I'd never read Little House on the Prairie until just a couple of weeks ago for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge at Stray Thoughts. Once again, I loved it! This is the second book in the series about Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood, although it is third in the Little House set (the second book is Farmer Boy, about Almanzo Wilder as a little boy, which I am currently reading). It covers the one year that Laura's family actually lived in a little house on the prairie in what was then known as Indian Territory. According to Wikipedia, the events in the book took place during the years 1869-1870, when Laura was just 3-4 years old; however, Laura portrays herself in the book as 6-7 years old, to maintain the timeline begun in the first book, Little House in the Big Woods. It seems that many of the events in Little House on the Prairie were stories told to Laura later by her parents and older sister, Mary.
The book takes us along as the Ingalls family leaves the Big Woods, via covered wagon, and travels south and west to Indian Territory in Kansas and Oklahoma, crossing lakes, rivers, and streams until at last they settle on the prairie 40 miles south of Independence, Kansas. There they build a log house and begin farming, with Charles stating that they will be living like kings once they get their crops planted. I still find it amazing that Charles and Caroline made everything they needed. When they left the house in Wisconsin, they didn't take their beds or tables and chairs with them, because "Pa could make those." And indeed he did! He built their entire house of logs from trees he cut down himself along the creek, made the roof and floor and front door, built the chimney and fireplace, made a table and a bed, dug a well, and even made a willow rocking chair for Caroline. He did have help from the neighbors, Mr. Scott and Mr. Edwards, in digging the well and building the house, and he helped them in return, but everything they had, even down to bullets for the gun, was handmade. It's amazing all the practical knowledge they had!
The most interesting part of this book for me was the Ingalls family's interactions with the Indians who already lived on the land. Charles Ingalls had been mistakenly told that the land in Indian Territory was about to open to settlement, so he felt he had the right to claim his land, even though the Indians still lived there. Caroline clearly does not like the Indians, born mostly of fear, I think. I suppose I would have hated them too, if I had lived in a time when all I'd heard was of vicious attacks. Mary is afraid of them, but Laura is mostly curious about them, especially about seeing a papoose. Charles is friendly to any Indians he meets, but mainly to make sure they don't turn on him and attack the family. Laura's account of the Indian war dances and war whoops was bone-chilling, and I can't imagine living with the uncertainty of whether the Indians would attack or not. In the end, the Ingallses learn that Indian people are just like white people: some are good and some are bad; some wanted peace and some wanted revenge.
Although we might look back and think of those times as simpler, I'm very glad we don't have to worry about things like "fever n' ague," which we now know as malaria, or close up my house tight against a pack of wolves. I'm glad I don't have to go outside to get my water, or work hard all day just to survive for that day. Reading these books makes me very thankful that I live in the modern age of conveniences!
Little House on the Prairie was written in the 1930's, but it is still interesting today, for young and old alike. I'd recommend them for anyone to read, both for the entertainment value and for the historical and educational value.
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