By the Shores of Silver Lake Book Discussion - The Wonderful Afternoon
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."