These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 3: One Week

Guest post by Wendy Corsi Staub

Poor Laura, just fifteen and far away from home for the first time, newly settled at the Brewster homestead as the district’s schoolteacher for the term. Brave Laura,  attempting to make the best of a grim situation with characteristic pluck.

As the chapter opens, we see her trying to draw sullen Mrs. Brewster out of her miserable mood, trying to keep homesickness at bay, trying to study, trying, trying, trying….

When I first read this chapter about thirty years ago, I wasn’t much younger than Laura.  Having grown up in a joyful, loving small town household myself, with happily married parents and siblings who loved and supported me in every way, I could easily imagine myself in Laura’s shoes, plunked down in the midst of someone else’s misery, and longing for the comfort, safety, and familiarity of home.

Over the years, I’ve re-read THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS more times than I can count, each time gleaning new insight courtesy of age, wisdom, and perspective from my own career as a novelist.

Now, Laura’s plight breaks my heart in a different way. I lost my mother somewhat unexpectedly, far too young. Despite being happily married with children of my own, I sometimes find myself homesick for my parents and siblings and a childhood home that is long ago and far away. I wonder how the adult, bereaved Laura felt when she wrote these scenes, and I suspect that the process was cathartic for her grief over her by then dearly departed parents and sisters.  She wrote about longing for home and family when she was, most likely, doing just that in mining her memories.

As I reread this chapter now, I wonder too about the Brewster household and what might have lain beneath the surface.  As a child, I hated Mrs. Brewster for her cruelty to my beloved Laura—how dare she call Laura, of all people, a “hoity-toity snip”?! Excuse me, Mrs. Brewster, but we have all met a hoity-toity snip, and its name is Nellie Olson. Not Laura Ingalls.

Now, however, I’m inclined to wonder whether Mrs. Brewster might also have been battling demons that we—and Laura—did not comprehend at the time. Was she really merely, as Laura decided, a “selfish, mean woman”? Surely her actions as depicted here would indicate that, but looking at her circumstances and behavior, I have to wonder. This is clearly a helpless, desperate woman. Why? Was she suffering from clinical depression? Anxiety? Seasonal depressive disorder? Was she bipolar? Psychotic? Was her husband abusing her? Had she perhaps even recently lost a child, as did so many mothers in this era?

From a purely literary standpoint, as a fellow author studying the characterization and structure of these scenes, I can appreciate the interesting parallel drawn here between Mrs. Brewster’s homesickness, which is hinted at as being at the heart of her misery, and Laura’s own homesickness. Laura and her enemy share a common plight; here are two young(ish) female characters who just want, more than anything, to go back home.

Mrs. Brewster, arguably the grown woman here, is far less capable of coping with “the flat country and the wind and the cold; she wanted to go back east,” and she takes out her misery on everyone around her.

Laura, by contrast, is barely more than a child herself, but equipped with sufficient coping mechanisms and far more mature than her years and experience would indicate.  She won’t allow herself to forget that the sun is going to rise again tomorrow and life will go on. We will never forget that she’s the hero and Mrs. Brewster is the villain in this chapter; it’s just interesting to note that they’re fighting virtually the same battle with drastically different weapons.

As I write this from my cozy home office in the New York City suburbs, a Saturday snowstorm has dumped about eight inches of snow today and I cringe to think about venturing outside shortly to run errands and go to dinner with my husband and friends. I try to imagine what it would be like to endure endless months of harsh weather in complete isolation, without modern conveniences, and—worst of all—without a thermostat.

Laura frequently uses the word cold in this chapter. We can sweep right past it—or stop and consider what it really must have been like. Cold. We’re talking bone-chilling cold both outside and indoors. We’re talking huddling to absorb what little heat a stove might give off. We’re talking cold from which there is never really a reprieve. If we stop and consider the implications, we can feel empathy not just for Laura, but for every character we meet.  We can’t under-estimate the havoc this harsh winter chill wreaked on every part of their daily lives, not just physically, but emotionally.

If Laura is our heroine, then who is the hero of the chapter? Certainly not weak and spineless Mr. Brewster.  Certainly not sly Clarence.  Is it Pa? The chapter appears to be set up that way, with Laura actually saying, “Oh, Pa, I can’t,” when she thinks about getting through another day, and again when she speculates that Pa might surprise her and come to take her home.  But interestingly, after half a dozen books, the tide has turned and it won’t be Pa who comes to Laura’s rescue this time.  His ongoing role as Laura’s hero and chief protector is about to be usurped for the first—but not the last--time. More on that in a moment.

This chapter has always appealed to me—and continues to—in part because of its darker-than-usual undertones and nightmare sequence. I was a budding suspense novelist when I first read it, and upon rereading—now that I write suspense novels of my own--I’ve always appreciated the subtle notes of foreboding. I shudder at the “Knife in the Dark” scene that  I know is coming soon.  I marvel that it seems so incongruous with the sanitized drama of the Little House books.

I can’t help but think of the Ingalls’ real life brush with the Bender family, prairie serial killers whose clutches, we later learned, Pa himself might have narrowly escaped.  (http://www.prairieghosts.com/bender.html) Laura left the Benders out of Little House on the Prairie; yet she included Mrs. Brewster and the knife in These Happy Golden Years. Why? Was that because this book was more sophisticated, or targeted toward an older audience, or because she had sufficiently grown as an author and included it as a perhaps sensationalistic device, to raise the stakes for her heroine?  Is this dramatic license or a based on a real event? In any case, I have to wonder, again, about what was going on with Mrs. Brewster, and whether she was mentally ill.

But back to the chapter at face value: we learned early in the series that Laura had always been a homebody, leery of strangers; now she was living among them and her worst fears seemed to have come to fruition.  Strangers are harsh and not to be trusted.

Ah, but not everyone. Here, we again meet Clarence, Tommy, Ruby, Martha and Charles. As a child, I really  appreciated the introduction of all these new characters to a literary world that could at times be rather insular.  In so many books, for chapters on end, it was Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, and Carrie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But it was always fun to meet a new cast. Incidentally, that’s why Little Town on the Prairie remains my favorite among all the books. Little Town is rife with new characters, most of them young people like Laura (and like me when I first read it).

It’s interesting to note that these Brewster School students of Laura’s were also her contemporaries in many ways; interesting to watch her in action as a teacher. Now, as when I first read ONE WEEK, I can’t help but feel dismayed over Laura’s almost unfair (in my 21st Century opinion) insistence on marking tardy students who had walked miles through deep snow to get there.  Come on, Laura, I find myself thinking. Give the kids a break! But once again, my own unsettling dismay is erased a few paragraphs later when she goes out with her students for a hardy snowball fight at recess. There’s our feisty half pint, still alive and well beneath the prim 19th century schoolteacher’s façade.

Oh, and am I the only one who detected an undercurrent of not just friendship, but perhaps flirtation with Clarence, who she pegs again here as “trouble”? She was prim and proper, but he was older than she was, and handsome.  His character seems to be drawn in similar strokes to Cap Garland’s, and we all know, thanks to Laura’s memoir notes, that she was secretly attracted to Cap. This Clarence fellow could have been trouble, all right. Laura doesn’t—thus, nor will we—go there. No, but we are told that our feisty half-pint made a big mistake in letting down her guard and playing with her students. Now they’re acting up, and she risks losing control over them, particularly Clarence. Compelling tension has been set up here, and we wonder how it will play out in the chapters ahead.

As the week wears on, homesick-but-coping Laura builds up hope that Pa will appear on Friday to whisk her back home for the weekend. I find this somewhat surprising and rather uncharacteristic of her, particularly under the circumstances that had been deliberately drawn just pages earlier. When she bid Pa farewell, we were told that she knew she wouldn’t see him again for two months. And that was before she even grasped how horrible her life with the Brewsters would be.  Pa had no way of knowing this. So her hope that Pa might show up seems based on nothing more than pure longing. The author in me has to wonder whether this apparent incongruity is an error stemming from editorial changes in a later draft.

Regardless, the author(s) (plural here referring to Laura and Rose, but that’s another topic) have expertly set up the conflict and resolution in this chapter. Laura misses home and her family; at this point, we do, too. We pity her being stranded in this strange, cold, hostile place and we’re rooting for her to find her way back to her parents and sisters and little house in DeSmet.

When it happens, it’s an almost magical scene:

It seemed to her that the wind had a strangely silvery sound. She listened; they all listened. She did not know what to make of it….

The silvery sound of sleigh bells heralds the arrival of Laura’s hero; this is a device that will be used time and again throughout their courtship, and a romantic one, if I do say so. Because, wouldn’t you know it: Laura’s hero isn’t Pa after all, it’s Almanzo Wilder.  Talk about foreshadowing!  Talk about payoff!

After enduring this hellish, but ultimately uplifting, week with Laura, we are gratified when this chapter ends with three simple words of dialogue uttered by our triumphant and relieved heroine, “School is dismissed.”

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Posted in These Happy Golden Years
32 comments on “These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 3: One Week
  1. MissPinkKate says:

    I always suspected Laura had a thing for Clarence! Exactly because of the similarities to Cap. Laura likes mischief.

  2. Deanne says:

    I agree about Clarence!! And as for Mrs. Brewster – I have wondered if she may have been a paranoid schizophrenic. Having known adult children whose mothers were paranoid schizophrenic, their stories are similar to Laura’s. I wouldn’t think a Dakota winter with a toddler would bring out a mentally ill person’s best “face”.

  3. Sandra Hume says:

    This was wonderful! Thank you so much, Wendy. Love the author insight.

    I don’t think Lib Brewster was mentally ill at all. I’ve lived in that wind. It’s enough to drive a sane person crazy.

  4. naomi says:

    Wow! Quite a detailed discussion! A couple of thoughts:
    The cold. Yeah, that must’ve been tough to live with that for months on end. Our house is a bit drafty right now … but still much tighter than a couple of thin layers of pine and paper, and the temperature is well above 40 below. But I’ve always wondered a bit why more effort wasn’t made to keep the cold out. Especially the schoolhouse. The Brewster’s house WAS ‘tightly battened, but the wind blows snow through the cracks of the school house. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible (and cost effective … saving on coal) to at least put another layer of tar-paper over it? And no home mentioned in any of the books has ever had heat in the bedrooms or let the stove burn during the night to bring the temperature up.

    I’ve always chuckled at the scene where Laura has to mark the kids tardy. Like …. this matters … because? Will this follow their permanent record? Will they be kept out of college because they were tardy one day? It isn’t like Laura actually punishes them.

  5. This is all so interesting, I love having everyone else’s insight to mull over! My tendency is always to give Laura the benefit of the doubt when it comes to her characterizations. That said, having published truth-based-fiction myself, I’m only too well aware that what happens in real life is often either too uninteresting to convert to good fiction, or, conversely, much too far-fetched to be believed. So was Lib Brewster/Bouchie, say, a normal woman with PMS or a psychotic, dangerous lunatic? Or something in between? Since these are autobiographical novels, not autobiographies, we have to remember that characterizations and events don’t often work effectively in fiction if written exactly as they occurred without taking any liberties at all. I just wonder which way Laura leaned when creating Lib Brewster. In fact, reading through the Little House books, I always wish I could ask Laura about the truth behind the characters and story lines.

  6. Daniel Rabe says:

    Wendy, this was an outstanding posting! Thank you for all of your personal, and literary insights!
    As to Mrs Brewster/Bouchie, here is a link to a series of Posts on the Frontier Girl site that discusses this:
    http://frontiergirl.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=prairie&action=display&thread=695
    Of course this being a novel of Laura’s creatioin, she can put down what she chooses to about Mrs. B and the situation.

    I had not looked at this chapter with the view of literary devices before, which is all the more reason to appreciate your words, Wendy. How very interesting it all is when we look back to a time and place nearly 130 years ago!

  7. As much as I love the story of Pa’s encounter with the Bloody Benders, it most likely didn’t happen! That Prairie Ghosts page states the Benders arrived in Kansas in 1872, which would have been after the Ingalls family went back to Wisconsin in 1871. I’ve read some accounts of the Benders that have them there in 1871, so it’s possible there could have been some overlap, but for Pa to have passed the Bender Inn on trips to Independence, the family would have had to have lived north of Independence, not south, and there’s no way Pa could have taken part in a posse to search for them, which would have been in 1873.

    All the same, it’s so fascinating that the Bloody Benders were so close in place and time to the “Little House on the Prairie” and it seems like Laura (and perhaps Rose) thought so, too, enough to put it in a draft of Pioneer Girl. The exact years and location of the Ingalls family’s time in Kansas weren’t widely known until the 1960s, and it seems like Laura saw no harm in incorporating the story of the Benders with a couple of personal embellishments. Plus if she had been in Kansas in real life at the same as the Laura in the book, the family could have been there at the same time as the Benders. Since it was such a notorious crime story perhaps she felt she had to refer to it in order to support the fiction.

    Clearly she changed her mind when she wrote LHOtP. The only other time she ever mentioned it was in a book fair speech in Detroit, and probably never imagined that anyone would ever figure out that the timeline and geography didn’t match up.

    That’s my theory, at least. I suppose it’s also possible that Pa had told the story to Laura, who didn’t know enough about where they really lived to figure out that it wasn’t true.

    That said, I still buy the whole Mrs. Bouchie/Brewster account. Somehow it just feels true to me! And I guess I think as Laura wrote about her older years she was more inclined to stick to the events as they happened, using fiction techniques more to smooth the storytelling than to embellish.

    (I still have some doubts about things in The First Four Years, though)

  8. VERY interesting info, everyone! And Wendy, I also read that somewhere about the Benders and Pa never having been in the posse. I always thought that if he had, she’d have put it into the books…but maybe I’m wrong.

    I know we’re not there yet, but…what things in TFFY give you doubts? I used to skim that one as a kid, and have reread it many times as an adult, looking for insight that might come from being a married woman. Since that book lacks the “Little House” magic–never having been polished for publication–I find it rough going most of the time, and I always wonder whether that’s because the magic was missing or because those years were so grim for Laura that she couldn’t warm up to writing about them and making them come alive for us the way she had all the others. In any case, I know it’s off topic, but purely from a curiosity standpoint, which elements do you think she embellished (or did not)?

  9. I know a lot of things in TFFY definitely came from real life (all the weather/crop disasters, the fire, and the illness) but there are just a couple things that I’ve never seen corroborated in the biographies. One is the Indian encounter (the way they call Laura “squaw” doesn’t ring true for me), and the other is the part where the Boasts offer to trade a horse for Rose.

    Part of me still doesn’t want to dismiss the Boast incident as fiction, because there’s something sad and deeply felt about the whole thing, and her use of real names (even in a draft) is curious.

  10. Yes! The trade for Rose has always resonated with me, too. It just seems so out of character for the Boasts we’ve met in the other books. But then you realize…in real life, the Boasts and the Bouchies (Brewsters) were cousins…maybe “crazy” ran in that family. (I’m kidding. Mostly!) The “squaw” scene isn’t as fresh in my mind. I’ll have to go reread.

  11. Sandra Hume says:

    If you’ll forgive the continuing thread drift, I love talking about TFFY. I know TFFY didn’t have Rose’s editorial guidance, but besides that, I wonder if the writing is so stiff and free of magic because Laura was trying too hard to write for an adult audience. Maybe she thought she couldn’t be the descriptive storyteller she was in the other books because this was a book not written “for children”–thus she suffocated her natural tendencies. Then again, evidence exists (don’t ask me where, my mind is a sieve) that TFFY could possibly have been written before the entire series was complete. Perhaps even before BSSL when she introduces the Boasts? Or before LTW or LTOP where she talks so fondly of Mary Power–didn’t her mom help deliver Rose? So many Little House references exist in TFFY that are slightly off kilter that I have a hard time assuming it wasn’t written years before the series was finished.

    • naomi says:

      I definitely recall reading that it was written before THGY. Which easily explains why so many of the scenes overlap … and why they don’t quite gel.
      I’ve never given a lot of thought to either the Indian scene (which I guess COULD have happened … this was still before Wounded Knee) or the Boast/Rose scene (casual adoption wasn’t uncommon at that time, and sadness/desperation … as we’ve already been talking about in these threads … can sometimes make decent people do some pretty desperate things. It wasn’t like he tried to kidnap her.) But I DO remember being a bit puzzled over Mrs. Power’s lines at Rose’s birth … SURELY she and Laura were well acquainted. And, for that matter, at the presence of the doctor at the scene. A healthy young woman like Laura, especially given how tight money was for them, would not even have considered calling a doctor for a normal childbirth. The local midwife (who seemed to be Mrs. Power) would have sufficed.

      Finally — the stiffness is surely largely due to the fact that it WAS a first draft. Especially back when first drafts were written with a pencil on paper (not on a computer where it’s easy to edit as you go) first drafts ARE pretty rough and stiff. You want to get the story down … then you go back and smooth the rough edges and your editor catches all the things that don’t gel or seem out of character from what you wrote before.

      • LauriOH says:

        One of the things I’ve noticed is that at the end of THGY (forgive the spoiler) Almanzo mentions that his mother is coming to visit and plan the wedding, but then she never shows up in TFFY. I would think she still would have wanted to come meet the new daughter-in-law. It makes me think that the story was written before Golden Years was finished and Laura knew the scene would be needed.

      • Tracy Sapp says:

        Laura was a diabetic & in reality Rose was a 9 or 10 lb baby. Babies born to diabetic women tend to be large. Laura was small, under five feet tall. I read this info somewhere but I do not remember where I read it. This was most likely a very difficult delivery. In TFFY, Ma says that Rose weighs 8 lbs. That is still a large baby for such a small woman to deliver. And I did read that Rose was 9 to 10 lbs. Also, I read a childhood friend of Laura’s, Imogene Fuge, confirms the Knife in the Dark story as true.

  12. Daniel Rabe says:

    Sandra, It might just be (conjection now) that she wrote TFFY first, and decided not to use it as a book, so went to the other ones, which were happier and easier to write and did not finish it because she never wanted to. There was quite a gap in years between the other books and her death in 1957. If she wanted to finish it, she would have, as that was the kind of person she was, not to give up. So, maybe it should not have been published? We’ll never know.

  13. Sandra Hume says:

    I actually do think TFFY should never have been published. It’s not a “Little House” book to me. I like that it exists in the way that I like that Pioneer Girl exists, but that’s it. I think of it as a one-off, like West From Home or On the Way Home.

    I believe there is some correspondence (with Rose?) where she talked about the possibility of an adult book. I think I probably read about that in “Ghost.”

  14. Tracy Sapp says:

    The Pioneergirl website has some interesting info about Lib Bouchie & her relatives. There does seem to be some problems in that family.

    This has nothing to do with chapter 3 in THGY but addresses TFFY. I read somewhere that when Laura was asked why she didn’t write any more stories after THGY, she replied that those were not happy times. That many sad things happened & that she didn’t want to write about those sad times.
    Also, at the beginning of Chapter One (The First Year) in the book TFFY, Laura describes the Ingalls home as a low, three room claim shanty. In THGY Pa had built a fourth room on the house to put Mary’s organ in, the summer that Laura taught the Perry school. Also, he had sided the house & put building paper over the inside walls the fall before Laura marries. Ma says more than once that they could no longer call it a claim shanty. That it was now a house. A few pages later she writes that Pa couldn’t spend any money to pay for a wedding, it was all he could do to pay for family expenses until there could be some yield from his 160 acres of wild land. Nothing much could be expected from Pa’s farmland because it was newly broke. There are many more differences in TFFY compared to THGY.

  15. Amanda says:

    I agree about the First Four Years being sad and not really fitting. It is to harsh. I would tend to agree that maybe she wrote it before everything else just to get her story down on paper. I think that people used to write down their thoughts way more than we do now because they didn’t talk to others as readily as we all do.

    I also thought when I read the end of THGY that this was exactly how she wanted to the story to end for all of us, HAPPY! She had no way of knowing how obsessed we would all become.

    The biggest thing I take away from all of these stories is the constant theme of family sticking together no matter what and making everyday life memorable for my family in some way. It is not the big fancy vacations, etc. it is how you live your life in your home. I know that is not as deep as some of the posts, but it is my ponderings.

  16. Sandra Hume says:

    I think a terrific study could be made of comparing THGY to TFFY — or really, any part of the Little House series that contradicts info in TFFY. Seems to me I was even wanting to write that at one point! Ah, lofty, idealistic goals …

    🙂

  17. Daniel Rabe says:

    I just happened by the section of this site called “Go Beyond / By Reading Books /” and then “Books by Laura”. Under TFFY, the article author (I think it is Sarah Uthoff) tells that truly, Laura did NOT want TFFY published. So, it ought to be in another category, not LH book, but the publisher used Garth Williams, and tried to make it seem the last of the series, but clearly it is not.

    • Melanie B. says:

      Garth did have some pretty incredible illustrations in “First Four Years” though, just breathtaking.

  18. Naomi, I have always been thrown off by the way Mrs. Power is portrayed in TFFY as well–to the point where, when I was reading it for the first time back in my childhood, in chronological order, I thought it must have been a different Mrs. Power, and what a coincidence that she too had a daughter, also named Mary, Laura’s age! “Our” Laura, I reasoned, would never have written so impersonally about the mom of one of her best friends.

  19. Eddie says:

    Ooo, I’m just catching up with this, and am fascinated! Wendy, I had exactly the same thought about it being a different Mrs Power on first reading, and then gradually came round to thinking (much later) that it must have been written long before the books, despite the RLB introduction to TFFY saying it was probably written in the late 1940s and then not finished because of Almanzo’s death. And Sandra, I completely agree with you about the mapping the differences between TFFY and the other books! (I am a complete continuity error pedant in series books).

    But TFFY was an absolute revelation to me because although I’d already sort of gradually realised that these were real stories about real people and real places, that intro (I’m also something of a stickler for reading a book cover to cover, intro, credits and all), where it talks about Rocky Ridge being open for visitors, was like a thunderbolt that these places are STILL THERE. And people GO to them. Somehow I’d thought that one day I might find De Smet (which is unsurprisingly, not marked on the USA page of my school atlas) and plant a flag there, and be the only person who’d ever thought of going. So, this was – obviously pre-internet – my first sense of a LIW fan community.

    And, despite all the troubles, TFFY has an upbeat ending, and my favourite Ma-ism – ‘what is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh’. Yay for that.

  20. My favorite Ma-ism, loosely paraphrased here out of laziness, is “Those that dance must pay the fiddler,” which Laura wryly thinks of when she finds herself pregnant. OH MY GOODNESS!! DOES THAT MEAN WHAT I THINK IT MEANS?!?!?! That’s what I thought the first time I read it, and I do even now. It just doesn’t sound like our prim Laura, or the 1880s!

  21. naomi says:

    I DON’T think that’s what she meant by it. I think that the ‘dance’ being referred to isn’t the pleasure of sex, but the pleasure of raising a child.

  22. Sandra Hume says:

    That’s how I announced my recent pregnancy on Facebook. I posted a pic of the ultrasound with that sentence: “They that dance must pay the fiddler.” The best part about that mention, to me, was that Laura recalled it as a phrase of her mother’s. Oh, Caroline!

    Eddie, let’s do a presentation on TFFY and all that lack of continuity, mmmkay?

  23. Tracy Sapp says:

    I believe that “They that dance must pay the fiddler” is a reference to sex. Not necessarily the pleasure of sex but that if you are going to “fool around” you are going to “get caught” & you have to live with the consequences. That is why Laura writes that she smiled wryly as she thought of her mother’s saying. Laura writes, “Well, she was paying, but she would do the work. She would help that much in spite of everything.” She writes this because she was going miserably about her work. Notice that Laura says that this was a saying of her mother’s not her Ma’s.

    I read somewhere that the book “Millbank” was a little racy. Remember that ma read this book to pa? People really weren’t as priggish as we think they were. There were many times that Laura & her sisters shared sleeping quarters with their parents. Laura also grew up on farms where “reproduction” occured often. The fact the she had to pay the consequences for her actions makes her laugh a little, that she isn’t above the outcome of fooling around.

    Maybe she was writing this book more for adults than for children.

  24. Eddie says:

    I just can’t get my head round “they that dance must pay the fiddler” being an expression of Ma’s. It’s almost as bad as my own mother making a reference to sex – which, I’m thankful to say, she would never EVER do. I have to block the whole thing out! Tracy, Millbank was racy? Eek. I may have to block that out too.

    Sandra, re TFFY: it’s a deal.

  25. Tracy Sapp says:

    Yes, Millbank was suggestive in many a round about ways. ma told Laura that “It is an adult novel & not meant for little girls.”

  26. Holly says:

    I know this is a year later, but had to chime in about bedrooms being heated. Cental heating is a relatively recent thing. My mother *born 1945, grew up in Maine, up near the Canadian border and their house had a huge woodstove in the kitchen, that was their heat and their cookstove. There were no radiators or ductwork or hot water baseboards. It was crazy to waste money to heat a bedroom when all you did was sleep in it and you could always get another wool blanket or quilt. And you slept in flannel or wool and longjohns, none of this cute little cotton pj bottoms and matching Ts. The house my family has lived in for 20 years was built in the early 1900s and it has no central heat, although we do have an oil furnace and hot water baseboards. The bedrooms aren’t heated at all. There’s no ductwork here. My kids grew up the same way, put on your woolly underfugs and here’s another wool blanket.

  27. Holly says:

    Also, Ma’s dance/fiddler comment wasn’t about sex, per se, but if you follow certain actions, you must pay the consequences. Laura was the one that put the sex spin on it by thinking of that saying in regards to her pregnancy.

  28. SarahS says:

    Just a note on the fiddler reference…it seems I remember reading in Ghost In the Little House that Laura was rather prudish. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I believe that one of Rose’s books contained a sex scene or reference, and Laura refused to read it, saying something to the effect that she would rather read about a bowel movement. This makes me doubt that she was talking about sex when she used this quote. I agree with the poster who said she may have been talking about the joy of raising a child.

    Also, I think in Donald Zochort’s “Laura” biography, he mentions that Laura’s memoirs mention something about Mrs. Bouchie going outside in the cold and staring at Laura through the window, which obviously made Laura very uneasy. I don’t believe there was any mention of the knife though, which leads me to believe there is a good chance Laura was using artistic license in that part of the story.

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