Guest post by Patty Collins
The chapter opens with talk of the Fourth of July. The girls decide that a celebration at home sounds more fun than facing the crowds in town. With requests for candy and firecrackers, it is decided that Ma and the girls will fix a celebration dinner and the Ingalls will enjoy the holiday at home. It is obvious that Mary’s absence is weighing on the family and though nothing is said, the thought of a celebration without her makes everyone bit melancholy.
When Pa returns from town with treats for the holiday, he also brings news that Almanzo is breaking a new team, Barnum and Skip. Laura should be ready to hop in the buggy if she wishes to go riding. Of course, Ma is hesitant to allow her to go. ”I do believe he wants to break your neck! And I hope he breaks his own, first”, these shocking words from Caroline give us a hint as to her concern for Laura as well as her disapproval of her daughter’s courting. But Pa’s reassurance subdues Ma’s uncertainty to which Caroline responds, “Your Pa says it is safe, so it must be.” This statement is rather telling. Although she may not agree, she takes Charles at his word. We see her do this many times throughout the books, but, personally, I don’t think she does it out of some Victorian “he’s the man, so he says so” or that she thinks he’s more intelligent or “knows best”. I think Caroline simply quietly decides which battles are worth a fight. (Like settling in Dakota Territory for good, so the girls can attend school.)
When Almanzo drives up riding “this circus”, Ma again expresses her disapproval, but after circling the house a few times, Almanzo is able to get the team to slow enough for Laura to jump in. Thus begins a routine that will be repeated for the next several weeks. The Sunday afternoon buggy rides all through July and August are highlighted with the excitement of getting the horses to mind, learning to ride with the buggy top in place, and just enough danger to keep Laura interested. She is confident in Almanzo’s abilities as a horseman, although several times to tries to make herself small on the seat next to him to be clear of his hands. She does, however, yearn for the chance to drive. The opportunity arrives one Sunday late in August when Almanzo arrives driving Barnum solo. He explains that he is teaching him to drive single. Finally, when Laura offers to take the reins and give him a bit of a rest, Almanzo relents. He coaches her, but it is easy to see that she needs little help. Barnum responds to how she holds the reins. “I believe his is really gentle.” Although people in the town stare as they see her driving, she sees nothing but Barnum. Laura has always has affection for other horses, but what she experiences in the buggy seat that day is a connection. This was yet another aspect that really made her understand and appreciate Almanzo.
Laura’s approval of Barnum and Skip, do not replace her affection for Prince and Lady. More than once she longed for the calm, pleasant drives behind the Morgans and wondered aloud, “I am not criticizing these horses, I just wondered if anything is wrong with Prince and Lady.” After six weeks of working to gentle the new team, Laura grows even more fond of the horses AND their master as evidenced by her quick response when Almanzo mentions that there will be a singing school it town. “I’d like to have you go with me, if you will.” “I would like to, very much.”
Let’s be honest girls, we all would! 🙂
I guess driving wild horses together was the Victorian equivilent of heavy petting.
AH-HAHAHAHAHA!!! Awesome. :_)
I remember reading this as a child. Laura didn’t want her parents to know she was thinking about driving Baranum, but where does she drive them? Not on the open prairie, but down Main St. It never seemed to me to be a good way to keep a secret. Anyone else ever notice this?
I think Laura wanted more attention than she liked to admit! She always said that she tried to be genuinely good and modest like Mary apparently was, but down deep, she didn’t really want to be the perfect lady.
I think Caroline was just a little snippy with Charles there, myself. To me, there was a small overtone of, “well, *I* care if you get yourself killed, even if your Pa doesn’t.”
I’ve always wondered about those comments Ma made. Those and the “Marry and black, wish yourself back” Did she not approve of Almanzo or was she just not ready for her daughter to be courting?
I always thought Ma saw maybe a bit too much of Pa in Almanzo – meaning that he was always looking for the next exciting thing, and didn’t really seem to be the steady, settled-down type. Perhaps Ma was hoping that Laura would have the settled home that she (Ma) had missed, with a less adventurous man than she had had, and knew that would not be the case with Manly.
It comes from old wedding superstitions. There are some really strange ones about what to wear (scroll way down).
Married in White, you have chosen right
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Blue, you will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Brown, you will live in the town,
Married in Pink, you spirit will sink.
I have a feeling that some of them are just to make the rhyme come out right.
I wish we had a singing school, what a great idea! Sounds like DeSmet was really an up-and-coming town for its day.
I’ve got a different take on the Ma issue. I’m thinking that she didn’t want Laura to marry for some time. For most of her young life Laura was hired out to earn money for the family. When Laura left, so did the ability to hire her out.
If Ma was overly concerned for her safety then she wouldn’t have sent her to live with a drunk when she was like 12.
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