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!"