Long Winter? I Think Not

Saturday was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 148th birthday. Being an obsessed fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, I had a very visceral reaction to the Google doodle, which was made out of some kind of textile. First, I uncharitably thought that the textile image was some cheesy nod to being a pioneer. Other doodles don’t get that kind of patronizing treatment. Then I got mad because in the scene Laura and Mary are next to each other, with Laura in front, but still close to Mary; yet she’s noticeably taller than Mary. Laura is the younger sister and she shouldn’t be taller, even given the perspective of the scene. (I told you I was obsessed). Third, Mary is holding a stick with a ribbon on it. That’s just plain ridiculous. They never played with a stick with a ribbon on it. If there were a scrap of ribbon around, and that was a big “if,” she would have put it on her corn husk doll, not tied it to a stick to run around with. On top of it all, the proper visuals for Little House on the Prairie, as anyone with any brain cells knows, are the marvelous illustrations of Garth Williams. Although the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was originally published in 1932, a revised edition with Williams’s drawings was published in 1953, and then again in 1970, which is the version I have. Sadly, I only have the slowly disintegrating paperbacks that I painstakingly bought over a period of years, on an allowance of 25 cents a week. I know it sounds like those stories of being a pioneer and walking 10 miles in the snow to school, but it’s true. And at $1.50 a pop, plus tax and having to wait for the trip to the mall, that was a labor of serious book love. It should not be a big surprise that I could slip comfortably into an indignant rant about this weird doodle.

But then I clicked on Google doodle link.

And of course it was a fascinating (and I begrudgingly admit fitting) story about twins Jack and Holman Wang, the creators. They are about my age and remembered the show fondly. Harrumph! The image depicted is loosely based on the opening credits of the TV show. Hmpf. The fabric was created by needle felting, a labor-intensive process that enables sculpting with wool. All right, all right. Uncle! I still went to my bookshelf and pulled out the books to look at them again. Look at the real illustrations.

The Google doodle was timely–Laura Ingalls and her books have been on my mind this past month as part of my no-heat saga. If you missed it, my house was approximately 60 degrees for about three weeks—not life threatening, but certainly annoying. One of the thoughts that kept me calm was comparing it to a couple of winters described in the Laura Ingalls books. The scenes are so vivid and well written, you can’t have been a kid and read them and forgotten. In fact, a friend had a similar thought when she was reading my no-heat blog posts. For her the stand out scene was during a days-long blizzard and Pa had to hold on to and follow a rope from the house to the barn to feed the animals. It wasn’t that far away, but the wind was so severe and the visibility so bad, Pa could have easily gotten disoriented and frozen until spring. Which at that time on the prairie came in July.

For me there are two other scenes that made me feel like my no-heat situation was the height of decadence. In one of the houses they lived in, Laura and Mary slept in a loft in the same bed with like 100 quilts. One morning they woke up to snow on the quilt. Snow. On the top quilt. It had come through the cracks in the roof. Think about that for a minute. Um, yeah, 60 degrees is a pretty lame thing to complain about.

The other scene that I remember is in The Long Winter, which I should reread because we here in New England are definitely feeling like we are reliving it. We’re not, and here’s why: For Laura that winter on the prairie was an ongoing series of blizzards that lasted three and four days. As a kid I was astonished that a blizzard could even last that long, never mind have them one after the other. The trains from the east couldn’t get through, and the supplies dwindled, including firewood. But they did have hay and Pa devised a way to twist lengths of hay into hard sticks they could burn. Of course it burned quickly, so Laura and Pa had to twist hay whenever they weren’t doing anything else to survive. It kind of blew my kid mind. And if that wasn’t hard enough, when they weren’t twisting hay, they had to grind up wheat kernels into flour. Constant hours of survival tediousness for months. Wicked fun.

As I stare down the naked barrel of yet another multi-day storm that will dump up to two feet of snow in the Boston area, I realize not only have I completely mangled that metaphor, but I have also very little to complain about. I have to hoist snow up a five-foot pile. I have to work from home. I have to negotiate two-way streets that the snow has reduced to one lane. Boo hoo. Laura turned 148 on Saturday, and if she were here, I’m sure she’d brush the snow off her quilt, turn over and tell me what I could do with that pile of twisted hay sticks she made while I was moaning about shoveling. Happy birthday Laura.

Photo credit: http://www.guy-sports.com/humor/christmas/christmas_snow.htm 


  1. Having seen the Google thing, I admit I was waiting for an Ingalls blog, and I dig the way you brought your two worlds together. But even more I dig the way you see the world through the fiction that matters to you, The world needs more of that all the time.

  2. Thanks Lin! I may blog about Ingalls at some point because those books were the reason I realized it was OK to write about my life.
    I haven’t yet thought about it enough to write anything entertaining, but I will! I’m working on that so what factor 😉

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