Before I launch into the chapter summary, I’d like to address a few things from “Fair Weather“:
Did anyone catch the reference to Ma writing her letter? She writes it horizontally, the way one normally writes a letter, and then she rotates the paper and writes “crosswise” right over the sentences she’s already written, these new sentences perpendicular to the others. I never understood what this meant until I saw an example of it in the museum at Mansfield. Talk about recycling!
This chapter also marks the only time in the series I genuinely dislike Mary. “What a dreadful idea,” she says when poetic Laura suggests that the existence of the houses ruin the brilliance of the winter prairie. “We’d freeze to death.” When Laura gallantly offers to build her an igloo, saying they’d “live like Eskimos,” (no doubt pulling this knowledge from Pa’s “big green book,” The Polar and Tropical Worlds, not “The Wonders of the Animal World” as Laura had remembered) her response is to shudder, “Ugh, on raw fish. I wouldn’t.” Well if you had nothing else to eat, Negative Nancy, you would! No go have your baked potato and tea.
One more general observation — I wonder if anyone of our readers shares it. As one of the administrators of this read-along, I’ve had occasion to match up chapter names with numbers, as well as the events within each chapter. And I’ve realized that of all the books in the Little House series, this book –The Long Winter—is the only one whose chapters don’t adequately describe the contents therein. Matching chapters to plot points is difficult.
If I were to say to you “Summer Storm,” or “Wheels of Fire,” or “Sugar Snow,” or “Wonderful Afternoon,” you’d likely be able to peg not only the book the chapters are pulled from, but a reasonable synopsis of the chapter as well. I can’t do this with TLW; the chapter titles are so generic. When I think of “Cold and Dark” and “The Hard Winter,” while I may be able to say that The Long Winter contains those chapters, I have no idea what’s in them. Only a few chapter titles are descriptive enough to recall the action within them.
“The Wheat In the Wall” is one of them. Coming up.