By Sandra Hume and Erin Blakemore
Title: The Long Winter Oh Wait The First Four Years
Sandra: Geese. Flying south. In Vs. This seems more like Little House writing and not The First Four Years, which we all know is not a Little House book.
Erin: Little House books are at least 80% less bleak than this book.
Sandra: Wild…free…geese calling…irresistible. “It made Laura long for wings so that she might follow.” When was it that Laura wrote “Oh that I had the wings of a bird?”
Erin: In The Long Winter, of course. Which winter was 80% less forbidding than this one.
Sandra: Manly gets all Pa and says the geese honking high means a hard winter. Da-da-da-DUM. Foreshadowing. Hmmmmmmmmmm….this sounds very, very Long Winter.
Erin: It’s as Long Winter as The Long Winter. Except more wintry.
Sandra: Oh no! A blizzard! And Laura home alone!
Erin: Color me shocked. Except it makes you wonder…when in her previous, unmarried life was Laura ever alone in a house? Time to dig around in those ingenious cupboards and bins.
Sandra: Manly, in the barn, milks the cows early. He milks the heifer into what we find out is a salt pail. Why did he bring salt out to the barn? Inquiring minds want to know.
Erin: Maybe he brought salt licks out to the cattle? Forget it, I’m really not the person you want to be asking about cattle.
Sandra: Manly stupidly goes out into the storm WITHOUT A ROPE. Has this man never driven for wheat to save a starving town trapped by blizzards?
Erin: Can this man or can this man not make pancakes? Don’t you need a rope for that?
Sandra: Has he learned NOTHING?
Erin: Time for some…Manly perspective. It’s cold out there. And windy. Um, where’s the house?
Sandra: Blah blah blah, long stuck-in-a-blizzard speech…until his shoulder just OH SO LIGHTLY brushes the house. Which sounds remarkably like the blizzard Laura and Carrie got stuck in in the Long Winter.
Erin: Are you trying to imply that this scene reminds you of The Long Winter? The nerve of that girl.
Sandra: No, I can’t leave it alone.
Erin: Now that is a man who can carry a pail of milk.
Sandra: The milk is unspilled because it is frozen.
Sandra: Do I have to say it again? Anyway, it’s a three-days’ blizzard. Finally Manly gets wise to the use of the rope. (Yeah, I know he was in the barn when the blizzard struck, but a barn without a rope is not a very useful barn, now, is it?)
Erin: I feel a homesteader must possess at least 5 miles of rope.
Sandra: Despite the blizzard, Laura and Manly have a grand old time. She knits. She sings. She cooks.
Erin: She’s a one-woman vaudeville show.
Sandra: (I’m betting they dance, as in the dance they’ll owe the fiddler for.)
Erin: I bet it’s…cozy in that house. No wonder she’s so warm and well.
Sandra: The blizzard ends. Stillness. Utter, desolate cold.
Erin: I’m thinking of the home site north of De Smet. Think of how the chill must pour out over all of that wide open space.
Sandra: Manly goes through town and then waits through supper (really?) to tell Laura about all the havoc this storm has wreaked. Frozen neighbors who got lost between the barn and the house. Schoolchildren who had to burrow into a haystack for three days. Hundreds of wandering cattle choke the Cottonwood River. (Have we ever heard of this river?)
Erin: Manly really needs to step up his dinnertime conversation.
Sandra: Time for rides in the cutter! Behind Barnum and Skip, not Prince and Lady.
Erin: Fat horsy time! No more bleak Brewsterness for Laura.
Sandra: Holiday time! And I love this: “Something must be done about them.” What’s done is that Laura and Manly take New Year’s while the Ingalls have Christmas and the Boasts have Thanksgiving. I thought the Boasts were more of a New Year’s family.
Erin: Dang. First married, first dibs on the sub-holidays of the Ingalls family.
Sandra: For Christmas Laura and Manly choose their Montgomery Ward glassware. How many of us have a bread plate?
Erin: How many of us have freaked out when they’ve seen someone else’s bread plate? Or one at the thrift store? Swoon.
Sandra: February birthdays for both, with a joint cake. Aw. Manly is, clearly, ten years older than Laura. (Mental when-was-the-book-written timing note.)
Erin: May seems like a kind of…inexplicable month. No blizzards. Well, except for the occasional May blizzard. Can you tell I’m still kind of preoccupied by how…cozy that house must have been?
Sandra: “Erin.” (said in Ma’s “Laura.” voice.) So winter passes. Laura is happy and not lonely even though she hardly sees anyone else. She’s almost getting to like animals better than people. And they’re both probably doing quite a bit of fiddler dancing.
Erin: Hey, roses in winter don’t grow themselves…