We started On the Banks of Plum Creek a few weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten over the move.
At the end of Little House on the Prairie, Pa had to leave Indian country. He moved his family back to Pepin, WI for two years before taking that covered wagon west to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. So, Ma had another tearful goodbye with her family.
It was a long drive for the Ingalls family. Of course, we have GPS, Mapquest and even old fashioned printed maps, but from what I’ve read, there were only rugged trails. The Ingalls family traveled 196 miles in a bouncy wagon on a journey that offered no amenities, no fast-food restaurants and no rest areas. Certainly no free coffee or vending machines at those wayside stops for the weary. If they had good travel days and were able to travel 10-15 miles per day, the journey would have taken 13-20days. If they traveled 5 miles a day, the journey would take 39 days. Can you imagine eating on the road that long without McDonalds?
After traveling the dusty trail, they get to live in a dirt house. Not even a sod house, a house made with bricks of sod. It was a dugout. The Norwegian, Mr. Hanson, dug out under a grassy creek bank like a bear’s cave, then made the front wall out of sod. He’d even made a real door and a greased-paper window. I loved how Laura described the usefulness of the window, p. 11. “But the wall was so thick that the light from the window stayed near the window.” The interior walls were white-washed, which I find amazing. How do you paint dirt? I can believe a Norwegian would paint dirt, I come from a long line of strong, Norwegian women who waged a lifelong war against dirt and disorder.
I didn’t really enjoy the way Laura described Mr. Hanson on p. 2. Norwegians are very handsome people. “His hair was pale yellow, his round face was as red as an Indian’s, and his eyes were so pale that they looked like a mistake.”
But, Pa stereotyped my people correctly when he was describing the dugout to Ma on page 6. “I think you’ll find it very clean,” Pa told her. “Norwegians are clean people. It will be snug for winter, and that’s not far away.”
Ya’ got that right, Pa, Norwegians are very clean people. My Grandpa Arne came from Norway as a young man, lying about his age to come to America sooner. He ended up in Kindred, ND and married Geneva, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants, then lived next door to his in-laws the rest of his life. I always admired him for that.
My grandparents lived in a tiny house, less than 400 square feet, with only a tiny bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a tiny living room for years. Running water and electricity were added sometime when Mom was in junior high. Yes, that means they had an outhouse, and as a child we used it. The house was tiny, sparsely furnished, but always clean. The best part? My grandparents never, ever, ever moved. My Gramma was as content to stay in her little tiny home as Ma Ingalls was to move from state to state with her husband.
Grandpa Arne died when I was a senior in high school, and Gramma lived alone for about 12 years before moving into a nursing home. When did we know it was time? When she could no longer keep her house clean. I remember my own Mom being so distressed to notice Gramma’s decline, noticing “Last time I went to visit her, there were drips down her walls.” A sure sign of decline for Norvegians, fur shur. (There were other signs, too, please don’t think we were a bit over-anxious clean freaks. My dear Gramma suffered from Alzheimer’s.)
My mom is equally a great housekeeper, even while raising six kids. We were all taught to cook, clean and garden. Our clothes weren’t always new, but they were always clean, mended and pressed. We were even taught how to iron creases into our jeans. Mom always taught us, “Soap and water are practically free.” In other words, the condition of your pocketbook didn’t need to reflect the condition of your home. We were taught to take care of what we had.
The bead situation with Ma frustrated me slightly, but with this move, my admiration for Ma increased greatly. She moved into a dirt home, because that was the home her husband found for the family.
Of course, Laura the Adventurer, is the first one in the door of the dugout. See the original site here. She’s enthralled by the morning glories growing around the home.
Laura recalls her mom saying, “It’s small, but it’s clean and pleasant.” (p. 11) Ma doesn’t complain, she looks for things to admire. Anybody else feeling that the lessons in the Little House books aren’t only for the kids? I marvel at Ma for following Pa from state to state without complaining. Of course, we don’t know about the whispered conversations after the kids were in bed, but Laura portrays their life as all bliss and contentment, so we won’t look for dirt, since Ma is living in it.
On p.17 we hear a little more about the root of her contentment. “It is all so tame and peaceful,” she said. “There will be no wolves or Indians howling tonight. I haven’t felt so safe and at rest since I don’t know when.”
Ma is thankful for the peace and safety, but Pa is excited the town of Walnut Grove is ONLY three miles away. I don’t wanna’ walk across the street to the mailbox, let alone three miles to the nearest town. I Mapquested the Target and discovered it’s 4.28 miles away. I definitely would have to have a LONG list before I wanted to walk there.
As she is putting the girls to bed for the first time she says, “It’s bedtime. And here is something new, anyway. We’ve never slept in a dugout before.” She was able to laugh even though she was living in a dirt cave.
Oh fur shur, you betcha, it probably was a gut move for dem, ya know. In case ya’ wanna’ know how tu speak MinnusOtan, I rote about dat once, ya’ know. Pa vas lucky enuff to lif around Norvegians, they’s gut people, ya’ know, fur shur. I tink I’m gunna’ like dis book, On the Banks of Plum Creek.