Life Lessons from Little House

braids copyThe news that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s annotated autobiography Pioneer Girl is scheduled for release in November has me all fired up. I can’t remember when I started reading the Little House on the Prairie series, but it was early. I loved them and reread them often. Laura was my Harry Potter, and she could probably have given the little pointy-headed, snake charmer a run for his money.

If she’d had a wand.

The scuttlebutt is that the actual tale to be told about the Ingalls is something more akin to a Real Housewives of Silver Lake or Survivor, Big Woods series than the wholesome recounting of life in a hardscrabble little town that we’re all more familiar with.

Whatever. Even if Pa was a philanderer, or Mary sniffed chalk dust, Half Pint and her crew can do no wrong in my eyes, and I can’t wait to catch up with them.

Which got me thinking about life lessons from Little House.

Dad can pretty much call you whatever he wants. Being called “strong as a little French horse” – or likened to an 8-ounce container for that matter – are high praise if they come from your Pa.

Despite my really low parenting standards, my kids still have a better chance of survival now than back in the day. Good children then were not prideful, selfish or sassy. They didn’t mind being poor or sharing or slate pencils at school. They listened to and minded their parents, and didn’t speak unless spoken too. They might also wander off and get lost in the prairie or burn down the family home on accident.

I wouldn’t know Scarlet Fever from Malaria. Scarlet fever can make you go blind, and Malaria comes from eating watermelon. Well, no. But I wouldn’t be the first idiot who believed medical references from the series most of my life. Check out my fellow Little House aficionado who held onto her notion of the connection between scarlet fever and blindness well into medical school.

We’re not honoring the Sabbath properly. Sunday is not a free day to catch up on the housework while watching Sharknado on cable. In fact, any work or fun at all are big, fat, no-nos. Instead, we should be reciting Bible passages and enjoying our cold porridge while sitting and staring at each other and reflecting on things like scarlet fever and children who get lost on the prairie.

Materialism’s pointless on the prairie. Even if the only other toy you’ve ever owned in your life is a corn cob, Ma will give away your first real doll if the poor neighbor girl decides she likes it. You’ll eventually get her back, somewhat worse for wear. But Ma will feel so bad about being so mean about the whole doll thing, she’ll help you make a necklace of shiny buttons.

Which she’ll then make you give to your sister as a Christmas present.

Grasshoppers are assholes. They will eat all your crops and spit tobacco juice on your gingham dress. They visit Minnesota in swarms that block out the sun, even though you may have kept the Sabbath holy and appreciated your corn-cob toys like good children.

When Nature calls … she might be trying to kill you. In South Dakota, winters can dip to minus forty, and people have been known to freeze just trying to find their way back from the outhouse. I’m sorry, but between the grasshoppers and the blizzards, I cannot fathom why anyone would ever live in Minnesota or South Dakota. Even with the promise of material for a series of children’s books, that’s still hardcore.

When it’s winter and food supplies run low, you can use a coffee grinder to grind grain into flour. You’ll have to twist cornhusks to burn when the wood has run out, so the fact that you have no coffee to grind anyway will seem like the least of your problems.

This has actually been helpful information – the coffee grinder thing. I received two coffee grinders for our wedding and was too lazy to exchange one of them. Later, when the kids were screaming for cinnamon toast and I didn’t have any ground cinnamon, I whipped out the extra coffee grinder, wrenched some cinnamon sticks off a dusty Christmas centerpiece, and voila! Cinnamon-toast for breakfast and one less Christmas decoration to put away.

I’m all kinds of crafty like that, thanks to the Ingalls.

Of course, I just might go to Hell for comparing a situation in which I’m too lazy to roll off the couch and go to the store for cinnamon to a seven month-long winter on the prairie without supplies.

I’m just saying, I’ve had some insight on the hardship thing, and I’m sharing it with you, okay? Don’t judge.

Real men will drive a wagon twelve miles in a blizzard to take you home from your crappy job so you can visit your parents on the weekends, like Almonzo did for Laura.

Since Mike and I have never actually experienced a blizzard in our 23 years of marriage, nor have we any idea how to hitch up a team, I haven’t been able to find out if he’s a real man yet.

I mean, I have proven I can grind random stuff in a coffee grinder to survive. Now it’s his turn to prove himself. Amaright?


Just kidding. I’ll keep Mike around regardless of the weather. Just vote, if you wouldn’t mind. It motivates me to keep writing strange crap. I guess that means you only have yourselves to blame.

Anyway, thank you.


You may also like

No comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I love this! I LOVE Laura Ingalls so much as well. I read all the books and watched every episode of the show!

    I love, love, love all of the life lessons! Ha ha. I especially love the grasshopper and outhouse one. I COULD never have been a pioneer. Yikes.

    1. Thanks, Mel! Sometimes, when I think I\’m tough, I think about sewing my own clothes and reading by lamplight, and I realize I\’m a big weanie.

      If my husband wanted to be a pioneer and leave the safe haven of our community, I\’d have been wishing him well and waving goodbye.

  2. Still trying to catch my breath from laughing so hard! My kids had to come running to see what was so funny. Well, the whole thing, but the part about grinding a Christmas ornament for cinnamon just slayed me! Thanks so much for this post. It was one of the high points of my weekend!

  3. I rocked those braids as well. And considered it high praise when people told me I looked like Laura. Of course, I will never forget the book that opens with the fact that Mary is blind and Jack (the dog) is dead. Talk about trauma.