Thursday, May 27, 2010

By the Shores of Silver Lake Book Discussion - Wolves on Silver Lake

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.

Synopsis provided by Lorrie

By the Shores of Silver Lake Discussion - Winter Days

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".

Synopsis provided by Lorrie

Thursday, May 13, 2010

By the Shores of Silver Lake Book Discussion - Last Man Out

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.

Synopsis provided by Lorrie

By the Shores of Silver Lake Book Discussion - The Surveyors' House

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.

Synopsis provided by Lorrie

By the Shores of Silver Lake Book Discussion - Breaking Camp

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!"

Synopsis provided by Lorrie

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House by Melissa Anderson -- Book Review

In her new memoir, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House, Melissa Anderson, who played Mary Ingalls on the classic family show Little House on the Prairie, shares her memories of several Little House episodes and her career during her time on the iconic show.

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