The First Four Years; Chapter 2: Section 8

Guest post by Melissa Litke

The First Four Years, this is everyone’s favorite Little House book, right?  Ha!  When I was in third grade and received the yellow paperback set of Little House books for Christmas, I sat right down and promptly fell in love.  But not with that small little skinny book at the end.  What was that?  Most of the adult, real life struggles flew over my head and I’d often end a read through of the series at These Happy Golden Years.  I’ve grown up some ( ☺  )  since those days, but honestly, I still don’t always spread my Little House love to this book.  It’s too depressing now that I am an adult and am raising a family of my own and trying to make ends meet.   Nowadays, I often start my read throughs with These Happy Golden Years, my favorite, and then read backwards, weird I know!!  When the signups for this read along were listed I took a big gulp and stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up.  When I received my assigned section, I took up my little yellow paperback and opened to page 76…

What’s this?  They seem, happy?  Contented?  Did I grab the wrong book?

This section begins with spring planting at hand.  The winter had passed quickly and seems to have been a light one and Manly was at the barn preparing for seeding the fields.  But wait, just so that we don’t forget that the prairie weather is unpredictable and fierce, a blizzard in April!  Manly, thankfully follows a path of scattered farm tools to make his way back to the house.  The storm is a short one, passing in two days, but the calm weather brings news of two Eastern travelers who had been caught in the storm and frozen to death.  I’m now realizing how often Laura discusses the weather in this book;  how could anyone make a go of farming with this crazy weather?

The snow is soon gone and spring comes in earnest.  The picture on page 80 is one of my favorites of the whole series.  The proud father, working the land to provide for his family, the happy mother, probably worn out, but still smiling on her sweet baby, the baby Rose, 5 ish months old and past the newborn stage and moving into the more interactive baby stage, and the new farm dog watching guard over all.  This is the part that made me smile and think, “hey this book isn’t so bad.”  We learn of Laura cooking in her summer kitchen, happily taking care of her family.  We see Laura and Rose jaunting off in the road cart to visit friends, but most often to see her Ma and sisters.  (an aside- I wonder if Mary was home from college that summer- not only did she have a second house to visit, she had a new niece to meet!)  When the summer is passed and it is haying time again, we see Laura again helping in the hayfield.  Truly, they seem happy and “thoroughly in sympathy”  with each other and their life together.

The chapter ends with a reckoning with the harvest and their bills.  The season had been too dry and the price was lower, but they were able to pay some notes and they also would have hay and two steers to sell.  Even though they still have two large loans (the $500 on the house and the $800 on the homestead)  the tone is optimistic.

The 25th of August had come again, and this winter and summer were the second year.

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9 comments on “The First Four Years; Chapter 2: Section 8
  1. naomi says:

    Yes, Mary would have been home. She stayed home from college the whole 1887/1888 year, so presumably she came home at the start of the summer, and stayed for the next 15 months.

    It is nice to see ONE decent crop in the whole book though, as you say, it’s not enough to even make a dent in their debts.

  2. LauriOH says:

    They actually did have a non-failure crop! That’s easy to forget, isn’t it?

  3. Yeah, I love all the weather stuff, too ;).

    I can’t find much of a signal for a snow storm at Huron, SD, in April 1887. It struck me as odd that she was so very specific about the date of the blizzard (April 12), when it’s so apparently not a blizzard day (low of 41, high of 65, trace of precipitation). There were a couple of cooler days with some precipitation April 14-15 (lows 35 and 33, highs 51 and 42), but it would be difficult to get even snowfall, let alone blizzard conditions, with those temperatures. Temperatures dipped below freezing at night on April 23-24 (lows 25 and 27, highs 40 and 44), with 0.09 inches of precipitation, but that’s not enough snow to get blizzardy in most cases, especially in the melting sunshine of late April daytimes.

    It does look like they could have had a 2-day snowstorm in late March, though. March 19-20 was cold enough to snow, with 0.46 inches of precipitation over the two days (easily 5-6 inches of snow). March 26-28 also was quite cold, with less precipitation (0.18 inches) but colder temperatures. My money is on one of those two periods.

    • Melissa says:

      I love your weather research! I always think it is odd when dates are so specified in the books. How on earth could you remember the date of a blizzard 30+ years earlier?

      • Well, that’s an interesting question :). I’m terrible at remembering dates of events, except for notable ones like the Christmas blizzard of 2009. But my husband remembers them spot-on for just about every thunderstorm he’s seen or tornado he chased (or didn’t chase, for that matter). I think he’ll remember those dates his whole life. The real question is why someone would put in a date unless they were certain of it. She wasn’t so good at dates, and she rarely included them in her books, so why that one?

        • Melissa says:

          🙂 no offense meant to your husband! I guess it seems to me that they had blizzards every year, so why remember that one specifically by date? I guess it was part of her writing process since TFFY wasn’t a final draft.