Guest post by Dr. Laura McLemore
Céad míle fáilte
I have to tell you people that it is very difficult to write about blizzards as I am sitting only a few hundred feet from the Alabama coastline. And before I begin, a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you.
Seed Wheat is another short chapter. The cold and the dark have come again and the days are long and monotonous. It is difficult to imagine how cold the house must have been without insulation and only board walls standing between the family and the cold. Pa must continue his twice daily trek to the barn to care for the animals despite the raging blizzard and bone numbing cold. He returned so chilled that it was difficult to get warm again. He held Carrie and Grace close, I assume not only to reassure them, but to borrow from their warmth. What would Ann Romines have to say about this?
Pa shared the stories of bears and panthers with the little girls just as he had with Mary and Laura so long ago in the Big Woods. At bedtime, the girls dreaded going up to the cold attic so Pa “played” them up the stairs with a Scottish Tune called “All the Blue Bonnets are Over the Border”. As Pa played, the girls marched up the stairs to bed. It is touching to read that Laura guided Mary up the stairs with Mary’s hand on Laura’s shoulder.
The recurring theme “and the trains didn’t come” crops up again as Laura worries that they have no meat, no lamp oil, no flour, no coal and no chance of the trains getting through. It seems a lot for a 14 year old to have to carry on her shoulders.
Meanwhile, Almanzo was busy in Royal’s feed store. Almanzo studded a frame for a wall on one end of the store and then built a wall part way up. Once the wall was up, he hoisted a 125 lb bag of wheat on his shoulder and poured it into the space between the walls. This always fascinated me that he thought to do this and later, that Pa could tell (oops that was a spoiler, wasn’t it). A good natured brotherly argument ensues as Royal thinks that Almanzo should sell his seed wheat for a profit, not necessarily for the humanitarian good. Almanzo refuses. He wants good seed to plant a good crop once the winter is over. He knows that Royal would sell his wheat if the price were right. They argue back and forth as Almanzo continues to build his wall and pour his wheat. You know, as I write this, I wonder why he didn’t just toss the bag behind the wall or lay them straight and build the wall in front? Wouldn’t it be easier to take it out in the spring if he had left it in the bags? Did he want to be able to just take a little out at a time should he and Royal need it? Does it make a better story to have the wheat loose in the wall? Ah well.
There is foreshadowing at the end of the chapter. Royal wonders what will happen to the town if the trains don’t come. Almanzo speculates that everyone should be fine since they brought supplies out in the summer. Oh, what he doesn’t know. And the trains didn’t come.