As we travel along with the Ingalls family on their move to the prairie, my thoughts turn to how this is only the first of several moves to a new home, a new community for this family. Makes for good stories, a broad view of lifestyles in the late 19th century United States. How cool that Laura had so many varied adventures to share with us.
It seems that a key reason for this nice long list of stories featuring several types of houses was that Charles Ingalls – Laura’s Pa – had itchy feet. He wanted to keep moving West, to open spaces, new opportunities. According to the site, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl, Charles tried his hand as not only a farmer, but also a hunter, trapper, hotel manager, butcher, Justice of the Peace and storekeeper. Evidently the whole farming thing didn’t work that well for him in the long run – crops failed, then when they grew there were locusts – maybe it was best he tried other things.
For me, one of the most striking lines in the opening pages of Little House on the Prairie comes after Charles has been telling his wife Caroline about life out West among his stories on the long winter nights. I picture her listening and nodding as she rocks and mends and knits and does other types of work at the end of the day. Then near the end of the winter he says to her: “Seeing as you don’t object, I’ve decided to go see the West. I’ve had an offer for this place, and we can sell it now for as much as we’re ever likely to get, enough to give us a start in a new country.”
Here I think the rocking and nodding must have stopped abruptly – her first response is, “Oh, Charles, must we go now?” Laura doesn’t embellish this comment by adding, “she implored frantically” or “she shrieked hysterically” – but I know it must have been the case. Laura just goes on to explain that her mother didn’t want to move quite yet because it was still freezing outside and the Little House was so warm and cozy. Right.
But move they did, obviously. Another favorite line comes when Laura describes the packing up of their belongings – “Everything from the little house was in the wagon, except the beds and tables and chairs. They did not need to take these, because Pa could always make new ones.” Our family has moved many times, and let me tell you, if my husband could just whip up some new furniture each time, it would have made the whole process a lot simpler!
And Katie and I both agree that if we were moving via covered wagon in the winter time, and we had to cross a frozen lake, we would prefer not to wait until the day before the ice was about to start breaking up to make the attempt. Maybe we’re wimps, but that’s how it is.