, I tossed them a loaf of bread and some water and kept on reading. Just kidding. I didn't want to stop reading. I couldn't stop reading. As soon as I was done I was ready to read it again.
Alison Arngrim is a natural storyteller. I can see why her comedy act is so popular. If you're a fan of Little House on the Prairie, Nellie Oleson, Arngrim, or just want to read a hilarious book that you can't put down, pick up a copy of Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. You won't be sorry!
Title: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch Author: Alison Arngrim Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 978-0-06-196214-1 SRP: $25.99
I asked if you had read this autobiography. Surprisingly, most of those who voted didn't even know she had written a book. The two Melissas and Alison Arngrim writing books has been such the topic of conversation in our LHOP circles that I figured everyone must have heard about it by now. Silly me!
Most of the people who read the book said they loved it, but some didn't care for it. Others don't have plans to buy it. A couple of readers had the book on order when they voted.
This is certainly the year for Little House fans. The shipping date for Alison's book is listed on my order as June 21st, but I am hoping it will ship early. Out of the three, this is the one I wanted to read most.
Just in case you didn't know, Dean Butler has completed his Laura Ingalls Wilder documentary through the Legacy Documentaries brand of his production company, Peak Moore Enterprises, Inc. Some of my online chums met up with Dean this past weekend in Sioux Falls, SD, where he showed this documentary. They gave it two thumbs up! We'll keep you posted when we hear anything new on this.
My friends also got a chance to see Little House on the Prairie: The Musical while in Sioux Falls. To say I am extremely jealous would be an understatement.
I appreciate you taking the time to pop in here. I love talking about my favorite show and America's favorite pioneer.
One evening Laura grew restless. She did not want to dance to Pa's fiddle but she felt she must move quickly. "Carrie, let's go out and glide on the ice," Laura said. With Ma and Pa's permission they were allowed to go out into the dark, but only for a while per Ma's request. They each dressed warmly and out they raced down the snowy path to the lake. "We mustn't go near the watering hole," Laura warned.
The air was still and Carrie grew afraid. "Let's slide, come on run." Laura encouraged her sister. With hands clasped together they ran a little way, then with the right foot they slid on the smooth ice following the moon path. If one slipped the other was there to hold her up. They soon found themselves at the far shore. Against the moonlight stood a great wolf.
"Let's go back," Laura said quickly. They ran and slid and ran again as fast as they could, Carrie keeping up. There was no sound of running behind them when they at last reached the path by the water hole. Neither looked behind them or stopped running until they reached the back door of the lean-to. Bursting inside they slammed it shut, causing Pa to spring to his feet.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It was a wolf, Pa." Laura gulped.
Pa wanted to know where the wolf was. He was upset with himself. "It was careless of me. I thought those wolves would be long gone by now. I will hunt them tomorrow"
Mary sat still, her face white. "Suppose he had caught you?" she whispered.
But nothing had happened to them. Pa," Laura said in a low voice, "I hope you don't find the wolf."
"Why ever not?" Ma wondered.
"Because he didn't chase us Pa and he could have caught us."
As the girls were getting ready for bed, a long, wild wolf howl rose and faded away on the stillness. Another answered it and then there was silence again.
Silver Lake was frozen now and the winter winds kept the ice clean of drifting snow. In the snug house, Laura and Carrie helped Ma with the housework while Grace played. She was toddling around now and when she tired she would climb into Mary's lap and fall asleep. Ma then placed her in her trundle bed and the others settled in for an afternoon of knitting, sewing and crocheting.
Pa did the chores and set his trap lines. In the lean-to he skinned foxes, coyotes and muskrats. Mary did not go out in the cold at all, she loved sewing and stayed in the warm house. At twilight Mary didn't put away her sewing. She told Laura, "I can sew when you can't see to, because I see with my fingers." Laura admitted Mary did sew beautifully and she would never enjoy sewing as much as Mary did.
Laura often grew restless being cooped up in the house and no matter how cold it was outside she had to go out. She and Carrie dressed heavy in the outerwear and loved to go sliding on Silver Lake. They held hands and slid across the smooth ice, first on one foot then the other. It always felt good afterward to come into the house for a good hot supper.
Pa surprised them one day by whittling a checkerboard and taught them each how to play. Ma nor Carrie cared to play much, so after one game with Laura he would put the board away. "Checkers is a selfish game," Pa would say, "for only two can play it. Bring me my fiddle, Flutterbudget".
The next morning a wagon approached the front door. The driver alerted Pa of an old man whom stayed behind because he was sick and all alone. Pa drove away with the stranger and it was quite some time before he came walking home.
Pa said the teamster was the last man out. Looking for a place to stay for the night he came upon the lighted claim shanty and found the old man by himself. The old man had consumption and came to the prairie for a climate cure. He wasn't in any shape to stay alone in a shanty all winter fifteen miles from the nearest neighbor. The place for him was with his own folks, so Pa and the stranger loaded the old guy up in the wagon to head back to the nearest town.
Laura asked Pa if he had seen any wolf tracks. He told her he had seen plenty and there were quite a few around the stable. "They won't stay where they can't kill anything to eat," Pa assured her. After breakfast Laura went out and had a look at those tracks for herself. She had never seen ones so huge.
That morning she helped Pa reinforce the stable, making its walls more solid. She handed Pa the nails as he pounded each board nice and tight. The winds blew strong and snow began to fall. At supper, in the warm house, Pa stated he didn't believe that the winters here were going to be so bad. After they ate and the dishes were done, Pa brought out the fiddle box. He played everybody's favorites and everyone sang and danced. The faster he played the faster they danced until he finally slowed it down with a waltz. It was long past the girls' bedtime when he placed the fiddle back in its box.
The girls hurried up the stairs and undressed near the stovepipe that came up from the room below. Shivering, they quickly changed into their underflannels and gowns and then cuddled together under the blankets until the blankets finally lost their chill. That night they didn't hear even one wolf howl.
There was no need to pack anything because the surveyors' house stood about a half mile from the shanty. Laura could hardly wait to see it and Pa allowed her to run ahead of the loaded wagon. On the stillness of the empty prairie Laura could hear everything. She followed a smooth path warn down by the surveyors' boots. It felt soft on her bare feet. Suddenly the house stood before her.
Laura opened the door and peeked inside. The first thing she noticed was the wooden floors. She tiptoed across the lean-to and opened the door on the far side gazing into a very large room. The surveyors had left their stove behind and it was a big one, with six lids and two oven doors. Beyond it were three doors and all of them were shut. Laura once again tiptoed across the room to open the first door. It was a small room with one bedstead. She then opened the middle door which reavealed a staircase. She went up a few steps and in the big attic was a room twice as big as the one downstairs.
She squealed with excitement as she raced back down the stairs to see what was behind the third door. There before her eyes was a little store, it's walls and shelves stocked with pots and pans and boxes and cans. On the floor were barrels stocked with flour, cornmeal and slabs of salted fish and salt pork. There was dried apples, sacks of potatoes and a near full sack of beans.
Laura ran out to the wagon very excited. Ma looked at everything and, she too, was pleased. Pa built a fire while the rest arranged the house. Ma put Mary's rocking chair near the open oven door. She then made up the bedstead in the bedroom and hung her and Pa's clothes on nails that were aleady in the wall. Laura and Mary carried their clothes and boxes upstairs and made up the two bedsteads that were up there. One was for Carrie and the other was for she and Mary. Laura and Carrie then made up a little bed for Grace in a packing box that Pa had saved. It would slide nicely under Ma's and Pa's bed during the day it was just like a trundle bed.
That evening supper was a feast and Pa's fiddle sang their favorite songs. When at last Pa laid the fiddle in its box, a long, mournful howl caused Grace to wake up screaming and Carrie sat frozen white. It was the howl of a lonely wolf.
Fall was here and the birds were fewer, winter's cold was not far away. In the frosty mornings and evenings Laura and Lena wore shawls over their faces. One evening Lena said, "Well I guess we won't be seeing each other for a long time." The next morning Lena, Jean and Aaunt Docia were leaving because the grading job at Silver Lake was nearly finished. Aunt Docia drove away with a load of oats. Lena drove a wagonload of goods from the store and Jean still another big load of scrapers and plows. Uncle Hi would follow as soon as he settled with the company. Pa's orders were to let the contractor take anything he wanted and charge it to him. Charles told Caroline, Hi wasn't stealing he basically took what the company owed him.
Every day men drew their last pay and wagon after wagon they headed back east. One day uncle Henry, Louisa, and Charley started their journey back to Wisconsin to sell their farm. Every building was soon deserted. "We will go east somewhere to spend the winter," Pa told Ma, but he had to wait until the company man came to check out his bookkeeping.
One evening Pa came whistling home from the store. "How'd you like to stay here all winter Caroline?" he sang out, "in the surveyors' house!" The head surveyor thought he had to stay and stocked up on enough coal and provisions to last the winter. He asked if I'd take charge and be responsable for the company tools until spring. There is flour, beans, salted meat, potatoes and lots of canned stuff. We can have it all just for staying there." The whole family was excited over this news. It felt like for a moment that they were rich, not having to worry about provisions for a whole winter.
That evening after supper there was a knock at the door. It was Mr. Boast and he needed Pa's help. He had sold his team to a man named Pete, and it seemed Pete skipped out with the team and only paying Mr. Boast half of what was due. Knowing they would be in for a big fight, Pa and Mr. Boast put a plan in motion. Pa drew up papers to serve on Pete while Mr. Boast found a man to act as sheriff. They were hoping Pete wasn't aware that there were no laws out there in Dakota country.
During the night Mr. Boast and Pa's voice woke Laura. Mr. Boast had stopped by to tell Pa that their little plan worked. Pete was so scared he turned over the money and the team. The fake sheriff, whom was the company surveyor, wouldn't take any pay. He said the fun of it more than paid him. Mr. Boast and Pa then split the money, "the dignity of this court must be upheld," Pa said. When Mr. Boast laughed everybody burst into laughter.
In the morning Mr. Boast came to breakfast. He was the last man to leave camp and he was heading to Iowa to get married. They watched as his wagon faded into the eastern horizon. The whole prairie was empty now.
"Come Caroline, nobody's left in camp but us, and this is moving day!"
Taking readers from her initial meeting with beloved creator, actor and producer, Michael Landon, through After-School Specials, Love Boat episodes, The Equalizer, and more, Anderson speaks fondly of the career she temporarily left behind to raise her family.
Out of the three books recently written by Little House on the Prairie cast members, this is the one I wanted to read the most. We still hear a lot about Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim, but Anderson walked away from the business and had maintained her privacy for years. Knowing she was finally ready to discuss with fans her Little House years, found me pre-ordering the book from Amazon as soon as it was posted. Despite the fact that I have over 60 books in my TBR pile, the minute this book arrived on my doorstep, I cracked it open and began reading. Perhaps that's why my disappointment seems so great.
I wanted to get to know more about Melissa Anderson, her relationships with the cast and crew of my favorite show, and how she handled being a child star. It ended with me not feeling I learned much more than when I started.
The Way I See It is mostly recaps of Little House episodes in which the character of Mary played a significant role. In addition, there are spots where the dialogue from the episodes is quoted. Having been a fan since childhood, I could probably recite most of these episodes back from memory.
While Anderson shared some memories of Michael Landon and Karen Grassle, the rest of the cast and crew received minimal nods. She didn't speak ill of them, but I felt after so long on a show, she would have more to share about those people she grew up around. I wasn't looking for dirt on who she might not have gotten along with, but it seems like her need for privacy prevented her from offering anything new to readers.
I admire Melissa Anderson. She's beautiful, she's talented, and I would love to see her back on the small screen again. She gave up her career to raise her family and she's not sorry about it. While I am glad I purchased the book so that I can add it to my Laura Ingalls Wilder/LHOP collection, I wish she had been willing to open up more about the role that defined her career.
Title: The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House Author: Melissa Anderson Publisher: Globe Pequot Press ISBN: 978-0-7627-5970-5 SRP: $22.95
Out of the three recent autobiographies from Little House on the Prairie cast members, Melissa Sue Anderson's (now going by Melissa Anderson) is the book I've looked forward to the most.
I received notifcation from Amazon that my copy shipped, and if the tracking information is correct, I should have it tomorrow. I honestly can't wait. But now I'm wondering if I should read Melissa Gilbert's book first, which is in my TBR pile.
Please vote in our survey and feel free to share your thoughts.
Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, NBC) and Peak Moore Enterprises, Inc. are currently hard at work on a new Laura Ingalls Wilder documentary that will be released through Legacy Documentaries.
Back in November, Dean posted about his amazing trip to De Smet, SD at his blog. Since then he's been very quiet about this project.
Then on April 10th, he posted a link to the trailer for Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. You can view this trailer on YouTube.
The plan is for a summer release. Hopefully it will be ready when Dean visits Walnut Grove, MN on July 17th. You can find out more about that here. Alison (Nellie Oleson) Arngrim will be in Walnut Grove the following weekend.
The weather was growing colder and the skies were full of great birds. In the evening they came endlessly from the sky and settled on Silver Lake. At sunset the whole lake was covered with birds. There were geese, ducks of many kinds, herons, pelicans and cranes. The coming winter was driving them from north to south.
One day Pa came home with a swan. He hadn't realized what it was until after he shot it. Another day he brought home a pelican. Much to their dismay, its long bill was still full of dead fish. The smell penetrated everything, including the pelican's feathers. They found out all too quickly that pelicans weren't fit to eat. Every day Laura and Ma plucked feathers from the scalded skins of the ducks and geese that Pa brought home for dinner.
The wings and golden weather made Laura want to go somewhere. "Let's go west," she said one night after supper. Uncle Henry, Louisa, and Charley had earned enough money to head west. They had to first go back to the Big Woods to sell their farm. In the spring along with Aunt Polly, they were driving west to Montana. "Why can't we?" Laura asked. Pa had earned three hundred dollars and now they too had money.
"You and I want to fly like the birds," Pa said to Laura. "But long ago I promised your Ma that you girls should go to school. When this town is built there will be a school here. I'm going to get a homestead, Laura, and you girls are going to school." Another thing Pa went on to mention, "You know Ma was a teacher and her mother before her. Ma's heart is set on one of you girls teaching school and I guess it will have to be you Laura. So you see you must have your schooling."
Laura didn't say anything, but she didn't want to teach. Everyone had thought Mary would teach, but now she couldn't. Laura knew she couldn't disappoint Ma. She must do as Pa said. She had to be a teacher when she grew up.
Every payday Pa figured out how much each man had earned. He took into consideration the days worked, how much was owed to the store, and then what was owed for room and board. He then subtracted the amounts from each man's wages and made out a time check.
One morning, Laura saw a buggy pull up in front of the store and a man went running inside while two men waited for him in the buggy, keeping a close lookout. Soon the man came out, got back into the buggy and quickly trotted away. Laura ran out of the shanty with Ma hollaring after her. Something had happened she was sure of it.
Her heart beat rapidly until she saw Pa come out of the store heading towards her. When he got into the confines of the shanty he took a canvas bag out of his pocket. The bag carried the men's pay. Caroline wrapped it in a clean cloth and stashed it into an open sack of flour. The man Laura spotted was the paymaster and he was carrying thousands of dollars in cash to pay all the men in the camps around the area. That night hardly anyone slept because that money was in the flour sack.
The following day, men gathered at the store to collect their pay. Some didn't understand the payout method and Pa had to explain the process to them. Though they worked a month, it took two weeks to file the paperwork and receive the money from the paymaster. In two weeks they would receive the previous two weeks' pay and so on and so on. Some were not happy with that answer. That evening Laura spotted a crowd of men gathering outside the store. Ma scooted the girls inside and closed the door. The men banged on the door of the store yelling for Pa to come out. They demanded their other two weeks of pay. Then they yelled for Pa to open up the store. "Come back tomorrow morning and I will let you have all the goods you want on your account," Pa said cooly.
Ma held Laura back as she tried frantically to run to her Pa's defense. It was then that Big Jerry showed up. The crowd now gathered around him as he spoke and he convinced them that in the morning they could all take what they wanted. He then talked a few men into a poker game while the rest dispersed towards the bunk house.
That next morning Big Jerry rallied the men to the neighboring Stebbins camp where a riot was taking place. The men all returned well after dark. Pa found out they roughed up the paymaster and then placed him in a lumber wagon and started him back east looking for a doctor. Ma was upset by all of this and Pa comforted her by setting her down on his knees. "Next summer we will all be settled on a homested," he assured her.
Early every morning as Laura washed dishes she watched the men leaving the boarding house and heading off to the railroad grade. The days passed by. Mondays were for washing and hanging the clothes to dry. Tuesdays she sprinkled them and helped with the ironing, and Wednesdays were for mending. Even Mary was learning to sew and becoming quite good at it. The winds on the prairie were blowing colder now too and more and more birds were starting to fly south.
One day, Aunt Docia moved into camp and brought with her two cows, one of which she gave to Pa. It would be Laura and Lena's responsibility to care for them. Each and every morning and evening the girls led the cows to drink from the lake, moved their picket pins and then milked them. They enjoyed each other's company and they often sang silly songs. Their chores kept them busy and this was one of the only times that the girls got to see one another.
One day after dinner and also after answering lots of Laura's questions about the workers, Pa said "Laura put on your bonnet and come to the store at two o'clock and I will take you out and let you see for yourself."
Laura was excited. She wanted Lena to go too, but Ma told Laura she wanted her to behave, to speak nicely in low voices, have gentle manners and always be a lady. Even though in the past they had lived in rough places, Ma was strict on these rules. "Remember that a lady never did anything to attract attention. And Laura I do not want you to take Lena. She is a good girl but she is boisterous and Docia has not curbed her as much as she might." So Lena didn't get to go.
When Laura met Pa at the store he was all alone. He padlocked the door and they headed towards the open prairie where the men were working. As they neared the railroad grade Pa stopped and they watched from a distance. He explained to Laura all about the plows and scrapers and how the teams of men all worked in unison. Team after team they worked in circles. "It all goes like clockwork," Pa said. Fred was their boss and he kept everyone moving in sync. Laura would never have tired watching.
The whole afternoon had gone by while they sat and watched those circles moving and making that railroad grade. Soon it was time to be heading back. At the moment there was no railroad, but some day the long steel tracks would lie level on the ground. Laura could see them as if they were almost there.
"What's that house Pa?" Laura asked pointing in its direction. She had been meaning to ask him about it for quite some time.
"That's the surveyors house," Pa said. He then told Laura now that she knew how a railroad's grade is made, she must tell Mary about it.
"Oh I will Pa," Laura promised. "I'll see it out loud for her, every bit."
Sometimes I have to admit the results of the surveys surprise me. As the owner of Dean's Divas, is not a shock that several voters--including me--said they are interested in Dean Butler's autobiography. Matt and/or Patrick Labyorteaux being a top pick (tying with Dean) is also not a huge surprise. The character of Albert is a fan favorite, which might be increased by how Matt has stepped out of the spotlight as he has gotten older.
Some of the other choices, however, were not what I expected. The Greenbush Twins tied with Dean and the Labyorteaux brothers for the most interest. Now, I'm not saying they aren't wonderful ladies, it's just that the character of Carrie was often minimized on the show. She wasn't even really allowed to grow up, as Laura and Mary had been.
The one thing that left me shaking my head, though, was that Karen Grassle didn't garner any votes. Now, it's possible she could have been included by the 12% of voters who said they were interested in several cast autobiographies, but most of the actors still ended up with some votes.
While Grassle hasn't been seen on TV since 1994--other than in Little House on the Prairie reruns--she remained active in theater and co-founded Sante Fe’s Resource Theatre Company. In 2006, she starred as Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her easily recognizable face can be seen in commercials for Premier Bathrooms. In addition, she could provide a perspective of being on the show that is very different from the stars who were children during their time on Little House.
It was very interesting to see how this survey turned out.
Thanks to all who participated in this latest survey. Look for another one coming soon!
One night at supper Pa was extrememly quiet. He told Ma that there was word out to look for horse thieves and Big Jerry was at the center of that discussion. "Seems every time he's in camp the best horses are stolen."
"I always heard you can't trust a halfbreed," Ma said. Ma didn't like indians not even half-indians.
Pa couldn't believe it was Jerry. He felt the men were just riled because Jerry always beat them in poker every payday and took off with most of their paychecks. Pa also told Ma that Jerry had a kind heart. He told her the story of how Jerry took care of Old Johnny, the water boy when he took sick. Jerry stayed with him through the night, feeding him and keeping him warm. "And Caroline we're beholden to him ourselves." Pa pointed out when Jerry rode up on his white horse during their ride out to Silver Lake.
Charles had to return to the store. "I've got to go sell the boys ammunition for their guns. I hope Jerry doesn't come into town tonight." Pa knew the men would shoot him. It would be dark before he returned again from the store. "There are at least a dozen men with loaded guns and lying in wait." It was around bedtime when Pa had to venture back out. "Don't sit up for me Caroline," he cheerfully said as disappeared into the darkness.
Laura couldn't sleep, so she sat up with Ma in the dark listening. A sharp cry in the distance scared her. It was the cry of a lost goose separated from its flock. Shortly before sunrise they heard footsteps and Pa appeared in the doorway. Laura jumped and Ma went limp in her chair. He was surprised to find both his girls sitting up waiting for him. "Everything's all right," he assured them. "Big Jerry's all right, he won't be coming into camp tonight, but I wouldn't be surprised if he rode in on his white horse in the morning. Let's get what sleep we can before sunrise." He then chuckled "There will be a bunch of sleepy men working on the grade today".
As Laura was undressing on her side of the curtain she could hear Pa whisper to Ma, "There'll never be a horse stolen from Silver Lake Camp."
Sure enough that morning Laura caught a glimpse of Big Jerry riding into camp and heading in the direction of where the men were working. There never was another horse stolen from Silver Lake Camp.
Before the sun rose the next morning Laura was down by the shallow well near Silver Lake. The lake laid like a sheet of silver amongst all the tall wild grasses. The waterfowl beginning to squawk as the sun rose over the eastern edge. Laura pulled the pail up from the well and hurried with it back to the shanty.
Their new shanty stood alone on the shore of the lake. It was just south of the cluster of grader shanties. Ma was waiting for Laura when she had returned. "You should have seen the sunrise," Laura exclaimed as she quickly began helping her Ma with breakfast. She knew she should have rushed along; they had a busy day ahead of them. That morning they aired out cousin Louisa's beds and then stuffed Ma's ticking mattresses with fresh clean hay. Ma purchased yards of calico and made curtains for the windows. She then made a larger curtain and hung it between the beds, creating separate bedrooms for the girls and them. When Pa came to dinner he was very pleased with their efforts.
After dinner Laura made it known that she wanted to go for a walk to look at the camp. Observing Ma's disapproval, Pa warned the girls not to go near where the men were working and told them they had to be back home before the men came in for the night. Pa said there were some rough looking men who used rough language. Everybody but Laura seemed frightened by this; for once she would have liked to have heard some of that language.
On their walk Laura, Mary and Carrie strolled along the shoreline of the silver water toward the wild Big Slough. Thousands of wild ducks, geese, herons, cranes and pelicans were heard all around them feeding and nesting in the tall grasses. Pushing further into the Big Slough their bare feet sank slowly into ooze. The soft cool muck sucked around their ankles and little ponds glimmered amongst the tall grasses. Laura wanted to go further but Mary and Carrie wanted to retreat back to higher prairie ground. "Oh what a wild beautiful prairie," Mary sighed.
It would be late afternoon when they returned back to the shanty. They could see the whole camp scattered along the lake shore just north of where they were. Then for the first time Laura saw a house. They would ask Pa about it and find out who lived there. The railroad men were making a racket as they returned to camp from their work and flocks of ducks and geese were coming down from the sky to sleep for the night on Silver Lake. Ma stood in the doorway watching for them.
Early the next morning they climbed back into the still loaded wagon. "See you at Silver Lake," Lena called out to Laura. She and her family would be along soon; that was as soon as Uncle Hi settled his business. Once again Laura began to see out loud for Mary. She described the road winding down to the Big Sioux River; there was nothing but big sky and grassy land. The river was dried up and trickled along from pool to pool. It was enough for the horses to drink from though. In Laura's words to Mary, "the road pushes against the grassy land and then it ends." For beyond the Big Sioux there were no more fields, no houses and no people. There really wasn't a road either, only a dim wagon trail. There was also no more railroad grade; but as Pa called them, there were surveyor stakes for the railroad grade that was not yet started.
All morning as Pa drove, they seemed so small against the vast wide open prairie. When the sun finally reached overhead they stopped to feed the horses and themselves. This prairie felt different. It was enormous and very, very still. Pa talked about his new job and of his excitement about being one of the first settlers and having his pick of the land.
Soon the sun was lowering in the west and they were about ten miles from Silver Lake. Glancing backward they noticed a rider closing in on them. Pa slapped the horses with the lines to hurry them along. Laura looked back again and spotted a second rider on a white horse. This rider overtook the first one as they approached the Ingalls' wagon. "Everythings all right now," Pa said. "That's big Jerry, he wouldn't let anbody hurt us." The riders soon came up beside the wagon and Pa greeted each of them. "Hullo Ingalls," Big Jerry answered. The other man just snarled as he rode on by. Soon after Jerry galloped off behind him. Pa assured them that Jerry would make sure they made it into camp safely.
Wild ducks and geese were honking as they settled down for the night on the lakes ahead. There was Silver Lake and the twin lakes Henry and Thompson. The dark blob between them Pa pointed out was a huge cottonwood tree. "We will get some seeds from it and plant them on our homestead," Pa said. They traveled the last eight miles in the dark aiming for the lights from the shanties in the distance.
When they finally reached the shanty with the lights on, Uncle Henry greeted them in the doorway. Pa surprised Ma and kept it a secret that Henry was there. Cousin Charles, now all grown up, had helped everybody down from the wagon. Charles was not that little boy anymore who always caused trouble and got chased by those bees back in Wisconsin. Cousin Louisa came outside and hustled everybody into the shanty for a warm meal. After they ate, Uncle Henry escorted them to a new shanty the men had built for Pa. In the shanty there was a bunk on one side for Pa and Ma, and on the other side there were two narrow bunks, one on top of the other for the girls. Louisa had seen to it that the bunks were already made. In no time at all Laura and Mary were cuddled on the fresh hay mattress with the sheets and quilts drawn up to their noses. Pa then blew out the lantern.
The girls awoke to sunshine coming through their canvas tent. "Hurry up, we're going for the washing," laughed Lena. They didn't need to dress since they hadn't undressed the night before. Breakfast was jolly. Aunt Docia had made pancakes and afterwards there was a huge stack of dishes to be washed, but nothing like Lena was used to. Most days she and her ma would be busy cooking and cleaning, three times a day for forty-six men. This was why they hired out the laundry work.
After their chores were done, Laura helped Lena harness the buggy to the black ponies and the girls took off. It was within minutes that Lena had them running. Faster and faster the ponies flew while the girls laughed and sang. They knew they were safe for there was nothing out there but wild grass to run into. After a while Lena slowed the ponies down to let them breathe, but it wouldn't be long before they wanted to bolt again. Lena promised Laura she could drive them on the way home.
They arrived at the claim shanty and the homesteader's wife came out carrying their basket of clothing. She apologized for her unkempt appearance. Her daughter Lizzie had just gotten married the day before. Lena and Laura couldn't believe it. Lizzie was only thirteen; she was their age. Both girls told each other it would be quite some time before either of them got married. They weren't ready to settle down and they were having way too much playing around.
As promised, on the trip home Laura did get to drive the ponies. She too had them running in no time. When they finally stopped to unhitch the horses, it was then they discovered the top layers of clothing from the basket ended up on the buggy floor under the seats. They quickly straighted out the basket and brought it into the shanty.
After they ate their dinner and finished the dishes they ran back out to the ponies. Jean and Lena rode them bareback, hanging tightly to their manes for balance. Lena then persuaded Laura to climb aboard Jean's pony. With Lena's help Laura mounted the pony before the horse bolted. She hung on to the mane for dear life. An afternoon of scratched up legs, a bloody nose from the pony's head hitting her and falling off twice; Laura had a wonderful afternoon. When Aunt Docia finally called them in for supper, Ma looked at Laura in shocked amazement. She looked like a wild indian. Her hair was no longer pulled back in tight braids, but flowing wildly about her face. She and Lena made quite the pair. It had been a long time since Lena got an afternoon to do as she liked.
Early that next morning they were all in the wagon heading west. Grace sat between Ma and Pa on the spring seat and Carrie and Laura sat with Mary between them on a board laid across the wagon's box. They traveled without the wagon's canvas. During their journey Pa told them that Uncle Hi had finished his contract and was moving to a new camp further west and most of the men in camp had already cleared out. In a couple of day's Pa told Ma, they too would be moving on. He would find a claim for them further west.
Laura did not find much to see out loud for Mary because there was nothing to see but empty prairie. The jolt and jiggles of the wagon came up through the hard board on which they sat. The girls didn't complain but were grateful when Pa finally stopped the wagon to feed the horses and themselves some lunch.
The afternoon was longer than the morning and darkness soon overcame them. Everybody was getting tired but the jolts of the wagon didn't allow for much comfort for sleep. Finally, in the distance Pa spotted the light in one of the shanty windows. Aunt Docia and her children greeted them upon their arrival. With a little nudging from Aunt Docia, cousins Lena and Jean greeted the girls. Laura liked Lena; they were very close in age. Lena told Laura bout her two black ponies and asked her if she would like to go riding. Tired from her journey Laura was finding it hard to stay awake. Of course she would love to go riding but she would have to get that approved by Ma first. Soon they all sat down to a hot supper and that evening the men slept in the bunkhouse while Laura and Lena slept outdoors in a tent. As soon as Laura laid down on the blanket she was sound asleep.