What Jenny's Reading

{June 25, 2015}   Pioneer Girl, Pt 10: The End! (Or Is It???)

Hi all!  So I have the end of Pioneer Girl for you today.  I was really hoping to have Measure for Measure or another Nightfall recap finished, but not yet, so here we are.  I actually have a TON of fun things planned, I just need to get off my ass and get working on them!

So we’re finishing Pioneer Girl now, which is a little sad, but we aren’t completely done with Laura Ingalls Wilder yet!

Winter passes without much incident. Laura does tell a story about a family getting lost in a blizzard, but shockingly, they don’t die! I KNOW! Even the horses ended up coming through okay. I’m taking this as a good omen for the rest of the book.

Laura wants to graduate high school, but Owens, the teacher, says that he won’t be graduating anyone that year because no one besides her was ready. She shrugs and gets a teacher’s certificate for the spring, and ends up with the Wilkins school. When she goes back to tell Owens that she won’t be coming back and also she’s getting married so she won’t be back to school at all again, ever, he’s super regretful and cries, and says to ditch her school so she can graduate, because she can do it and he’ll make it happen. Laura’s all, uh, no, you dillweed, I made a commitment to the school because I relied on something you said, so suck it, jackass.

I really hate that she couldn’t go back to school after she was married. Was that verboten? Was it just that she’d be busy keeping house? I guess that last one. But ugh!

At the new school, Laura struggles to teach the littlest student his alphabet. She says that he repeat them to her and write them, just not retain them. She despairs, but then decides on some additional motivation. PAIN motivation. Yep, she threatens to whip him if he doesn’t know his letters. That is a great way to deal with what was probably dyslexia, Laura. But it turns out the kid isn’t dumb, just lazy, because he learns the alphabet then.

Laura really does get married in the black cashmere dress, because Almanzo doesn’t have the balls to stand up to his mom and say they don’t want a big church wedding, or can’t afford it. Well, that’s maybe not very nice, but geez. Why aren’t weddings ever about the people actually getting married? Anyway, they get married like in the book. There’s a footnote about Laura’s dress, written by Rose, that talks about how it was her best dress for many years, even after they moved to Missouri (UGH). She tells of a time when her mother wore it and how beautiful she looked, and how she could tell her father thought so too, the way he looked at her. I have no idea what that’s from, but I know I’ve read it before.

So they go to the new house and it’s beautiful and peaceful and Laura is super happy, till she finds out that they owe $500.00 for the building of it.

But that’s where The First Four Years comes in. Watch this space! We aren’t done with the prairie just yet.

Overall the book was really interesting. The footnotes added a lot, so I’m glad I didn’t just flat out ignore them. I’m a little disappointed, I was hoping we’d get more…MORE, I guess. That’s a bad way of putting it. I should’ve realized that even if the book was written for adults, it was still being written by a nineteenth-century woman, and it’s not like she’d be breaking out with the sexing and so forth on the prairie. But it was a lot of fun to see how similar the real-life counterparts were to the characters I grew up with.

Oh! Sorry, we aren’t finished yet! There’s a quick little excerpt near the end of the book that talks about the Ingalls family’s encounter with the Benders, who were a creepy family of serial killers. This is when they lived in Kansas. The Benders had an inn and general store, and had apparently immigrated to the area with several families of “spiritualists” – mediums, that sort of thing. One of the families was the Benders. They were a married couple and two kids, a boy and a girl. No one seems to know what the mother’s name was, so they called her “Kate Sr.” since the daughter’s name was Kate. Both men were John. And they were probably not even a real family, either.

The story goes that a lot of people started disappearing off a particular trail. Many were suspected, but not the Benders, at least not right away. Finally when a doctor disappeared, his family came looking and stayed with the Benders for awhile. They were suspicious but had no proof. Then there was a big community meeting about the whole thing, and it was decided that a warrant to search all the properties nearby would be executed. The Benders were at the meeting, and they vanished, likely that same night. When it was discovered they’d gone, a search party checked the house and found a bunch of dead bodies in the cellar and a Bible with tons of nutty handwritten notes about killings and so forth.

The men were apparently never caught, but the women were, several years later, in Michigan. They were taken back to Kansas and a panel of homesteaders all confirmed their identity, but it turned out they had insufficient evidence of identity (lots of conflicting stories) so the women were discharged. There isn’t much more after that.

None of that was in Laura’s book. I just thought you’d like to know the history, unless of course you already knew it. I didn’t, actually, so after I read this part I looked everything up. What Laura tells us is that one night Pa came home and he and Ma had a hushed conversation, and Ma was afraid of something. Pa had been traveling and had stopped briefly at the Benders’ to get some water, and had a conversation with Kate. Kate had invited him in, but he declined, because he had to get home to the family. And then they went missing soon after (this was the warrant time). Laura claims that Pa might’ve been a victim had he gone inside, and also that he joined a hunting party looking for them. However, history tells us this is impossible, as the Benders stuff happened two years after the Ingalls family left Kansas. Maybe Pa told them the story when they were little, to make himself seem more exciting. Maybe she made it up or had convinced herself it happened. No one knows. It’s actually pretty creepy in the book, the way she describes it: she’s very little, and it’s like the first time you realize that there is evil in the world. Sorry to be so dramatic, but that’s what it feels like.

The murders definitely took place during the time the Ingalls were there, though. In fact, one of the victims was a neighbor of theirs.

Those Benders are creepy, right? Wikipedia calls them the “Bloody Benders,” which is quite the serial killer nickname.


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