What Jenny's Reading

{March 10, 2015}   Review: Pioneer Girl, Pt 3: Songbird Scandal on the Prairie

It’s time for part 3 of our Pioneer Girl review!  I’m working also on finishing up Hunger Games, and I just downloaded a new book called Unbecoming, which sounds awesome.

The last time we saw Laura and Mary, I was bitching about Mary sucking and hoping her hair turned brown as punishment for her vanity.

And to make me feel like a total bitch, that awful sisterly scene is followed by one where Mary saves some of her lunch from school for Laura, and also teaches her to read while Ma is doing chores. Aw! Your sister is really your best friend and worst enemy all at once, right?

Laura had her first boyfriend when she was five. His name was Clarence, he was Irish, and also probably a ginger. Go, Laura! She’s also pretty acquainted with foreshadowing, just like Pa – she tells us how there’s a storm and Mary’s tree is struck by lightning, and though the tree itself doesn’t die, part of it dies.

She didn’t really understand proper juxtaposition, did she? She spends a paragraph relating a wholesome childhood memory about her and her cousins hopping around on stumps and making snow angels and then jumps into, BTW, then we all got scarlet fever!

If I’m being totally honest, I find a lot of this kid stuff a little…well, not boring, but less stimulating than the young adult things. But then, when I was re-reading Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie, I felt the same way – like I needed to get through it for the backstory, but the more interesting stuff was coming up.

They leave Minnesota again, heading west. I don’t think this is when they went to South Dakota, though. There were a few other trips I guess. They went with family, I think Pa’s brother? I should pay more attention to the relationships of these people. I’m writing this as I read it, so I don’t have the excuse that I can’t remember and am too lazy to go back and look it up. Anyway, Laura meets a man named George George (really) and tries some beer, which she doesn’t like because it’s so bitter. I feel you, Laura. There’s no such thing as good beer.

Oh, this is their trip to Plum Creek. Well, I’m eager to at least find out how many of the plagues were real, and also whether they really lived in a hole in the ground.

Well, they did live in a dugout. Also, Pa did buy the wood for the house only after he planted his crops, so that part was real. No mention of grasshopper weather yet, though, but Laura does tell us their first winter was very mild. Oh, and those wheels of fucking fire were real. Pa told Laura they were electricity, and they didn’t burn anything. Maybe they saw ball lightning? It was a wheel/circular shape, happened during a thunderstorm, and didn’t burn anything. Hmm. Yeah, that’s what the footnotes think, too. I am reading some of them.

Reverend Bad Touch was a real person, it seems. Well, now I feel bad. OR SHOULD I???

Maybe not. Reverend Bad Touch isn’t so much Bad Touch in this story as he is Almost Nonexistent. So for now he can have his name back.

There’s been no mention of Nellie Oleson, or rather whoever her real-life counterpart was. Even the fur cape incident was a non-starter, just a mention that Laura got a little fur cape as a Christmas gift one year.

The Desecration of Charlotte (yes, it gets capital letters) is here, too, so that really happened. But Laura tells us the doll’s name was actually Roxy, not Charlotte. But yeah, Ma’s friend’s daughter begged and cried for the doll so Ma made Laura give her to her. No mention of the little girl’s bad manners in demanding something that wasn’t hers, by the way. Nope, it’s all about Laura at the ripe old age of eight or nine, being too old to play with dolls. And of course, the next time Laura goes to their house, she finds Charlotte/Roxy in the mud puddle. But I don’t think she takes her back.

And at last! SCANDAL! The family goes to a Fourth of July celebration in town, and Laura notes a man and woman singing together as part of a show. She says the lady was very pretty, and dressed all in white, and that she and the man looked at each other a lot. I’m thinking they were sexy looks, because later she finds out that these people RAN AWAY TOGETHER. Yes! This is why I wanted to read this! I want the dirty underbelly of the prairie.

Sadly, this is the last mention of these folks. I am assuming that because they ran away together, though, that at least one of them was married. Oh, man, I want to know more about their sordid tale. Laura is no help at all here!

Of course, this excitement can’t last. The grasshoppers come! And there’s been no mention of grasshopper weather till now, so I don’t know if that was foreshadowing from the book or if it actually happened and Laura didn’t include it for some reason. Possibly to protect Pa’s reputation, or something. Honey, that ship has sailed.

The swarm, destruction of the crops, laying of eggs, and marching apparently took place over the course of three days, according to Laura. That’s…a really short amount of time. So Pa goes East to find work so they can pay for the house and also buy food, and the Ingalls family and Nelson family depend on each other. Also, there are more fires on the prairie. So I guess the whole plagues of Egypt thing wasn’t just a storytelling device. I mean, it’s one thing to write them in a fictional account of your life to make yourself seem more badass. It’s entirely different to have lived it. As much as I tease and mock them sometimes, you have to hand it to them: the Ingalls family was a bunch of badasses.

Here the story differs a bit as well. Ma was pregnant when Pa went East, and had a little boy named Frederick. This is probably going to suck, because if I recall correctly, Frederick died when he was little, and that was why Laura didn’t include him in the children’s novels.

Oh, and then they got scabies. Laura labeled that section as Private, possibly because she was embarrassed about it, even though it was likely a common problem in those times. Honestly, I had to look it up. It’s fucking mites that BURROW UNDER YOUR SKIN AND THAT’S WHY YOU ITCH. It’s also called the “Seven Year Itch” which is really gross, considering that I’ve heard that term used to describe men who step out on their marriages (or women, I guess, but mostly men). It’s a wonder she didn’t include it amongst the Ingalls’ woes on Plum Creek. It seems that the real Plum Creek was even more cursed than the fictional one.

The girls go to school in town and this is where Laura meets Christy Kennedy a/k/a Pippi Longstocking, but it’s a bit confusing because there was a real Christy Kennedy, but I think that Laura was better friends with her sister Nettie. I don’t know why that change was made. Anyway, she also meets Nellie and Willie Owens, who are, of course, Nellie and Willie Oleson. Finally!

We don’t get much about Nellie and Willie here, except that Nellie was a selfish little girl very like the younger Nellie in the stories. I think Laura probably made her out worse than she was, at least according to this manuscript so far.

The girls buy a comb for Ma, and she is pleased with it. This is a comb to hold her hair back, not a brush or anything. They were very popular with ladies of that time, the footnotes tell me. Well, Ma did like to be fashionable! They don’t get it from the Owens store but from Fitch’s, a different general store. There’s a man who works there named John, and he had a wife called Anna. They lived in a house that the Ingalls family had lived in during the winter, and she kept it very clean. One day the girls came by and she was crying, so they left before she could see them. Turns out that her husband was probably (likely) having an affair with a girl in town, and Fitch thought Anna should work less and spend more time with her husband. Yeah, Anna! Fuck your desire for a clean home! Spend all your waking hours with your husband at his job so he doesn’t stray! Obviously you weren’t being attentive enough to him because you were keeping his home clean and putting dinner on the table rather than hanging on his every word!

Fuck that John guy, seriously. Laura tells us there’s a happy ending, because she started seeing Anna happy at the store with John. You know, keeping him in her sights. I bet he bitched about the less-than-perfectly-clean home and late dinners this likely caused, too. FUCK YOU, JOHN!

Later on the would-be mistress leaves town, so I guess that’s good? Or maybe bad. Anna sounds like she deserved better than all that.

The family leaves Plum Creek pretty soon after that, because Pa is frustrated by the grasshoppers still. They go to Uncle Peter’s, and I think this is the start of the Silver Lake storyline. Also, baby Freddy dies of some unspecified illness when he’s nine months old. Remember what I said about death of the firstborn? Well, he was the firstborn son, so there you go. I’d like to go back and retroactively add this to the By the Shores of Silver Lake review, considering I used Mary’s blindness for that particular plague.


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