What Jenny's Reading

{April 6, 2015}   Pioneer Girl, Pt 5: Boys, Blindness, and Creepy Reverend Brown

I know, it’s been awhile.  Hey, it’s springtime, and I’m trying to find an eyeliner that doesn’t fade out for lining my waterline (Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon is BULLSHIT).  Also, I think the Nightfall reviews are going to be a go!  I didn’t realize how much Folimun loved Theremon till I started re-reading it (for the fifth time).  Anyway, I hope you had a lovely Easter if you celebrate Easter!  Here’s the next part of Pioneer Girl:

Laura is now twelve, so I’m thinking their time in Walnut Grove is probably coming to an end. There’s more boy trouble at school, though; the older girls, Anna and Lura, fall for a new boy named Clarence, who Laura describes as a “man grown,” even though he is still in school. The girls have a rivalry, but again, we don’t get to know much about it. Ugh! So frustrating!! You better deliver on the boy crazy and rivalries when you’re older, Laura, because so far I’ve been sorely disappointed in this insider’s view on the prairie!

Anyway. Clarence is sort of a jerk and a bit of a troublemaker, it seems, and somehow gets into an altercation with the teacher about snowballs. The teacher punishes him, and then Clarence leaves, and almost everyone else leaves because of this, except for the Kennedy family. Mary and Laura go, too, but Ma and Pa are all, WTF, you’re going back tomorrow. They’re super embarrassed to have to go back when everyone else won’t be there, but the next day, everyone is back because schoolhouses don’t run well on mutiny, and you can’t learn your ABCs if you just walk out.

How many Clarences did Laura know? By my count so far there’s been two. Was it a really popular name at the time?

I’m going to assume that Laura named her troublesome student in These Happy Golden Years after this guy. He never came back to school, and neither did his brother, Maylon. Turns out that Laura maybe had a bit of a crush on Maylon, and his friend Silas, because they treated the girls like grown ladies, which was “thrilling.” Also, they dressed nicer than the other boys at school, with collars and everything. Wow, Laura, didn’t really think you’d go for the fancy type. How many horses did he own, I wonder?

Well Ma and Pa put a stop to this nonsense, which is boring. Laura had somehow contrived to walk home with Silas, even though they live in different parts of town, and when she can’t explain it to her parents, Ma tells her to forget about Silas or she wouldn’t be allowed to go back to school. Then Pa tells her that any boy who talks to girls instead of roughhousing with other boys is a sissy and not a real man. Geez, Pa, I know they’re just kids, but how did you attract Ma? Hit her over the head with a club and drag her back to your cave by her hair?

The best part of all of this is that Laura doesn’t even like Silas, apparently – she just didn’t want Genevieve to have his attention, because she doesn’t like Genevieve. Okay, I’m really thinking that Laura’s the real Regina George, here.

Turns out that Silas was probably a big old liar, though. Long story short, a Lodge started in the town, and Laura would babysit for a family while they went to meetings. Silas contrived a story one night about being tied up and beaten by random men, then getting out of the trap and going to the Lodge to call for help. No one ever found the assailants, and people thought he’d made the whole thing up to somehow look like a hero. He was eventually pulled from school and sent back East.

Personally I think he made the whole thing up to impress Laura, since he specifically sought her out before running to town.

Also, the fuck is a Lodge? The internet isn’t all that helpful here. A Masonic Lodge? For some reason I don’t think these people would be in to that.

Well, no more talk of boys or fun things for awhile, because now we get church revivals! Yay? I told you they’d hate a Masonic Lodge! Oh, and we have Sunday school, and Methodist Sunday school, which I guess is different. Laura goes to a lot of Sunday school for all her hatred of Sundays when she was a kid. Maybe it’s the only way a person could socialize back then? Anyway, she keeps going even though sometimes she was the only one (Mary was sick a lot, I think this is when she developed the illness that caused her to go blind), because there was a contest and she wanted to win. Ha. So Sunday school back then was a lot like it was when I had to go: they needed to bribe you. The contest was, the person who could remember the most Bible verses they went over would win…wait for it…a reference Bible.

I mean, it’s not like it was going to be something interesting or fun. This is church, after all. But if you memorize that many verses, what do you need a Bible for? So Laura goes, and she ties for first place with another boy in class. For some reason, the boy gets the Bible and Laura has to wait for her prize, even though I thought the standard would be for the boy to give Laura the Bible. From a modern perspective, I’m fine with it, but back then I thought it was all ladies first and everything. Also, we never find out if she gets the Bible, but I am assuming she did, since she doesn’t mention that her Sunday school teacher was a lying whore of Satan or anything.

Remember Matie and Dr. Hoyt? They’re back, and Matie apparently got really sick soon after marrying him. Somehow, these asshole Puritans decided that it was because she had pre-marital sex with Dr. Hoyt, which was why he married her and not Fanny. She wasn’t pregnant; she had some kind of inflammation of the bowels that caused her to get very sick and then she died. Hoyt was remarried pretty quickly, but not to Fanny. Ma said something about an “experiment” that Hoyt was running, maybe on Matie, and AGAIN WITH THE INTERESTING THINGS WE DON’T GET TO KNOW ABOUT. Was Hoyt some kind of crazed Jekyll/Hyde type? WE WILL NEVER KNOW.

Now, for more suffering! Mary gets sick and this is the illness that makes her blind. In the books they called it scarlet fever, but it was probably measles, or possibly viral meningeoencephalitis. (Well, duh, OBVIOUSLY it was meningeoencephalitis! It’s like you guys don’t even read.) They didn’t know that then, though. They did have Dr. Hoyt come to help, and he was the one who said that Mary’s stroke had caused the nerves in her eyes to die and make her blind. BUT MAYBE HE WAS EXPERIMENTING ON MARY, TOO. Since nobody bothered to explain what the hell the “experiment” was anyway, there’s no way to know!

And finally, FINALLY, these fools are done with Plum Creek. The journey to Minnesota was similar to what happened in the beginning of By the Shores of Silver Lake. Aunt Docia comes to offer Pa a job, and he goes and sends for Ma and the girls later. They ride by train to Tracy. Then they went to the hotel where no one was there to welcome them, which is different from the story. Some older man tells Ma that he used to have a wife and child who would make the place nice, but sorry, now they’re dead! Like, who the fuck talks like that? Welcome to the hotel, everyone else who ever lived here is now dead! Enjoy the ghosts! How is that welcoming?

Anyway, so it turns out that this man and his whole family were struck by lightning, probably, during a storm. He survived, and I think two of his kids might have, but the rest of them all died. So it’s very sad, and a little fascinating, but mostly that’s all we get to know about the whole thing.

Cousin Lena is real, as is their prairie pony adventure. Big Jerry is also real! Good, maybe we’ll find out what the hell was going on with the horses and the gambling that one night.

We do, sort of. I guess Big Jerry was helping a ring of horse thieves. He’d go to camps and look at the horses, and then when the thieves came they’d know which ones were the best ones to take, even in the dark. The account in By the Shores of Silver Lake was fictional, but it sounds like Laura was implying that Pa went out and warned Big Jerry not to come and steal horses, because they settlers were waiting for him and would kill him.

Oh! And we learn that Pa wasn’t really so dumb with the paychecks! They were behind a pay period because the money was shipped in from the East, so Pa didn’t have the money to pay them. Okay, that makes sense! And the workers were mutinying because they were bored and wanted to leave. I guess it got handled, but then started again because they wanted their money (again). The workers beat up some guy, and then invaded a store, but for some reason they didn’t steal anything and the clerks wouldn’t give them anything. So I suppose they just milled around a bit? But then the broke into the paymaster’s house and were going to hang him while they searched for money, but the paymaster said he’d go ahead and pay. So he had the money already then? Laura thinks this is hilarious. I wonder if hilarious had a different definition back then? I sort of think it’s awful.

Mr. Boast and his wife were real, and they did stay that winter by Silver Lake that the Ingalls family were in the surveyor’s house. And the funny thing about the fake sheriff was real too! Mr. Boast had sold some horses to a man who didn’t pay for them, and here, since Pa had once been a justice of the peace, he had some of his old papers and they drew up a writ and sent a guy after the man with a fake sheriff’s star. The man paid for the horses, and also the expense. A footnote says that Rose thought this wasn’t appropriate for a children’s book, but Laura thought it was just a great joke and it got included.

Scary Reverend Brown makes his appearance in the spring, while the town is being built. Laura obviously didn’t like him, said he was unkempt and not very personable. He claimed he was there to start a church, which is what Reverend Alden was going to do. He had a letter from Alden which I guess said something about the church, so Pa and Ma helped him organize services and Sunday School. Then Alden came to town and is surprised, because Reverend Brown wasn’t supposed to set the church up. He’d been a retired preacher who was heading West, and Alden gave him the letter out of “kindness.” But he wasn’t supposed to start the church.

What did the fucking letter say, then, if not “he’s going to start the church”?

Anyway, it’s decided that to spare the “scandal,” Alden would leave Reverend Brown in charge and go elsewhere. Great pastoring there, guy. Leaving your congregation in the hands of an obvious madman is clearly the way to go! Maybe Laura included all those Bad Touch segments in the books because she was still pissed at you for leaving like that.


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