By the Shores of Silver Lake Book Discussion - The West Begins
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.