What About Those Missing Years?

Shores of Silver Lake

 

As soon as we  cracked open the new Little House book, we had a few surprises. (click on links below to find sites to validate times, places and events)

 

Laura is now a teenager.  There are three missing years, since the Ingalls family only lived in their Plum Creek dugout from 1874-1876.

 

Between reading Shores on Silver Lake and doing research, we discovered some pain in those three years.

1. Ingalls family moved to Iowa and back. While there Pa helped run the Masters Hotel.  (See amazing  photos here. Really amazing photos.)

2. They had a son named Frederick who died. 

3. The family faced Scarlet Fever and Mary lost her sight.

4. Ma and Pa disagreed over moving west for several years.

 

As a wife and mom, my heart ached for Ma. Losing a child would be pain enough, but add in illness and poverty and I can only imagine how Ma was able to keep waking each morning. Some people air their pain like laundry on a clothesline, others hide it away.  But, it never goes away.  In one place I read, Ma was known to have claimed things would have turned out differently if only Frederick had lived. Laura loses a son, as does her daughter, Rose.  The family chooses to say very little about their pain, but we know it goes deep.

 

As a very young mom, I met a dear older woman who was visiting our fellowship and I asked if she had children.  The tears began flowing. She struggled for words to tell me about the death of one of her children.  Even though the death had occurred over 50 years ago, and she wasn’t bitter or angry at the Lord, she still missed that child.

 

My imagination and my experience in life fills in the blanks about these missing years.

 

 

I feel a little annoyed each time Pa decides to move them again, I long for them to settle.  This is the first time you get the idea that Ma actually put her foot down and kept it there for two years.

p. 3  “Pa did not like a country so old and worn out that the hunting was poor.  He wanted to go west.  For two years he had wanted to go west and take a homestead, but Ma did not want to leave the settled country. And there was no money.”

 

 

When a relative showed up offering him a job, Pa made a quick decision to pack the wagon and move to Dakota Territory.

p. 4 “Ma still did not want to go west.”

image

Docie had driven her wagon 196 miles to offer Pa a mouth-drooling salary of $50 a month to run her husband’s store. They have another 111 miles to go fro Minnesota to Dakota Territory.

Pa sold his entire farmstead for $200.  He has a chance to make $600 a year, enough to buy three farmsteads.  No wonder he didn’t wait very long to answer. 

p. 6 “I hope it’s for the best, Charles,” Ma replied, “But how –“

“Wait till I tell you!  I’ve got it all figured out,” Pa told her.  I’ll go on with Docia tomorrow morning.  You and the girls stay here till Mary gets well and strong, say a couple of months…you’ll all come out on the train.”

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Ma lifted her foot and Pa left her alone with two small children, one teenager and a newly blind teenager. 

 

 

p. 7  “I am sure we will manage nicely with Laura and Carrie to help me.”

 

With amazing strength of spirit, Ma accepts more change,  loneliness and having to start over again.

 

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3 thoughts on “What About Those Missing Years?

  1. You learn something every day. I didn’t know about the Iowa stuff either. I did go look at the pictures and I’ll have to tuck it away in my brain for some trip out west. Might make for a nice rest stop in Iowa to see another place of Laura Ingalls.

  2. I read about this, too. In fact in one of Laura’s biographies, it says that they were so poor that another family offered to take Laura off their hands when they were in Burr Oak Iowa. Laura was very relieved when her family refused to give her up. Wow! Can’t imagine how Ma didn’t go stark raving mad with all she went through. Such strength of character she had!

  3. I’ve never had much respect for Pa – it seems like he could never settle down to hard work. If the hunting wasn’t easy (free food) then he wanted to head off somewhere else. A couple of tough farming years and he calls soil “old” – as if soil that’s been planted 4 or 5 times is useless. In all those books Laura clearly loved her Pa, but she never comments much on his character. But over and over Ma’s “quiet way” was mentioned. Over and over Ma held their home together while Pa was gone. She must have been a very impressive woman.

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