Wilder, Laura Ingalls. 1940. The Long Winter.
The mowing machine's whirring sounded cheerfully from the old buffalo wallow south of the claim shanty, where bluestem grass stood thick and tall and Pa was cutting it for hay.
This first chapter is called "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" and if it's found within a book called THE LONG WINTER, the reader knows what to expect even if the characters don't. The book opens with Ma and Pa and family getting ready for harvest and winter. Laura is helping out Pa. Mary and Carrie are helping out Ma. Laura is especially pleased that she's old enough (around 14 now) to help Pa and do outdoor chores.
The Ingalls family is living in their claim shanty. This would be the first fall/winter they've been there. And they know it will be tough, but when the first blizzard comes in October, they know that it wouldn't only be tough to survive but impossible to survive if they were to try to stay on their homestead. Fortunately, Pa owns property in town. A place where they can be nice and warm and cozy for the winter. Or so they think.
What no one could know is just how hard, how long, how tough this winter was going to be. Some folks are prepared--the Wilder boys for instance--but most are not. Most are relying on the train making regular stops in town. The trains are essential for stocking the stores of supplies. But when almost every day brings a blizzard--with clear days coming only one at a time and never on a predictable schedule--it soon becomes clear that the trains will not be saving the day. Not til spring. The town's survival, the Ingalls' family survival, is a big if at this point.
Cold. Hunger. Starvation. No supplies. What's not to love?
The Long Winter has always been one of my favorites of the Little House series. I'll admit it tends to make you cold and hungry. But that's not a bad thing, right? I didn't think so. Only two books can trick my mind and body--okay maybe three--into thinking it's cold and hungry. One, of course, is The Long Winter. The other two are by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I think one of the reasons I love The Long Winter is that it introduces Almanzo Wilder onto the scene. True, there was Farmer Boy if you didn't skip it like I have done. But this Almanzo is a man--a young man it's true--19 years of age. And he's acting "manly" alright when it's time to save the day. I love every scene Almanzo is in. Laura first meets him when she's lost and trying to find her Pa in the slough of hay. Here is the description: "His blue eyes twinkled down at her as if he had known her a long time." Anyway, I love this book.
Saturday Review of Books: December 7, 2013
21 minutes ago