What Jenny's Reading

{June 12, 2015}   Pioneer Girl, Pt 9: Horndogs on the Prairie

Happy Friday!  I’m trying to get back to a more regular posting schedule.  Here is the next part of Pioneer Girl!

Seeley, that gross teacher from the year before, was fired for “conduct unbecoming a gentleman and a scholar,” like WTF does THAT even mean? Was the pointer thing just that gross? Was he creeping on a student? Did he refuse to join the church in town? WE DON’T KNOW. Anyway, some guy named Owens comes and takes his place, and he doesn’t take anybody’s shit, so school is good for awhile.

A new family moves in close to Laura’s family. It sounds like the mom might’ve been really lazy, because she was bedridden but Laura notes she has good color on her cheeks and appeared to be in good health. Maybe she had post-partum depression, as it sounds like she’d recently had a baby. Anyway, they had a son, Fred, close to Laura’s age. Apparently there was a dancing club in town, and Laura wanted to go, but when Fred asked her she was all EW GROSS GET AWAY COOTIES! So she didn’t go with him.

Dancing club. Huh. Square dancing? The footnotes just say there was dancing and dinner and it would cost seventy-five cents or a dollar admission. Later, it became a roller rink, and sometimes they’d have roller masquerades, where the skaters would have to wear masks. This…actually sounds like a lot of fun. No sarcasm. I mean, obviously it sounds dangerous, but also like something I would actually do. Point to the pioneers, I guess. I had no idea roller skating existed before the 1970s.

Hoops are back in style, and Laura bitches about how they’d creep up the girls’ legs and they’d have to twirl to get them down. She relays a funny story about getting into a buggy with another girl and that Fred guy not having a place to sit. She also, tantalizingly, tells Rose in an aside to include a story about a girl who jumped from Manly’s buggy while wearing hoops. Rose chose not to include it. DAMMIT, ROSE! I feel like we’re just getting hints of all the really good stuff here. Was he seeing another girl? Was this Genevieve Masters? Probably not. I feel like Laura would’ve told us if it were.

Speaking of Almanzo, where the hell is he? He doesn’t even walk her home after that school exhibition!

Synchronicity! Laura tells us she hadn’t seen him all summer. Turns out he was breaking those colts from the books, and had sold his buggy. When he started taking her again, it was only after the colts had been tired out, and Laura privately grouses to herself that she wished he’d come first for her instead of waiting.

Mary graduates from school and comes home, and Laura tells us she’s much happier now than before she’d gone away, more sure of herself and able to get around the house, and even read. That’s awesome. They did buy her an organ to play, but Laura tells us that they all chose to pool their money together, rather than Pa’s fake subtlety in making Laura give him all her teaching money from the Perry school.

Almanzo gets a new buggy and takes Laura out. Laura tells us she hadn’t realized it, but she missed him. WHERE IS YOUR GINGER CLARENCE NOW, LAURA? I bet he doesn’t have racehorses! He probably would’ve frozen to death that winter, too!

One night they went to see the Boasts’, and Mr. Boast tried to play a joke on them by saying they should stay till the moon came up, even though the moon didn’t come up till two in the morning. Laura and Almanzo called his bluff and waited, and then went home afterward. And let me tell you, Ma and Pa were crazy cool about it. All Ma did was ask what time it was, and Laura said where she’d been, and no punishment.

Reminds me of the first time I stayed out too late with a boyfriend. I told my parents we’d just been sitting in the driveway, talking in his car. This was actually the truth. We were there till five in the morning and I didn’t realize what time it was till the morning sprinklers came on. But I wasn’t punished, either, for breaking curfew. But this wasn’t frontier times.

She goes back to work sewing, and the fug brown poplin dress was I guess a gift rather than something she bought and made. Except the footnotes are all, there were no friends in Chicago to send her this dress. Maybe it just appeared out of thin air??? Trippy!

Laura takes great pains to describe it to us, because as we all know, brown is her favorite fucking color. WHY?

Remember Fred, the Cootie King? He had a sister, Stella. Laura can’t stand her, and Almanzo takes her on rides with them. Ah ha! Our third rival has presented herself! Laura says nothing, even though she thinks Stella is a lazy good-for-nothing who pretends to feel sick when work needs to be done but goes to the dances at night. Well, she’s right. Almanzo feels sorry for her, I guess, because he’s a gullible jackass, or maybe because he’s getting back at her for Fred and Ginger Clarence and all those other boys she went out with while she was seeing him. Hey, Almanzo, don’t hate the playa, hate the game, y’know?

Well, Laura doesn’t humiliate Stella the way she does Nellie in the books, but she does maneuver the ride so that she’s alone with Almanzo, and point blank tells him that she’s not interested in being with him and Stella. So no three ways on the prairie, I guess. That’s disappointing! In all seriousness, though, I love how straightforward she was. Of course, Almanzo ditches Stella, but they don’t discuss her at all on their next outing.

And now, a moment. Seriously. Laura makes a PINK dress. It’s the pink lawn dress from the books, but still – PINK! Not brown! But I guess it’s not as exciting as brown, because the description is shorter. Whatever. I’m going to celebrate this development anyway!

Almanzo’s driving Skip and Barnum at this point, and they’re as wild as they were in the books. At one point, one of their cousins comes to visit with her husband, and the cousin’s husband stands up for Laura to Ma, saying she should be able to go with Almanzo even if the horses seemed wild. I guess since another man said it’s okay, it’s okay with Ma.

Privately, the husband told Laura to be careful of the driver, and Laura was all, well, if he fails me, I can drive myself. Um. Was that sexual innuendo? I’m pretty sure it was. SO NOW WE KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THOSE LONG BUGGY RIDES!

They go to that boring ass singing school, and Almanzo tries his move of putting his hand around the back of the buggy seat to cuddle her, and Laura doesn’t like it. DON’T BE SO FUCKING COY, LAURA, WE KNOW WHAT’S UP.

Later on, he proposes, and it’s basically the same as the book, when he asked her first. I like that a lot. The only difference in this story is she said yes right away, rather than talking about the ring. However, the footnotes tell us that in all versions Laura tells Rose that the whole “it would depend on the ring” was actually the proposal. She called it laconic and says it illustrated a lot about her and Almanzo’s relationship. But for some reason in the autobiography, she changed it. Maybe to make herself seem less like a bitch, since she hasn’t been all that affectionate toward him.

I mean, that’s bitchy of me, I know. But come on. She barely acknowledges him other than he was sort of…there. So is this a story about how Laura really didn’t like Almanzo all that much? Who was the original intended audience? Rose? That’s fun. Hey, I married your father because that fucking ginger stopped writing to me!

Well. I mean, she did burn down his house. Maybe it wasn’t really an accident.

Oh yeah. By the way, I found a copy of The First Four Years. I had to pay seven dollars for it on Amazon, but whatever. Worth. It.

She does tell us she thought her ring was beautiful. I’ve already talked about what I think of the ring. You know what’s fun? You can see a bunch of souvenir reproductions at http://www.walnutgrove.org, including copies of the ring. However, my absolute favorite has to be the little tin cups, as they are apparently not guaranteed to hold liquid. Is this authentic, or just poor craftsmanship? I guess we won’t ever know.

Laura intended the book to end with Almanzo’s proposal. But obviously, she couldn’t resist telling us about some more weather problems! I guess tons and tons of tornadoes hit that summer. Could that have been Mother Nature’s way of telling them not to get married?

Probably not. Okay, so then Almanzo and his brother left for their Christmas trip, but I guess it wasn’t to go see family? Laura says they left with a wagonful of “notions,” which I am hoping means something more than what I think it means.

Ah! Dictionary.com defines this as both a “foolish idea” (heh) and “small articles,” like buttons or threads. Okay, maybe they were selling them in various places. Roy was a shopkeeper, after all. Laura’s lonely after they leave, and her only correspondence is a letter asking her why she wouldn’t write him. She says she did, but that it must’ve gotten lost. Then he does come home, but it’s not a surprise Christmas Eve visit. She does say that he kisses her in front of everyone, though. Scandal? Eh, nope. They were engaged and hadn’t seen each other in months.

And clearly Laura missed him! She tells us a cute story about how her parents would go to bed at nine, and Almanzo would stay, but that he was always to leave by eleven. So one night he turned the hands back an hour and stayed till twelve, except it was “eleven” when he left, so he wasn’t “technically” breaking the rules. Pfft! Frost gods make their own rules!


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