Guest post by Cay Gibson
There are so many chapters I love in Little Town on the Prairie; I couldn’t choose one even though I was offered. So I let the pages fall where they may and took this chapter, undoubtedly one of the shortest in the book. The shortness of this chapter does not take away from the realism of its subject matter. There’s a lot there that clues us, yet again, why the Little House books remain timely books, not only our children to read but, for us to reread.
There is basic 2011 reality hidden in this Little House chapter: financial needs, raising college funds, job layoffs, and the realization that the more we have, the more we want. Contentment seems to be harder to obtain nowadays than a job. That’s pretty bad.
In reading Laura’s books we are repeatedly yet calmly and joyfully reminded how to pull up our work boots and put our best foot forward. We are also reminded how to find contentment in the face of adversity. It kind of helps us to remember that people faced the same problems in the 19th century that we still face in the 21st century.
At the beginning of this chapter Laura is told that the spring rush is over and Mrs. White will no longer need her. Laura has spent that beautiful spring working indoors and has earned only nine dollars. Laura admits:
“One dollar had seemed a great deal of money only six weeks ago, but now nine dollars was not enough.”
Yeah, in my little house too.
And Laura is left feeling “cast out, and hollow inside.”
Why do we do this to ourselves? And to our families? We’ve all done it. Gotten something then wanted something more. Right?
When Laura began work, one dollar seemed like a huge amount. Six weeks later, nine dollars is insufficient.
Then Laura discovers that Pa will be out of work that summer as well. “Oh, Pa!” she begins to fret.
But Pa stops her with a pep talk. No matter how unexciting our job is or how unstimulating the work (even Laura would question sewing buttonholes), we can go home with a sense of satisfaction and at the end of the day say as Pa taught us, “You’ve done good work. It’s a good job well done.”
It was the pioneering spirit to be upbeat and undefeated. It still is!
With his pep talk, Pa delivers a “bushel basket covered with a grain sack” in which there is a “rasping of claws, and a cheeping chorus” of chickens! I especially love this part of chapter seven because I have a two-acre hobby farm of sorts on the edge of town where I care for a chicken tractor full of Rhode Island Reds and I love my chickens. Nothing says lovin’ quite like my chickens do. 🙂 This chapter motivates me to try some of Ma’s crumbly bran mash, well peppered. I’m questioning the pepper. Has anyone tried that?
Pa reminds us that we cannot sit idle and ignore the tasks at hand. We still have hay to make while the sun shines and we have our little chickens to care for. On that same page, Laura reminds us of the joy of coming home and the contentment our housework, our gardens (vegetable or flower), our families, and our homes can bring us if we allow it. Ma assigns her girls different chores in caring for the baby chickens. Everyone plays a part in the raising-up of a family. Ma reminds us of orderliness which fills hollowness.
Then there is the talk between Laura and Ma that night of sending Mary off to college. With Laura’s help, this will happen sooner than expected. Laura again feels a sense of pride in the nine dollars she has earned; yet, with that pride, there comes the realization that the nine dollars is what makes the next seven years a reality.
Seven long years. “Mary would be gone. All day long, Mary would not be there.” How many parents have realized that no amount of money could ever buy back our children’s youth?
Suddenly the nine dollars becomes insignificant again and the seven years is a lifetime of hollow.
Lucky are those of us who have visited the Little Houses. They helped put our priorities into perspective. They assisted us in weathering storms. Thanks to Pa and Ma, we were shown that the most precious things in life come from within our homes and not from without.
Here’s a nice lapbook template that read-along participants can do with their children or grandchildren: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/little_town_on_the_prairie.php