Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Stephen W. Hines
|Little House in the Ozarks:
The Rediscovered Writings
by Laura Ingalls Wilder,
Review by Deb Houdek Rule
Review of Little House in the Ozarks:
“Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings” is a collection of articles Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in the decades before the first of her “Little House” books came out. For about twenty years before her first book, “Little House in the Big Woods,” Laura was a regularly published writer of articles and essays in regional newspapers and farm magazines beginning in 1911. Editor Stephen W. Hines tracked down and gathered a large number of these articles into a collection he then published in book form.
A great deal of credit should go to Hines for his efforts in making this collection of Laura’s earlier writings available. This is a splendid and enormously enjoyable collection of writings that are otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to find.
Laura’s skill as a writer shows vividly in these articles. Even though non-fiction aimed at an adult audience, the same style and authorial “voice” that is distinctly Laura’s shows through.
|“De Smet was built as the railroad went through, out in the midst of the great Dakota prairies far ahead of the farming settlements, and this first winter of its existence it was isolated from the rest of the world from December 1 until May 10 by the fearful blizzards that piled the snow forty feet deep on the railroad tracks. It was at risk of life that anyone went even a mile from shelter, for the storms came up so quickly and were so fierce it was literally
impossible to see the hand before the face, and men had frozen to death within a few feet of shelter because they did not know they were near safety.” –from The Hard Winter, Feb 1917
|“The snow was scudding low over the drifts of the white world outside the little claim shanty. It was blowing through the cracks in its walls and forming little piles and miniature drifts on the floor, and even on the desks before which several children sat, trying to study; for this abandoned claim shanty, which had served as the summer home of a homesteader on the Dakota prairie, was being used as a schoolhouse during the winter… I was only sixteen years old and twelve miles from home during a frontier winter…” –from Christmas When I Was Sixteen, Dec 1924|
The collected articles also give additional looks at Laura’s memories of her childhood years, with a touch of nostalgia to them that supplements well the “Little House” books. The reader can see the stories and memories coalescing and forming into the tales she eventually wrote into fictionalized book form.
|“The little white daisies with their hearts of gold grew thickly along the path where we walked to Sunday school. Father and sister and I used to walk the two and a half miles every Sunday morning… I have forgotten what I was taught on those days also. I was only a little girl, you know. But I can still see the grass and the trees and the path winding ahead, flecked with sunshine and shadow and the beautiful golden-hearted daisies scattered all along the way.”Ah well! That was years ago, and there have been so many changes since then that it would seem such simple things should not be forgotten; but at the long last, I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones
after all.” –from Sweet Williams, July 1917
|“Bringing home the cows is the childhood memory that oftenest recurs to me. I think it is because the mind of a child is peculiarly attuned to the beauties of nature, and the voices of the wildwood, and the impression they made was deep… I am sure old Mother Nature talked to me in all the languages she knew when, as a child, I loitered along the cow paths, forgetful of milking time and stern parents waiting, while I gathered wildflowers, waded in the creek, watched the squirrels hastening to their homes in the treetops, and listened to the sleepy twitterings of the birds…
Life was not intended to be simply a round of work, no matter how interesting and important that work may be. A moment’s pause to watch the glory of a sunrise or a sunset is soul satisfying, while a bird’s song will set the steps to music all day long.” –from Going After the Cows, April 1923
Not all the articles are about her memories of childhood. We get a solid look at the adult Laura had become. She was a strong, confident women who firmly believed that women were equal partners of men and every bit as competent to take their places in any part of the business or political world. But, she realistically qualifies that with admonishments to women to be their own people and to learn, study, and grow. Much of Laura’s advice and observations are every bit as valid and useful now as they were when she wrote them in the last century.
In every regard this was an extremely enjoyable book to read, both for the “Little House” insights and memories, and for the new and delightful view of this excellent writer and her timeless writing.
Editor Stephen W. Hines deserves to be commended for bringing these articles by Laura Ingalls Wilder back to the public.