Tuesday, May 29, 2012
On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
On the Banks of Plum Creek follows the Ingalls family as they settle along the aforementioned creek, first in a dugout purchased from a Norwegian homesteader, and later in a beautiful home built of boards (which Pa had purchased on credit against the following year's crop of wheat). The surroundings are beautiful, the family is able to have access to town, church, and school, and the land is rich. Things are looking good for the Ingallses!
Unfortunately, reading this book through an adult's eyes makes me so much sadder. Before long, the promising wheat crop is destroyed by what could be described as no less than a plague of grasshoppers, which descend on the countryside and devour it until no living plants are left. Laura has to give up her beloved rag doll, Charlotte, to a neighbor's bratty child (but is fortunately able to retrieve it later). I feel sad for the family and wish Pa could catch a bit of luck so they could stay stable for a bit, and he wouldn't feel compelled to buy their necessities on credit, which usually doesn't work out well for him because something always happens to his crops (which certainly explains why Laura, later in the series, is determined not to marry a farmer). Other things that happen during this time period but are not portrayed in the story are moves to Wisconsin (to the Big Woods!) from Kansas before settling on Plum Creek, as well as the birth and death of Laura's younger brother, Charles. And between this book and the sequel, On the Shores of Silver Lake, the family is struck with scarlet fever, causing Mary to permanently lose her sight. Pioneer life was hard! It's amazing that with so much sorrow, there is also so much happiness in these books, and you can't help but falling in love with the family. The hope they have is absolutely incredible.