The Fourth of July. Here in Michigan it’s hard to imagine the fourth of July. We’ve barely enjoyed any spring here and I’m having a hard time believing that it’ll ever be summer!
It started, very early, with a BOOM out on the Ingalls homestead claim though. Laura begins to paint a picture, with her words, of a day that is really celebrated in a way that honors our country.
Even the sun, as it rose shining into the clearest of skies, seemed to know this day was the glorious Fourth.
It seemed too special a day to be ordinary, but there would be no picnic without fried chicken. Laura just feels that it needs to be celebrated though.
Laura throws out the dishwater, after breakfast and sees Pa looking at the oats. Everything is growing tall and lush and hearty. The garden is promising to feed them well and soon. It looks like things are looking up, which to me is one of the best things about Little Town on the Prairie. You can’t help but be happy.
Pa proposes taking a trip into town to enjoy the celebration that seems to be going on. Ma and Mary are happier to stay home on this day, but Laura and Carrie cannot get ready quickly enough.
I love how Laura says that Grace, when she demands to go along, is almost spoiled and her unruliness must be nipped in the bud. Pa sets her sternly in her chair. We never get to know Grace that well and I just thought it was special that they all spoiled her, just a little.
So Pa, Laura, and Carrie walk off toward town to enjoy this day that just needs to be celebrated. The girls just aren’t comfortable in the crowd though. They ask Pa if they can go into his store building so they can enjoy the celebrating from afar. I wonder do they get chills just thinking of being huddled together during that long winter?
They tiptoe upstairs to the hot bedrooms where they can watch and talk freely until Pa comes back in with a treat of smoked herring to go with their bread and butter lunch that Ma sent with them. And firecrackers. The save some of the smoked herring for Ma and decide to save the firecrackers to take home so Grace can enjoy them too.
When they venture back outside, the American flag was fluttering in the breeze and a man was beside it. They stopped to listen to his speech. He talked about how America had won her freedom (which she still fights for to this day). I thought part of what is said is pertinent even today:
“Well, so here we are today,” the man went on. “Every man Jack of us a free and independent citizen of God’s country, the only country on earth where a man is free and independent. Today’s the Fourth of July, when this whole thing was started, and it ought to have a bigger, better celebration than this. We can’t do much this year. Most of us are out here trying to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps. By next year, likely some of us will be better off, and able to chip in for a real big rousing celebration of Independence Day. Meantime, here we are. It’s Fourth of July, and on this day somebody’s got to read the Declaration of Independence. It looks like I’m elected, so hold your hats, boys; I’m going to read it.
Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration of Independence by heart. How many could say that these days? And it meant something too. It gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words. When he was done, no one cheered. It was more of an “Amen” moment. There were really no words. When was the last time that we heard the Declaration recited on Independence Day, or any day really?
Pa begins to sing, and soon, everyone is singing:
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing…
Long may out land be bright
With Freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!
And Laura had a thought. The Declaration and the song came together in her mind and she thought: God is America’s king. Americans are free. They have to obey their own consciences. This is what it means to be free.
“Our father’s God, author of liberty —”
The laws of Nature and of Nature’s God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep laws of God, for God’s law is the only thing that gives you a right to be free.
Laura had no more time to think about it. The others were urging her on. Lemonade! Such a treat, especially for Carrie who had never tasted it before. But sharing the dipper with everyone in the whole town? I don’t think that fact bothered me until I was an adult.
On to the races! Laura liked the black pony with the coat that shone in the sunlight and a long mane and tail blowing silky on the breeze. “Go!” They were off! It was the prettiest…but not the fastest.
The excitement of the race was about to get more exciting.
The buggy race was next. Laura hardly saw any of the other teams because she was struck with one team that she recognized.
“Oh, look, Carrie, look! It’s the brown Morgans!” She cried.
I think, for Laura, there were no other teams to look at after the Morgans (and their owner) came onto the track. Even though he doesn’t stand a chance pulling his brother’s peddler’s wagon since he doesn’t have a buggy and (being the independent young cuss he is) he’d rather lose with what he’s got rather than win with a borrowed buggy.
Laura was truly heartbroken that Almanzo and the Morgans didn’t stand a chance, even crying out, “Oh, it isn’t fair!”
The race starts and the other teams, pulling their light buggies came fast, leaving the beautiful brown horses in the dust. Soon that peddler’s wagon, with the Morgans never breaking their trot, passed one buggy, then two.
Laura felt that her wishing was pulling them. And maybe it was. 🙂
There was no way they could win, but Laura kept wishing them on. “Faster, faster, only a little faster. Oh, come on, come on!”
Soon the Morgans caught up to Mr. Owen’s buggy with his bays and slowly, smoothly crept by it. They were at a tie, but not for long. While Mr. Owen used a whip on his horses, Almanzo leaned forward and seemed to be speaking to his beautiful horses. He needed no whip. Fast and smooth the Morgans passed the bays and won the race!
I love Laura’s emotion here:
Laura found that she had been holding her breath. Her knees were wobbly. She wanted to yell and to laugh and to cry and to sit down and rest.
She really had put a lot of wishing into helping Almanzo and those beautiful horses win!
Then Laura found out about the prize and was glad she hadn’t known that they were running for a five-dollar prize.
The day of celebration was coming to an end then. As they walked along Main Street, with Mr. Boast, Pa told him of the Wilder’s sister who was a schoolteacher back East in Minnesota. She had taken a claim near town and was interested in teaching the next winter.
Laura thought, “Maybe, If I am a very good scholar and if she likes me, maybe she might take me driving behind those beautiful horses. ” 🙂