Little House and LIW in my life: Part One

As a young girl of about eight years old, I became obsessed with all things to do with the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  To note, by that time I’d seen a handful of the television show episodes (I saw more of them the next year when a local channel started carrying syndicated reruns.) The show’s original run was nearly coming to an end by then.  Anyway, I’d seen enough to know that the tv show was really nothing like the books, and had already become a separate entity in my mind.  (I know there are still people out there who think the events and people in the tv show are the complete real-life truth.)

When I was five years old, my mother read Farmer Boy aloud to my brothers and I.  The chapter that sticks out the most in my memory is when Almanzo and his siblings are left alone for the week to mind the house and farm on their own.  They use up almost all of the sugar making and eating sweets, and Eliza Jane has to repair the parlor wallpaper from where the blacking brush hit the wall after Almanzo threw it.

A couple of years later, I borrowed Little House in the Big Woods from the Wanamaker Branch of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library.   I remember really enjoying it, and then borrowed Little House on the Prairie.  I was reading ahead of where they had me in reading group in elementary school.  (My fourth grade teacher finally recognized that I could read very well, and moved me up to where I should be – in the highest reading group.  It was just previously – in first grade – I was so shy and nervous that sometimes my speaking/reading aloud was not great, but it was just nerves! Same in second and third grades. . . even though I was reading chapter books on my own silently just fine.)  In fact, I usually read the entire reading text books at the beginning of the school year, and it was pretty borrowing the remainder of the time.  

Anyway, I digress. 

I think steadily read the whole little house series so that by the summer I was nine I was re-reading the whole series.  I had my favorite titles.  I have shared one or two of my favorites in the past on this blog.   I still think Little Town on the Prairie was and is one of my absolute favorites of the series.  I loved seeing Laura growing up and having some fun with friends and family.  This book also is not quite as bleak as some of the others.  As an adult, I think I appreciate the later books in the series as well because apparently Rose (Wilder Lane) may not have done quite as much work on them.  Rose did a great job shaping the books, etc, but according to Pamela Smith Hill, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Rose simply did not have the time or energy to put quite as much time into re-writing her mother’s stories later on as she did with the first books in the series.  
I have more to say about the books, and also about my visits to a couple of the home sites over the years, but  I will tackle those things in a future post!

Weather-Related Quotes From Books

Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, I kept a notebook with quotes from books and movies related to weather.  I was a meteorology major for a year, but loved reading about weather. 

These are some selections that I noted.

“Almost overhead now, the tumbling, swirling clouds changed from black to a terrifying greenish-purple.  They seemed to draw themselves together, then a groping finger slowly came out of them and stretched down trying to reach the earth” (254).   – Laura Ingalls Wilder, These Happy Golden Years

“As they dashed into the kitchen the light seemed to vanish, as if blown out by some mighty breath; the awful cloud rolled over the sun and a darkness as of late twilight fell across the world.  At the same moment, with a crash of thunder and a blinding glare of lightning, the hail swooped down and blotted the landscape out in one white fury” (211).   L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“The sun had now been set sometime; heavy cloud whose lower skirts were tinged with sulphurous crimson, lingered in the west, and threw a reddish tint upon the pine forests, which sent forth a solemn sound, as the breeze rolled over them” (406).  – Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho

“Derry wind speeds were being clocked at an average of fifty-five miles an hour, with gusts up to seventy.  The anemometer in the courthouse registered one gust of eighty-one, and then the needle dropped all the way back to zero.  The wind had ripped the whirling cuplike device on the courthouse roof off its moorings and it flew away into the rainswept dimness of the day” (1042).  – Stephen King, IT

“In the lightning that tore across the sky every few minutes, I could see the clouds were still low and boiling.  I didn’t know if we’d be safe anywhere, even when we got out” (66).  – Ivy Ruckman, Night of the Twisters 

“The next day the rain poured down in torrents again, and when Mary looked out of her window the moor was almost hidden by gray mist and cloud.  There could be no going out today” (51).  – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden  

“Suddenly there was no sunshine.  It went out, as if someone had blown out the sun like a lamp. The outdoors was gray, the windowpanes were gray, and at the same moment a wind crashed against the schoolhouse, rattling windows and doors and shaking the walls” (84).   – Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter 

“I wondered at the beauty of its intricate design / I breathed, the snowflake vanished / but for moments, it was mine” (41). – Jack Prelutsky, It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing!

“The only thing really that was different about Chewandswallow was its weather.  It came three times a day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Everything that everyone at came from the sky . . . it never rained rain.  It never snowed snow.   And it never blew just wind.  It rained things like soup and juice.  It snowed mashed potatoes and green peas.  And sometimes the wind blew in storms of hamburgers” (7-8).   – Judi Barrett, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 

“It’s true there were dark storm clouds – heavy, black, and pendulous, toward which they were driving.”  – ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’  [Not a book . . .  but this has always been my favorite line from this movie.]

T is for These Happy Golden Years

Title: These Happy Golden Years
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Original Publication Date: 1943
Year I First Read:  1984
Category: Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Teen/YA Fiction, Historical Fiction

Basic Summary:  In the beginning of the story, Laura is on the way to her first teaching job, which is away from home.  Every week in the cold and snow, Almanzo comes to pick Laura up and take her home to her family.  Later, Laura returns to going to school in town, and many more events take place until the end of the book when she marries Almanzo.
What I remember:  This is hard to say I have re-read this book so often since then.  I was nine-ish when I first read it, though, after I had read the rest of the Little Series over the previous two years or so.  Several things made the biggest impression on me when I first read it, though.   One is when May came home from college in Iowa to visit. Another is the chapter with the tornado with three funnels that kills a boy and two donkeys.   Another is when Laura and Ma are preparing Laura’s clothes for her wedding.   
What I Took Away From the Book:  Don’t go riding out in the country in a buggy when there might be a tornado.  Your true love might show up at the door with wild horses to be broken.  If you are teaching school for the first time, don’t stay in a house with knives.  And finally, life can be difficult, but it gets better. 
Rating (1-5 Stars): 5 Stars (Then and now.) 

The Wilder LIfe

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure is the book (actually in e-book format) I am reading at present.

What I liked:

Ms. McClure gets the idea of “Laura Land” (as she calls it) right in that I had a “Laura Land” of my own, but as she finds out, everyone’s is just a little different.

The comparisons between the actual Little House books, the real lives of the Ingalls and the Wilders, and then the TV series. I have such a trained eye when it comes to all of the differences that I could have been bored by things maybe other people don’t know, but I have enjoyed making sure Ms. McClure gets things right.

Ms. McClure also visits all of the actual Little House sites. . . I haven’t even been to them all, only a portion, so I have enjoyed reading her impressions and descriptions of these places.

Some of her descriptions of attempts to enter “Laura Land” as an adult quite funny.

I am jealous that she got to camp during a hailstorm on the Ingalls’ Homestead in DeSmet, SD. . . that would be the ultimate experience! (Besides a triplet tornado in the distance . . . )

That she came to the realization that she was really searching for her mother and her younger self.

What I am not sure I have liked, or don’t agree with:

Ms. McClure finds it creepy to walk on gravesites in Pepin. Oh, come on, that is ridiculous! I grew up next door to a cemetery that was a delightful playground in every season. When I am buried, I wish to be in a small cemetery where small children will play hide-n-seek.

She (the author) always desired as a little girl to be able to have Laura come visit her in present day to “show her around.” I never wanted to do that. I always desired a time machine so I could go back to Laura’s time. I used to imagine going to school with her in about 1880 or so!