Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blizzard - Little House on the Prairie, Season 3

With Little House on the Prairie shot in California, there weren't many episodes where viewers saw snow--even though Walnut Grove was in Minnesota. Of the episodes that featured snow--The Pilot, Christmas at Plum Creek (Season 1), Survival (Season 1), Blizzard (Season 3), and A Christmas They Never Forgot (Season 8)--only two portrayed the challenges the pioneers faced on the prairie in the 1870's (Survival and Blizzard), and only one of them (Blizzard) is set around Christmas.

It is well known that Michael Landon often used real life for inspiration when writing episodes, and it is thought that when he wrote this one he drew inspiration from The Children's Blizzard that happened on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie in 1888. The day started out unseasonably warm and many children walked to school without coats and gloves. But that afternoon, with no warning, temperatures plunged and a blizzard ripped through the area. By the next morning, over 500 people had died, many children on their way home from school.

While this might sound a bit morbid, I always enjoyed LHOP episodes that portrayed the difficulties the pioneers faced on a daily basis. It wasn't done all the time, but when the writers and producers decided to create such an episode it was done well.

Blizzard is set on Christmas Eve. Carrie is a guest at school and Miss Beadle releases the children early because it has started to snow. What was only a few flurries when the children left, soon turns into a huge storm. When the women arrive at the schoolhouse, they are distraught to find the children gone. Isaiah and Charles return from hauling freight and come to the schoolhouse. They organize the men in town to begin searching for the children. The school is turned into a clinic, as children arrive and need medical attention. One man, Mr. McGinnis, who handles shipping and receiving in town, dies in the blizzard. All the families are back safe and sound except for Mr. Edwards and his children.

When Christmas Day arrives, the blizzard is over, and Charles rousts everyone to look for Edwards. The door to the school opens and in walks Isaiah and his children, Carl and Alicia. Everyone rejoices, but poor Mrs. McGinnis and her son, Henry, feel the loss of their beloved husband and father. Charles picks up the Bible from Miss Beadle's desk and recites the Christmas story for a dramatic ending.

Even though this is a sad episode, there is much to enjoy about it: the children's joy over the coming of Christmas; the way the town pulls together (Mrs. Oleson even offers coats, lamps and kerosene to the men without considering the cost); and the joyous reunion of Grace with her husband, Isaiah and the kids. Definitely a classic Little House on the Prairie episode.

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