The Long Winter, Chapter 27: For Daily Bread

Guest post by Karen Witham

In which our hero and his brave sidekick set out in search of lifesaving wheat…

The chapter opens: “In the third night of that storm a stillness woke Almanzo.” There is then a rather touching discussion of how difficult it is to get out of bed and face the day in the cold (and in the 19th century — no heat, no electricity, no indoor plumbing!) and without his father to “rout” him out of bed. We also read that Almanzo is one of those annoying people who loves the early morning (sorry, editorializing there!). You get the sense that he’s been going to bed at night just waiting for the storm to break.

Cap Garland was waiting, too, as without the convenience of a phone to call each other, they manage to meet up on their sleds on Main Street. Could Cap Garland possibly have a more dashing name? No wonder Laura had a crush on him, he seems like he was very crush-inspiring — funny, brave, polite, handsome, tough — and he’d probably make a lot of men today look like total wimps. (Laura spells out how Almanzo felt, too: “He liked Cap Garland.”)

They head out toward the slough, but there was “no trace of a road.” No sign of any living thing. Almanzo optimistically thinks, “We’ll have to make it by guess and by golly!” You sense he has the same optimistic streak that Laura’s Pa has in him. But almost immediately it happens: “With no warning, Prince went down.” The horrific breaking through the snow and plunging down into the slough grass that had so hindered Pa earlier is once again slowing down the other male heroes of our story. After freeing Prince, they exchange ironic banter: “Nothing much to it,” says Almanzo; “Fine day for a trip,” returns Cap.

We are then reminded somewhat shockingly that both men are only NINETEEN YEARS OLD. Almanzo seems older because he has a homestead claim, but that is only because he lied about his age. (“. . .Cap treated Almanzo with respect. Almanzo made no objection to that.”) I know, of course, that in those days people assumed the duties of adulthood much earlier, but to realize these young men are the same age as the college “kids” I am surrounded by each day at work — well, it’s certainly food for thought.

As they get colder, they alternate riding on the sleds with running along beside the trotting horses to keep their blood moving. They have some more lighthearted banter and I think it’s really some of the neatest dialogue in the book. I’m amazed by the mental toughness they display throughout this chapter. After a couple more stumbles into the snow, they see the Lone Cottonwood, one of the only landmarks still visible on the snow-covered prairie. It would be the last one.

We’re reminded of the utter blankness and lifelessness of the cold, snow-covered prairie. We’re reminded that this could be a fool’s errand with deadly consequences — there could be no man, no wheat, no reason for venturing out — and no salvation for the town. Almanzo considers turning around after he estimates they’ve gone about 20 miles, but, “He did not want to go back to the hungry town and say that he had turned back with an empty sled.” After more reconnaissance, trotting, and some fears of frostbite, Almanzo spots “a smear of gray-brown in the snow.” Smoke. From a fire.

“Shadows were beginning to creep eastward” by the time they near the source of the fire. Which means if they left around 3 am it’s now past 12 noon — so they’ll have at minimum a 9-hour journey home, but they will be encumbered by the wheat (if they get it) and the horses will be tired. And dark will be coming.

A door opens and an “astonished” man stands there with long hair and an unkempt beard. (He must have smelled pretty ripe, too, but I’m guessing they all did at this point in history and also during this winter.) He excitedly greets them; he has been alone since last October. Anderson’s his name. His sod house is warm (albeit dark) and after they care for the horses they all sit down to eat “boiled beans, sourdough biscuit and dried-apple sauce.” They spotted Anderson’s wheat when they watered and fed the horses, so after eating, the negotiations begin.

When told women and children are near starving in town, Anderson responds: “That’s not my lookout… nobody’s responsible for other folks that haven’t got enough forethought to take care of themselves.” Almanzo responds that no one is asking for a handout; they want to pay for the wheat. Cap then tries his charm on the reluctant Anderson. (Anyone else wonder if it occurred to them that they could beat him unconscious and steal his wheat if needed? Would they have done this if it meant it was the only way to save the town? Did this ever occur to Anderson?)

When Almanzo whips out a wad of cash and offers $1.25 a bushel, Anderson folds and takes the deal. (Thank goodness!) With relief (and urgency) they get up and get the wheat loaded. They even thought to bring empty sacks to carry it in. As tempting as it is to stay, they want to get back. The threat of blizzards hangs over them, and nightfall.

So, they set out. Soon, Cap’s poor horse falls through the snow, and screams as he does so (how awful this must have been). They have no trail to follow and the horses are tired. They are tired. It’s getting late, and it’s getting colder. You can sense the fear that is kept locked down tight, for they cannot acknowledge it. The horses fall through the snow, and fall again. They trudge on, showing signs of frostbite now, and when they finally see the Lone Cottonwood in this treeless land, it is far away to the northeast, and a blizzard cloud lies in the northwest.

When both teams tumble down together into the snowy slough grass, and the darkness of night has set in, and the blizzard cloud slowly blots out the stars, we feel despair for Cap, for Almanzo, for the horses, and for the town. “We’re in for it, I guess,” said Cap. “We must be nearly there,” Almanzo answered. “They could see only a little way by the paleness of the snow and the faint starshine.”

Posted in The Long Winter
49 comments on “The Long Winter, Chapter 27: For Daily Bread
  1. Jeanine says:

    Am I the only one who has always been bothered by the fact that Almanzo talks this man into doing exactly what he, Almanzo, wouldn’t do? The man wants to save his seed to plant a crop, and Almanzo tells him that the only thing he can count on is cash – his crop might fail, bugs might come and so on. ALMANZO, THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU TOO!!! Why wouldn’t you share YOUR wheat with the town?

    As I typed that, though, a little part of me is asking if I remember correctly that Almanzo wouldn’t have had enough wheat to go around anyway, and they would have needed more.


  2. Anyone else wonder if it occurred to them that they could beat him unconscious and steal his wheat if needed?

    I KNOW!!! I always wondered that when I was a little kid…now that I’m grown I am kind of reverse-horrified at how vulnerable anyone on a homestead was. No real door locks, nothing in the world to keep you from letting a stranger into your home (what, are you going to leave him outside to freeze to death?).

  3. Yes, Jeanine, it is ironic that Almanzo asks Anderson to do what he himself won’t — but yes, Almanzo did say that by his calculations, all his wheat would be eaten and winter still not through. I think too that Almanzo recognized it WAS a good idea, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush after all, but still couldn’t bring himself to do it. Too much farmer in his veins, not enough businessman.

    As for knocking Anderson out and stealing his wheat, the thought never ever occurred to me at all, I think because it would be so out of character for these good ethical men to do such a thing. Besides, that would be a little too much like socialism (robbing/forcing those who have to supply for those who have not against their will…) which of course is the antithesis of the spirit Laura wishes to convey. I love Anderson’s comment. “That’s not my lookout… nobody’s responsible for other folks that haven’t got enough forethought to take care of themselves.” And then the bargaining that follows to give Anderson enough incentive to WANT to “take care of” the others by selling them his wheat. What a beautiful illustration — Anderson’s happy, the townspeople are happy, and Cap and Almanzo shine as the heroes that they are.

    • Duncan says:

      You Americans have such a jaundiced idea of ‘socialism’. We are all dependent on each other for so much, no one is an island and even the Ingalls relied on externals such as the railway and nature itself for survival. As a European I find the casual acceptance of the ‘evils of socialism’ quite disturbing.

      • Solveig says:

        I agree with you, Duncan. (By the way,I´m also a European, but lived my early childhood years in California.)

  4. M. Murphy says:

    I wondered the same thing: why wouldn’t Almanzo sell his wheat? I guess I always assumed he did not have enough wheat to sustain the entire town.

    Another question: I thought Almanzo was 10 years older than Laura, which would make him 23/24 years old during the Long Winter. Did it mention that he was 19 in the chapter and I missed it?

  5. I wondered if anyone would bring up the age issue. 🙂

    In the book, the characters Almanzo and Cap are both about the same age, and Laura says in this chapter, “They were both nineteen.”

    However, in real life, Cap was born Dec 27, 1864, and Almanzo’s date of birth is stated as Feb 13, 1857. If the wheat run takes place after Almanzo’s birthday, then by those dates, Cap would be 16 and Almanzo 24.

  6. jodi says:

    I’ve read she fudged on Almanzo’s age in the series to take away some of the child bride horror some modern readers would have felt about their relationship.

    I’m not sure why she would make Cap older than he was, though. Ideas? Maybe just to make them seem more like equals?

  7. T Lynn says:

    Who would let their 16 year old make a run like that?
    Yes, “in those days people assumed the duties of adulthood much earlier,” but SIXTEEN!!!???
    Is there any chance that someone else actually went with Almonzo but Laura wrote Cap into the role (letting her “crush” be a hero)? Or was Cap a stepchild? Or was he rebellious and went despite parental prohibitions? I mean, come on, do we really believe that a mother let her 16 year old go off on a journey with those risks? (Ma wouldn’t even let Pa, and as a mother, it’d be easier to let my grown husband than my child!)

  8. Linda says:

    I suppose it is like letting your son go off to war still.

    Don’t forget, didn’t Cap have nice eyes too? Smile.

    Thank goodness for the men going in and out of the door wondering if they had made it back, I assume it is the same door that the light came out of.

  9. Cap’s mother was a widow, so he was the man of the house.

    Is there any chance it was someone else who went with Almanzo? Absolutely.
    There are various renditions of the story, one of which simply states “two young men,” which could mean it wasn’t even Almanzo either… Cap may have been selected because he was already a character in the book and it was a journey fitting for his character. In Pioneer Girl, it is Cap and Almanzo who make the trip, however.

    There are lots of unanswered questions surrounding this whole story. How much of it is fictional? None of it? All of it? Some of it, and if so, which parts? We may never know.

    As for why make Cap older than he was — perhaps to make the story more believable because obviously as we’ve seen from this discussion readers question him going at 16!? 🙂 Perhaps Laura wasn’t really sure of his age anyway and only knew he was older than she was, so she guessed. Who knows?

  10. Cindy says:

    I thought about this too, why would Almanzo go after someone ELSE’S wheat and not sell his own?

    The answer I came up with is that if Almanzo died out on the prarie, his wheat could then be sold (by Royal) to the town folk. If he survived and returned with the wheat, then he could justify sitting on his “good seed” and still be able to look people in the eye when planting time came around in the spring. Either way people got to eat.

  11. Eliza says:

    maybe Almanzo felt guilty about not selling his own wheat and that was what spurred him to make the dangerous trip.

  12. Wendy says:

    To add to what you said, Rebecca, about whether Cap went to get the wheat in the first place… wasn’t there something in the Homesteader about that? Like a descendant of the Garlands said that if Cap had gone on the wheat trip it would have been family lore, but they’d never heard of it outside of the books.

    Also, when I saw the De Smet pageant perform “The Long Winter” this summer, I noticed that there was no Cap Garland character… even though he’s mentioned in the script as Almanzo’s partner on the wheat trip, he’s not in the cast. So mysterious!

  13. jodi says:

    I have also read that the entire trip may have been fictional… but I didn’t want to be like “Yeah, here’s two things I have read may not be true…” LOL

    An interview with his neice: – says the trip was never in the family lore which is kind of strange… but then again maybe no one thought to mention it. I learned recently (as in, I dug it up, through fleshed out with church records) of 2 kids in my grandpap’s family no one knew of. You’d think someone would talk of a 5 year old who died of smallpox if nothing else – but no. So who knows?

    I also seem to think that in “I remember Laura” there is an interview with Neva Whaley (Whaling?) and she mentions how people lived, how some had supplies – I don’t think she mentions the trip?? The book is mysteriously missing from my bookcase right now so I can’t check.

    Ugh, I also hate to say “Here’s two things I think i read, but one is backed up on line and the other I can’t quite remember.” But yeah, I have also read the whole trip may not have been real?

    Rebecca, how did you get to read Pioneer Girl??? Do you have inside connections or is it finally available to be read???

  14. Lauri says:

    Honestly, I can believe that the story didn’t survive since Cap didn’t have descendents or they weren’t interested. My Mom or any of her cousins have no idea how their grandmother died. I think that’s just how some familes are.
    I can see where if Almanzo didn’t survive, there wasn’t anyone depending on him at home. However, Cap as the man in the family I wonder why it’s different for him than Pa. I can think though that he was much younger and was going stir crazy in the house, so he went. Was he hauling hay into town to burn? I remember the Wilder boys and Pa are mentioned as the only ones brave enough to do so. However, I’ve read enough to know that most were burning hay.
    I’m going to digress to compare this with the musical. I remember the one song where Almanzo sings that he’s old enough to fight in the war, but not to own land. I found that quite poignant.

  15. jodi says:

    OK so I typed up a response to this but it asked me if I was a spam bot… and I don’t know if I passed or failed but my post didn’t show up. Hmmm.

    I have also wondered if the events in Long Winter really happened. A neiece of Cap’s mentioned in an interview that it was never talked about. Granted, all families have secrets. Not really JUICY secrets, but things people don’t talk about just… because they don’t think to. I recently discovered there were 2 kids in my grandpap’s family no one knew about – one died at 5, the other at 2. Common enough back then … but one died of SMALLPOX… in 1912… which is a little weird. But no one talked about them. So… who knows. May or may not mean something, that the neice knows nothing. You’d think something as big as a trip like this would be discussed, but who knows.

    I posted a link to the interview, I think that’s why it thought I was a spambot. Honest. Not a spam bot!!!

    Also – if you read “I Remember Laura” – which I own but can’t find right now so can’t quote exactly – Neva Whaley (Whaling?) is interviewed and she talks about getting through the long winter, she says people had some supplies, every one got through… she mentions getting wheat from the Boasts i think??? But pretty sure she does not mention Almanzo and Cap going.

    Rebecca – how did you get to read Pioneer Girl??? Do you have inside connections or is it actually available to read now??

  16. The comment by the Garland descendant who believed the wheat trip never happened because it had not been passed down as lore in her family is one thing that makes me believe it’s possible it was not Cap, but someone else who went for that wheat. Her conclusion was, no story, no trip; but it seems just as likely to me that no story simply means no trip for CAP, not necessarily no trip at all. However, it’s also quite possible that it was a story that simply didn’t get told.

    Another possibility is that the trip happened but on a lesser scale or of less critical importance than the way Laura tells it. The Ingalls family were likely among the hardest hit by The Hard Winter because they had come out earlier. Most families had come in that spring and summer and had brought provisions with them knowing they wouldn’t get a crop or wouldn’t be able to get much of one, whereas the Ingalls family was making do almost entirely on their first harvest on never-before-farmed soil. So what was a life-saving trip for the Ingalls may not have been as crucial for everyone else. Also, if it was indeed Almanzo who made the trip, it may have been more quickly forgotten by others who didn’t end up marrying the guy. 😉

    As for Pioneer Girl, it is (and has been a long time) available for research purposes along with the rest of the Rose Wilder Lane Papers at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. (They will send you copies upon request if you are not able to go to the library yourself, but it gets pretty pricey.)

  17. Cindy says:

    This is probably a dumb question – but were Prince and Lady real or fictional?
    I have always wondered why there was no mention of them in The First Four Years and have searched around for the answer.

  18. jodi says:

    Interesting. Maybe he sold them to be able to buy the work horses or other things he needed to farm?

  19. Cindy says:

    That could be. It bothered me as a kid when I read TFFY, being a horse lover. Having fancy Morgans was such a big part of Almanzo’s character in the earlier books, and Prince and Lady seemed characters in their own right. It just was odd they were never mentioned after Golden Years. Perhaps they were Laura’s “fantasy” horses.

  20. Wendy McClure says:

    Don’t forget that Laura didn’t really intend TFFY to be a continuation of the Little House series, so while a lot of things in that book are borrowed from her life (and thus have details in common with the earlier books), she still meant it to be a separate work of fiction.

    So if Morgan horses aren’t mentioned in TFFY, all it means is that LIW didn’t think that they were important to the story, which isn’t quite the same story that she was telling in the other eight books.

  21. Lady makes an appearance in Pioneer Girl, but is Royal’s horse, not Almanzo’s. Prince isn’t mentioned. I think though that it’s likely they were real — Almanzo must surely have had a team or at least one horse to drive around and if Royal had Lady, perhaps Almanzo had Prince and they drove them together. Why invent a horse that never existed in a world where everyone had horses?

    It may be that after their marriage, they only had Prince and he was a work horse and she didn’t think to mention him, as Wendy said since it was not a sequel and most likely was written in the early 30s, before the other De Smet books were written. Or it may be that Prince and Lady were older horses and had since been sent back to the Wilder farm in Minnesota to retire.

  22. Sandra Hume says:

    I agree with Rebecca’s assessment of the wheat situation. I saw Mary Dawley, a descendant of Florence Garland’s, speak back in 2001 and she was also interviewed for the Homesteader. The trip may well have taken place, but perhaps it wasn’t a big deal to anyone but who it directly affected. And it’s likely, by all accounts, that Cap wasn’t involved — but I’ve always had this romantic notion that Laura included him as a sort of homage to this boy that she (and Almanzo?) had liked so much. He died early, in 1891 in a threshing accident, and Laura and Almanzo wouldn’t have left for Missouri yet (though it’s possible they were in Spring Valley at this time, or on the way to Florida).

  23. Sandra Hume says:

    Wendy, to me, the whole timing of the writing of TFFY is one of the most fascinating aspects of Little House lore.

  24. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the responses – very interesting discussion!

  25. jodi says:

    Wow, I had never heard that TFFY was written BEFORE the other DeSmet books. I know it was discovered after her death and never polished up to be public, but I always thought she meant it to be a final chapter in the series, and just lost interest in following through.

  26. Jodi, when we’re finished with The Long Winter, I’ll write up a post on the writing of The First Four Years. I’ve been meaning to do that for awhile anyway. 🙂

  27. Linda says:

    I think they were relying on the train, didn’t think it would stop running. The Wilders though were able to think of everything thing that may go wrong, one even mentioned something like that, anyway, they wanted to have their own homegrown bacon rather than buy it.

  28. Heidi says:

    I think I remember reading that Almanzo’s obituary mentions the trip to get the wheat. So maybe he really was one of the participants. If there is a Cap Garland obituary out there somewhere, perhaps it would mention it, too?

    I 2nd all the comments about the amazing courage of the two men (whoever they were). To take such risks to save the town is incredible, esp. at their young ages.

  29. Brenda says:

    I loved reading all these comments about TLW. (It’s so true about Cap Garland’s name–what a perfect word to describe it—dashing.) That has always been my very favorite of Laura’s books, for some reason. Now that I’ve found this website, I will be anxiously awaiting Rebecca’s notes & thoughts on TFFY. Thank you for sharing your views on our darling Laura, Almanzo, and Cap. Brenda

  30. Brittany says:

    In Response to other commenters…. Prince and Lady showed up in These Happy Golden Years, i remember lady had a colt and lady and the colt were at Royal’s place at one point and Prince was given to Laura for a while since Almanzo was going to visit family up in Minnesota sometime after they started courting, he left the sled and prince for her to go play with while he was gone, and they may have been sold since Almanzo started training other pairs of horses along the way in the book. But they pulled the wagon to their first home together since “they started this, they want to finish it” or something along those lines that Almanzo said.

    Also i admired Cap’s name too, but his real first name was Edward or something or other. Cap is so much better. and its funny how Laura had a crush on Cap, yet married Almanzo

  31. Marilyn says:

    Quote from Rebecca Brammer:
    “when we’re finished with The Long Winter, I’ll write up a post on the writing of The First Four Years. I’ve been meaning to do that for awhile anyway. ”

    Where can I find this?

  32. Marilyn says:

    I am 2 years behind the times in this reading but I have had the pleasure of hearing Jim Hicks talk about this trip at Laurapalooza 2010. It was a wonderful lecture, so fascinating. I only wish that I had taken notes. I remember (I think) that he had said that the settler with the wheat wasn’t as far away as Laura wrote but that the story definitely happened.
    Anyone remember anything about this lecture that cares to share?

  33. Carla says:

    First, three years later 🙂 thanks for all the read along summaries and comments. I love you guys! Second, Marilyn, I also remember reading done quite from Jim Hicks, saying exactly that. It doesn’t matter if it were 5 miles…in 40 below weather, it was life threatening!

  34. Carla says:

    First, three years later 🙂 thanks for all the read along summaries and comments. I love you guys! Second, Marilyn, I also remember reading some quote from Jim Hicks, saying exactly that. It doesn’t matter if it were 5 miles…in 40 below weather, it was life threatening!

  35. Jessica says:

    I always wonder why they took the time and precious energy to grind the wheat to make bread, instead of just boiling it and eating it like a cereal. Am I missing something? Either way, I reread The Long Winter at least once each year!

  36. naomi says:

    I would suspect that there were a couple of factors at work:
    1. It takes a long time to boil wheat, and while the stove was going all the time, keeping it hot enough for long enough to boil wheat might have been challenging. (A small loaf of bread would bake faster.)

    2. Bread is what civilized people eat. Porridge/gruel is more primitive. The Ingalls did place a high priority on being as civilized as possible, even in trying circumstances.

    But yes, probably it would be easier to make cereal — and more warming too. Bread, even freshly baked or toasted wouldn’t have stayed hot very long on the plate. (And remember, when Pa first brings the wheat home, he assumes that they will just boil it.

  37. naomi says:

    A couple more thoughts on this — back when they first tried grinding the wheat, they found that it didn’t grind ‘just like coffee’ and Me speculates that it’s because it wasn’t roasted like coffee beans. I wonder if they might have made a better flour for the bread if they’d tried toasting the wheat kernels first — just spreading them on a pan on the stove top or in the oven.
    And, while boiling whole wheat grains would have taken a while, boiling cracked wheat would have been faster. (And probably more digestible.) So, while it wouldn’t have saved time and labor, if they’d made bread once a day, and wheat porridge once a day, it might have added at least the appearance of variety to their daily diet.

  38. Lynda O says:

    Just discovered this site, and great article and comments. I’ve been rereading The Long Winter and just finished this account. Interesting about some of the possible changes to the story. I knew that Almanzo was 10 years older than Laura but she made him 19 in the book, to try to make his age closer to the children readers. Though my own perspective as a child (I first read the series in 4th grade), at that age, 19 was grown up and little difference from age 23.

    Laura did change a few other details in other books, like saying in Little House on the Prairie that they were 40 miles from Independence, KS when they were actually less than 15 miles… so perhaps the same type of change with the distance to Anderson’s farm.

  39. Susan says:

    perhaps I can put my question here:
    When I click on the Readanlongs, on one of the books and then on one of the chapters I always get “error 404”. I have not tried each and every chapter, but many of them in all the books.
    Any ideas what I might be doing wrong?


  40. Therese says:

    I have no doubt that the story about Almanzo and another man going out during the Hard Winter to find the homesteader who had seed wheat is true, because Laura wrote an article about this incident in the Missouri Ruralist many years before she wrote the Little House books. She had no reason to make up the story at that point –she had no way of knowing that she would one day write a book about the Hard Winter. Although I believe she does mention Almanzo as being one of the two men in that article, she doesn’t name the other, so it’s possible that it wasn’t Cap Garland. It’s interesting though, that in all the years since “The Long Winter” has been published no one else has ever come forward to say that it was their ancestor rather than Cap who was the second man, and I’ve never heard that anyone else’s obit states that they were the second person, so I continue to believe it was Cap who accompanied Almanzo on that dangerous trip.

    One story about the Hard Winter that I’ve always wondered about was whether an Indian really came to DeSmet and warned them about the coming bad winter!

  41. Deanna Griffin says:

    Ever since I read the Long Winter as a child, I wondered how DeSmet managed to live through that horrid winter when the trains couldn’t get there. I praise Cap and Almanzo or whomever rode out on the Prairie to bring back wheat to the people who lived in DeSmet was one of the bravest acts anyone could do at that time, especially when there were so many blizzards rolling across the Prairie. I am almost amazed that my Grandfather, as a small baby, had managed to survive that long winter living with the Ingalls family and having barely enough to eat each day and then my Great Grandfather being so selfish and eating food that should have gone to the Ingalls family and others who were in the town. I am not sure why, but I feel a little angry towards my Great Grandfather George, but may he Rest in Peace. I truly do love the name Cap Garland and Almanzo has a very unique name as well.

  42. Kate Boyd says:

    no matter how many times I read TLW, and I have read it at least once a year for 50 years, having bought the entire series in hard cover using my hard-earned babysitting money, I always find myself hoping the train will get through.

  43. Lynn Y. says:

    About the train not getting through – I have always wondered that after they all finished manually digging out the train why they didn’t take some provisions from the snowed in train and put it on the work train and bring it through because I believe the work train did get through – correct? I am going from memory here – but it seems like every time they dug out the train they brought through the work train and of course the train with the supplies would get buried in a blizzard the very next day.

  44. Veronica says:

    For those who asked about ‘did the long winter really happen?’: I saw a lecture a few years back by a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. She had done a thesis on just that question. Spent a lot of time researching the historical records for that winter and the years just before and just after. Her conclusion is that while the descriptions of blizzard following blizzard following blizzard that year might not have been EXACTLY right, on the whole, the winter weather came through just as Laura describes. I wish I could recall the name of that meteorologist… Anyway she suggested a book entitled ‘The Children’s Blizzard’ by David Laskin. This book is from another winter in roughly the same time period and area [off by a couple years]. I highly recommend this book – for adults. Some of the descriptions of hypothermia are… rather gruesome. The book discusses the weather services available at the time and its records, the background and lifestyles of homesteaders, and what happened in a specific blizzard when people got caught out in it.

    Perhaps this book has already been mentioned on this site [I’m rather new here and haven’t read too much yet]. I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you want to get a really good feel for what the homesteaders were facing. At the very least you will understand why Laura left so much out of The Long Winter.

  45. Max says:

    “That’s not my lookout… nobody’s responsible for other folks that haven’t got enough forethought to take care of themselves.”
    These are words LIW attributes to Anderson, and they are the kernel of a misbegotten and misappropriated American neurosis called “Libertarianism.” I mean, it’s one thing for a frightened homesteader snowbound in Dakota to say something like that, but it sickens me how millions of 21st century Americans in suburban enclaves say the same thing — which is inexcusable and inhumane at a time when stores and restaurants throw away enough food every day to feed every hungry belly. In 2010, one poster wrote that beating up Anderson and stealing his wheat “would be like socialism.” Ma’am, you and the rest of Red America wouldn’t know socialism from a lamp post.