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.