What Jenny's Reading

{March 2, 2015}   Review: Pioneer Girl, Pt 2: A Curious Lack of Doors

Happy Sunday!  I have part two of our multi-part Pioneer Girl review today!  The real story starts right here!

Anyway – to the story!

It starts in “Indian Territory,” or Kansas as I will be calling it. This is from Little House on the Prairie. Laura tells us about sleeping in the wagon (with Jack underneath it, of course, because GOD FORBID they allow their pet to be safe but I’m done TALKING ABOUT THAT PROBLEM, I PROMISE) and then Pa building the log house with no door. So the no door thing was real. Huh. Why the fuck couldn’t he build a door? They had a house. There are wolves everywhere. That is really not safe.

Holy fuck there’s a lot of annotating in this story. I mean, I know that it’s called an annotated autobiography. But…there’s a lot of footnotes.

Laura glosses over the malaria problems they had, and mentions the watermelons as being likely culprits again. Then she tells a delightful story about Pa being kicked repeatedly by a cow he was trying to milk. I get the feeling this happened over a period of many days till Pa figured out how to properly milk the cow. I sort of feel like he should’ve figured it out faster, considering all he did to solve the problem was move to the cow’s other side. Didn’t they have cows in Wisconsin? I would joke about all the knocks to his head causing his stupid behavior in the later books, but obviously the problem started long before that.

To be honest, I’ll probably be skipping a lot of the footnotes. Maybe that’s heresy, but I’m actually interested in the story here, rather than the whole “this is maybe what her thought process was while writing this book.” I guess I’ll probably go back and read them though. You know what would be better than footnotes? Like if they stuck these little asides directly into the text, in parenthesis. I guess that probably wouldn’t make for very good story flow, but as it is I’d be flipping pages back every couple of paragraphs, and that gets a bit tedious.

Oh, this is interesting. There’s a section that was marked in the original manuscript “Not to Be Used” and Laura meant it only for Rose, it seems. She says she thinks if people read it they’d call it nature faking, so I’m thinking she thought it was too fantastic for belief. It’s the part from Little House on the Prairie where Pa and one of the horses were surrounded and followed by a pack of giant direwolves. Huh. Yeah, she’s right, because even when I was a kid I was all, “No way that actually happened,” but I guess it really did.

Sounds like Jack was a pretty ferocious guard dog. They’d chain him up to keep him from attacking the Native Americans, and also any visitors would hide and call out before coming to the door to make sure he was locked up. I don’t know why he was defending them so loyally after they LEFT HIM TO DIE IN A CREEK, OKAY SO I’M NOT OVER THAT I GUESS, but maybe he loved the kids and was protecting them.

Okay fine. The creek part hadn’t happened yet. So I guess what we can take from Laura’s inserting it is that she had an extremely low opinion of her parents.

The part about Pa taking Laura and Mary to see the deserted Native American camp is here, along with them collecting the beads in the dirt. Carrie was a tiny baby at this point, and there isn’t anything about Ma telling the girls to give Carrie all their beads for a totally appropriate baby necklace. HA! HAHAHAHAHA! Man, Laura really didn’t like Ma, did she?

I’m starting to wonder if this review is going to be mostly a discussion of what happened in the books vs. what happened in real life. The writing style, of course, isn’t very polished, and there’s lots of short sentences and thoughts. But that’s to be expected, considering she wrote the whole thing on notepads and there isn’t much editing here.

Oh, I guess maybe Pa took the girls out of the house because Ma was giving birth to Carrie. That’s what it sounds like.

Was there no Mr. Edwards? That makes me kind of sad. It was a different person, Mr. Brown, who brought Laura and Mary their Christmas presents across the rising creek. There’s no mention of that wonderful penny both girls got, but they did get tin cups and peppermint stick candy.

I should probably not be a bitch about the pennies, right? I mean, it was olden times, so maybe a penny was worth like ten dollars in today’s money. Also, they were pretty poor, so any money was probably a wonder. Well, happiness can’t last too long, of course, because even though this is nonfiction they’re still the Ingalls family, which means that Mother Nature is out to get them. There’s a huge prairie fire and then they get whooping cough. Ugh. I feel you, Ingalls family. I had whooping cough last year, and it was the pits. And that was with the benefit of modern medicine and being (basically) an adult.

I WAS RIGHT! I WAS RIGHT! Pa settled in land he wasn’t supposed to! The fictional book clears him from wrongdoing because it claims a politician’s promise was to blame, but in reality, he wasn’t supposed to be there at all.

Also, the episode with the horses in the creek and Jack happened after they left Kansas, not before. And they didn’t lose Jack in the water, which leads me to believe they allowed him into the wagon rather than forcing him to swim. Well, that’s nice. What’s not so nice is what happens next: they sell the horses, and leave Jack with them, because Jack wants to be with the horses more than he wants to be with the family. Well, Ma and Pa, probably. But don’t give me that bullshit. Fuck you both, Ma and Pa, for giving away a little girl’s pet.

They go back to Wisconsin, since the guy who bought their house couldn’t pay for it any more. I guess they evicted them? It’s hard to tell from the narrative. All Laura says is they live with an aunt and uncle until the people who lived in their house moved out. I’d imagine that Pa didn’t evict them, let them just move out, but that it was a pretty “friendly” conversation regarding payment and so forth. THIS IS REAL LIFE FORESHADOWING, PEOPLE. JUST POINTING THAT OUT FOR LATER. Anyway, they move back into their house, the one from Little House in the Big Woods.

Laura’s really happy to be back to their house. Well, sure! This one has a fucking door, after all. The narrative starts flowing better here, and it’s clear that this is the part of the story that Little House in the Big Woods was based off.

Hey, remember that part where Ma slapped a bear’s shoulder because she thought it was their cow? That didn’t happen, but she did think the cow was outside and went to let it in, and ran back into the house when she realized it was a bear. So Laura did let Ma look a little badass in her fictional accounts.

Laura is three or four here. Ma taught Mary to knit during the winter since there wasn’t anything else to do I guess, and Laura watched and started to make a mitten for Carrie. She finished it and was all, yeah that was fun, I’m going to do something else now, but Ma wouldn’t let her. I guess she was teaching her a valuable lesson about finishing what you start, so Laura made the second mitten grudgingly, and once she was done, the first was missing. Apparently their puppy, Wolf, had stolen it and ripped it to shreds. Poor Laura, but that is hilarious. She cried and Ma consoled her that she’d at least learned the new skill, and then Laura was happy again, because she was crying that she’d have to make another mitten. That so sounds like something I would do.

So Ma and Pa both had two siblings each, and they married each other. Interesting. The girls had “double cousins” and it was like siblings or whatever. Nope, still cousins to me. Anyway, they have Christmas and it’s all fun, and then it’s boring winter waiting till spring. Real Laura hates Sundays as much as Fictional Laura does, what with the sitting around and doing nothing but reading the Bible and wearing nice Sunday clothes even though they aren’t going to church, like what the fuck, seriously with the nice clothes for no reason? Does God only love you if you’re dressed nice enough?

Laura went to school when she was five, with Mary. Some jackass kid jumped on her and rubbed her face in the snow. Honestly it sounds like he could’ve really hurt her, or maybe even suffocated her. Way to be a big man, jackass kid! Picking on probably the smallest kid at the school is really the way to show everyone you’re in charge. Dick. Laura bit him to make him stop. Yay! I used to know kids like him, and I can honestly say I hope that his finger got infected and fell off. Since we never hear about him again, I’m going to just believe that’s exactly what happened.

And we’re back to Laura’s feelings of inadequacy about her brown hair. We revisit the time Aunt Lottie came to visit and Ma goaded the girls to ask her which she likes best, brown or golden curls. Then Mary lords over Laura that Lottie CLEARLY likes golden curls best, and Laura hauls off and slaps the little bitch.

Laura is punished, because of course she is. Is Mary punished for her vanity? Nope.

Sidenote: was Mary really blonde? All the pictures I’ve seen of her, and granted they are black and white, but her hair looks pretty dark. Maybe she was blonde as a kid and her hair got darker as she aged. In the fictional books, she remains a blonde as long as we know her. The mean, petty part of me hopes that her hair did get darker as she got older, because probably she’d think it was God’s punishment for her being so vain.

Of course, she did go blind when she was about fifteen, so I guess she wouldn’t know. Maybe everyone just told her she was blonde.


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