What Jenny's Reading


The family moves out to their claim and the sequence is very similar to the end of Silver Lake, with one change. The episode with Grace getting lost doesn’t happen, or at least doesn’t happen right now. (Me, from the future: it doesn’t happen at all.) But the claim jumper was real, and that is why Pa wanted them to move to the claim, to keep it safe.

The Hard Winter starts and Laura describes the freezing blizzard in October when they were in the shanty. After the blizzard passes, they move to town, just like in The Long Winter. AND CAP GARLAND MAKES HIS APPEARANCE. Yes, friends, Laura tells us about a woman, a widow, who builds a boarding house and she’s got three kids, Florence, Vene, and Edward, but Edward was called Cap. Hooray!

Of course, for now we hear next to nothing about the Garlands. Laura describes the winter very similarly to The Long Winter. They did have a family living with them, though; the son of a man they knew in Walnut Grove, and his wife and her new baby. I guess they liked the wife, but didn’t like the husband, and Laura bitches about how they stayed during the winter even though the Ingalls family hadn’t asked them (the father had written Pa a letter and it was supposed to be a short stop) and that they continued to stay because they had no money.

I mean…okay. I get that you had to help them out too and that was stressful since there was basically no food or other things in town. But what was the alternative? Turn them out into the snow to die? I guess the husband did say he’d pay them back, but Laura makes sure to tell us they weren’t paid in full. It’s frustrating to have renters who don’t pay rent, right, Laura? Like, maybe, and I’m just spitballing here really, how when your family left Walnut Grove and Pa refused to pay the last of the rent he owed his landlord?

Okay, so I guess George (the husband) was kind of a dick too, which is why Laura was frustrated. He apparently didn’t help out at all around the house and ate all their food, and let Pa do the chores and so forth. Yeah, that would piss me off too. So why didn’t they ask him to do stuff? Was this that same weird prairie politeness that caused Laura to lose her doll? I never would’ve made it on the prairie. I’d have been all, bitch, earn your keep!

So Pa would escape the house and go hang with the Wilders. Eeeeeee!!! Laura doesn’t even mention Almanzo’s name at this point. She’s still bitching about George being a greedy, selfish lazypants, and talking about all the food they’re going through, and how there’s basically nothing left in town.

In real life, everyone knew about the farmer who’d gathered the wheat in the prairie, rather than it just being a vague rumor. For all the pages and angst in the fictional book, it takes up less than a paragraph here. “Oh, they went and got it and came back, and a blizzard struck the next day.” Sort of…anti-climactic, really, considering this is Laura’s future husband and all, and I’d thought she’d be a bit more swoony or something.

Ha. Now I’m picturing Almanzo with all his wheat and frost demigod status and such, and Laura being like, “What else have you got?” while looking unimpressed. (Me again, from the future: Pretty much.)

The drugstore mutiny almost happens, too. Loftus, the shopkeeper who’d put up the money for the wheat, wanted to charge an extra dollar a pound for people to buy it. Cap and Almanzo didn’t charge for hauling; Laura says they’d done it for the good of the community. Loftus doesn’t really care about the community though. Is that a burn? I think it’s a burn. Good one, Laura.

There’s an interesting sidebar piece about a lawyer in town who was supposed to go somewhere for his wedding, but couldn’t leave because of the weather and no trains. So he ends up walking all the way to Tracy and wherever. Wow, his wife must’ve been a huge bridezilla if she wouldn’t even let him use possible death as an excuse to move the wedding! They come back the next spring, Laura tells us, so at least he didn’t die on his crazy journey.

Now they’re on the claim and Laura tells us about farming and going to that Fourth of July celebration with Pa and Carrie (in real life, she hated it). When she did all that sewing work to make money for Mary’s stupid dress, she actually lived with that family, rather than walking from the claim every day. The whole town was up in arms about Catholics taking over the country at this time. There were a lot of immigrants from Catholic countries coming to the States, so people thought they’d become a majority and force conversions and so forth. I will say nothing – NOTHING – of the Fundamental Christians I grew up around and their desperation to convert every person they met. But then a comet appears in the sky and people take it as a sign of some sort. It was the “Great Comet of 1882” because creative names were for suckers back then. Wiki tells me that it was so bright you could see it during the daylight. Personally, I think that would’ve been really cool to see. Also, Wiki says that the comet fragmented, and the pieces won’t loop back around Earth for several hundred years. Well, I guess I’ll just have to hope I live long enough to see Halley’s again. I was really little when that happened last time, but my dad let me stay up late to see it and I still remember how cool it was.

Anyway, Laura wasn’t at all interested in the town drama about Catholic conspiracy theories or comets. She just wanted to sew. Laura wasn’t a gossip, I guess. BORING.

When she got home, the blackbirds came. There’s no mention yet about Mary’s going to college, so the blackbirds eating the corn in the books was manufactured drama.

Oh wait, now Laura tells us they’d discussed sending her all summer, and now was the time, so they got her clothes ready. So the blackbirds made no difference. And a footnote tells us that no one knows whether Laura’s money went to pay for Mary’s clothes. There are accountings from the shop where she worked showing she bought sewing things like calico and silk with her earnings, but there’s no record that it was used for Mary. I am thinking though, probably.

How did Mary get into college if she hadn’t even graduated high school?

We get Laura and Almanzo’s first meeting, and it’s so fucking anticlimactic that I want to CRY. They pass him while he’s in a wagon and they say hi to each other, and Laura tells Carrie he’s the young Wilder boy. And…that’s it. Yep, this is definitely a turn-of-the-century romance, totally bereft of anything even RESEMBLING a “heaving bosom.” Noooooooo, Laura’s more interested in telling us that Genevieve Masters from Walnut Grove is there at school with them! Also, Eliza Jane’s teaching, so we’ll see whether she’s as crap in real life as she was in fiction.

Laura is devastated by all the new people and horrible Genevieve Masters being there. To add insult to injury, Genevieve is now tall and beautiful and dressed in lovely clothes, while Laura is still short and “pudgy” (after spending her youth basically starving? I think not!) and not wearing nice clothes. You know, I really don’t remember Genevieve being all that awful back in Walnut Grove. I remember that she was one of the ringleaders of the girls, but Laura implied that she became the ringleader, and then there was that business with Genevieve giving her a ring or something (or maybe inviting her over for cookies) and the boy they both wanted. But I don’t really remember Laura being terrorized to the extent she’d be so upset by just seeing her. Maybe she just didn’t mention it?

Anyway, of course all this blows over and Laura becomes the leader of the pack AGAIN, like maybe Laura’s a bit of a drama queen, right? Genevieve acts like she’s better than the other girls and becomes the teacher’s pet, but I mean, she’s all alone.

Survey says…Eliza Jane is as crap as a teacher in real life as she is in fiction.

Okay so I had a whole bunch of stuff here that ended up getting deleted because my computer sometimes restarts for no reason. Save you work! Anyway, so what happens is, the schoolhouse mutiny happens almost exactly as Laura described in Little Town on the Prairie, and culminates in the school board visiting and telling the kids to knock it off. I think that Eliza Jane gets fired after her term. That’s what’s implied.

Now the boys are back! All the older boys come back to school and Genevieve totally tries to steal Cap from Mary Power (and Laura too it would seem) but it’s useless because Laura’s a total badass and messes up her stupid plans.

The family is living in town and that literary society thing starts up. Laura mentions seeing Almanzo, like fucking FINALLY, but even now she’s more interested in their manservant or whoever, a guy named Oscar from Sweden. Laura thinks he is very handsome, and also he has a tragic story – he fell in love with a girl and got engaged, but her family said no because he wasn’t rich and she was. They brought their daughter to America, so he followed and was working to save money to go to California and get her back. Laura does tell us that eventually he did marry his love. Aw! That’s a really sweet story. It’s like The Great Gatsby, except with fewer insufferable people and no death.

There’s a creepy footnote talking about all the bachelor men in De Smet and how they came to build the town and want families, so I think some of them like took out ads back East to have ladies come and live there, so they could get married. That is…well, how many times can I use the word “creepy” before it loses all meaning? We all saw how well it worked out for Mr. Welch, you know?


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