Monday, June 2, 2008

Pioneer Progress


So. This weekend, I read Little House in the Big Woods by, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have to admit to not being much of a fan of these books when I was a kid. I remember specifically thinking, "Who CARES about their carrots and stuff?" Well, apparently grown-up me cares, that's who.


As always with pioneer accounts (though I wouldn't exactly call them "pioneers" in this particular novel, considering Pa and his father both grew up in the area - they weren't exactly homesteading - yet), I'm amazed at:


  • How little they had or in any way needed

  • How little waste there was in their lives

  • How if they wanted something, like cheese, they had to *make* it

  • How much more these little family moments mean, when we don't spend our lives chasing "stuff"

Though I found myself really looking for the story that wasn't told: Ma's. This book really could have been called "My Awesome Pa on the Prairie." I mean, yeah, Pa was awesome, for sure. He wasn't as hot as SuperDad or anything, but he could play the fiddle, so there's that.


But I wanted to hear about Ma's day too. I wanted to know if a midwife traveled to their house when her babies were born. I wanted to know how she washed and hung diapers in the winter. I just wanted more.


What I did learn:



  • There were panthers in Wisconsin? (Cougars, I think?)

  • How to smoke venison (that will be useful... never)

  • How to make your own bullets (ditto)

Anyway, I'm challenging myself to get through the entire series (again) by the end of July. Anyone care to join me and discuss? Anyone? (and the crickets chirp...)

13 comments:

Carrie said...

LOL This is a nice post!! Actually I have to admit with you that for the first time in my whole life I read this entire series about 2 months ago and I LOVE them. Yes, they are a little one-sided from Laura's perspective, but I fell in love with these people and they way they lived. I'll be glad to discuss any of these books with you! I LOVED them and I'd read them again in a heartbeat... as soon as I finish this super thick volume on the life of Queen Elizabeth 1!

Ps... I never read the little house books as a child. I have no idea why I didn't!

Michelle said...

I love, love, love these book!! I read them as a child, watched the TV show, had the lunchbox (with Michael Landon as Pa on it)...

I read the first two or three in the series as read alouds to my kindergarteners...as an adult I'm struck by how Pa was always packing up the family and moving on, and how when they were out on the prairie, they were the only ones there. I think about all the crap I pack for a short day trip for one toddler and am in awe of fitting all worldly possessions in a covered wagon.

A fantastic, fabulous series!!

Tenille said...

What I can't imagine is trying to keep three kids busy all day during a long, long winter in a two-room cabin. YIKES!

And if SuperDad was ever like, "Hey, let's move out onto the prairie with only our wits." I'd be like, "Um... how about NO?"

zdoodlebub said...

I loved these books soooo much.

Re: how they kept kids busy all winter. I think our perspective is different today in that back then, although they loved their families very much, they weren't so much concerned with raising happy, content, fulfilled children as they were with raising children who could pitch in, or at least NOT INTERFERE with the amazing amount of WORK that had to be done just to survive. Like, making cheese. Dude, that's hardcore.

So back then, they worked their fingers to the bone for every meal, to heat their homes, etc. Today, we work our fingers to the bone in different ways and then we beat ourselves up at home for not being more patient and playful with our children. So while I think previous generations deserve our undying gratitude and respect, I don't think we have it a ton easier. The expectations we have of ourselves have just shifted. It's just psychologically harder, now, if you ask me.

Tenille said...

I think you're so right, Zdoodlebub. Plus, the kids lived pretty much under constant threat of a spanking (with a switch, no less).

I pretty much feel guilty all the time that my kids aren't well-behaved little pioneer children. Sigh.

Lindsey said...

I LOVED those books when I was younger. I have my whole set somewhere in the house...now I'm going to have to read them again. (I was going to re-read Narnia...) They would make a great book club discussion topic though, don't you think? I'm sure that my perspective will be a lot different now, much like yours is.

cougars, panthers, mountain lions, pumas--several names, same animal...which we also have here in SD...

I'm all about the ellipses today...

Frugal Finds said...

I have read this series several times. I really loved them each time. I think my favorite was "The Long Cold Winter". Keep sharing your thoughts!!
Their lives are the true meaning of frugal living!
Frugal Carol

Tenille said...

Hey Lindsey! I'm going to try to make it to the pageant this year - if you have any interest at all in meeting up there, e-mail me! :)

Jennifer said...

I've read the entire series at least 10 times. I just re-read The Long Winter this winter, when I was going crazy from our own long winter. My oldest just started reading them a few weeks ago now. Ahhh.

Though I could do without the mentions of the "red-faced" and "savage" "Injuns". Ugh.

Tenille said...

Yah, there was a mention of "darkies" in the first one too - one of those "teachable moments" I think, though.

I was actually really uncomfortable reading the hunting/meat dressing portions to E, but I guess that's the reality of it, and it's better to know than not.

Mrs Pea said...

I read about how Baby Carrie was born, when they were actually in the Little House on the Prairie in Kansas (because that part is out of sync) - a neighbour lady came over, Pa took the girls for a walk, (that was the day they found the indian camp and the beads) and he shot a squirrel - when they got home, there was the babe and the neighbour cooked the squirrel as a treat! Bless.

I LOVE these books.

Tenille said...

Mrs. Pea - that part wasn't AT ALL in the version of Little House on the Prairie I just finished. I mean, the going to the Indian camp was, but baby Carrie was in the whole book. They came back with the beads and made a necklace for Carrie, which she yanked at and almost broke, so they had to put it away. I wonder if it got edited out of different versions? I was reading the 1952 version that first featured the drawings.

Though in the Bearenstain Bears books, Sister Bear is born at home one day when Papa takes Brother out to cut down a tree to build him a new bed because he's outgrown his old one. Always thought that was interesting, considering Honey's high-tech birth. :)

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