One of the first (real) books I remember reading was Little House in the Big Woods. We had all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, in slightly crumbly, butter-cream colored paperbacks, pages yellowed with age like so many good books – except Little House in the Big Woods, it was of the more modern, shiny-covered variety.
Within the first few pages, Laura was tucked deep in my heart. She was curious and fierce and a dreamer. Her stories were wild and unbelievable whilst being plain and earthy. Most of all, they were vivid and real, and to me she was vivid and real, and so was her family.
|Laura (right) with Mary (center) and Carrie|
I don’t know the extent to which the details of the books line up with the details of Laura’s life, but the fact remains that she wouldn’t have been able to write them if she hadn’t actually lived that kind of life, lived in one of the last pioneer generations. It was truly a hard life, fraught with failure and illness and uncertainty, but it’s what built our country – pushing west to find more room, more land, and hopefully prosperity. And even though the Little House books are written for children, they don’t skip over many of the hard facts.
(For the record, I’ve seen a few episodes of the TV show. They didn’t really stick with me.)
Laura herself not only lived as a pioneer, but lived well on into the twentieth century, becoming a journalist and writer and even working for the Farm Loan Association. She went from the world of horse-drawn wagons to one of commercial air travel. She saw two world wars.
I would love to have dinner with Laura. I can’t, but I can always go back to those crumbly books – which I have refused to let go of and still sit in my old room in my parents’ house (now a guest room) – and live a little bit of her life, vicariously, and know the thoughts she chose to share with the world.
|Ma, Pa, and the Ingalls girls – I think Laura is directly behind Pa|
Images from hoover.archives.gov and http://www.discoveringlaura.com. Some information may have been borrowed from Wikipedia…