Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

The Road From Coorain
Jill Ker Conway
Published 1989

All I want to do is gush over this book, and convince you to read it, as opposed to write a detailed narrative about it.  I will do my best to do a little of both, without the details.

Because I did not know who Jill Ker Conway was, I did not purchase a copy of this book to keep forever; instead, I borrowed a copy from the library.  Sheepishly, I admit, I marked (in pencil) all over its pages, and before I return it, will need to erase each evidence of my excitement and pleasure and agreement.

Jill Ker Conway was born 1934, and grew up in the outback of Australia.  She had two typical older brothers and loving parents.   Her parents owned thousands of acres of land and raised sheep for their livelihood. Theirs was a life of isolated loneliness, hardship, and disappointment because they were distant from civilization and continuously at the mercy of the rough environment and unforgiving climate.  In addition, they lived through WWII.  Readers of the West will experience a different perspective of the war from the eyes of an Australian.  It was quite frightening.  

Nonetheless, Jill's mother educated her young daughter, providing her with the tools to become self-sufficient, independent, and intelligent.  She immersed Jill in literature and history.  When Jill was eventually sent to school, she was far beyond the education of her peers; but she was also socially inept.

Then tragedy struck their family, not once, but twice - it was heartbreaking and shocking.  (I won't say what; you'll have to read it yourself).  

The bulk of the Jill's story is about her struggles - struggles with her social awkwardness; her overbearing, overwhelming mother (yes, the one who provided her with such independence, determination, and necessary survival skills); her own personal rebelliousness; and later, her struggle with society, as it was in her time.   It was a world that told her there was no place for her kind - an intelligent, independent, serious woman. Society (both men and women) did not know what to do with her, how to treat her, how to speak to her, or where to place her.

The one thing she was determined to do most was to write about the true history of Australia; but Australia was not ready (according to Jill) to listen to an intelligent woman.  They did not expect her to know.  Yet, this was a turning point in her adult life.  The wonderful determining spirit of Jill Ker Conway thought: if I can't do what I want here (in Australia), I will find the place where I can; and she went to Harvard, in America, leaving the land she loved, tearing away from her mother's grip, in the process.  On the day of her departure, Jill said to herself,
I was leaving because I didn't fit in, never had, and wasn't likely to.  I didn't belong for many reasons.  I was a woman who wanted to do serious work and have it make a difference.  I wanted to think about Australia in a way that made everyone else uncomfortable.  I loved my native earth passionately and was going into emotional exile, but there was no turn of political or military fortune which could bring me back in triumph.  I was going to another country, to begin all over again.
While this is the end of this particular autobiography, it is only the beginning of Jill's story.  She goes on to accomplish great works, and her ideal of being taken seriously as an intelligent woman, with something to contribute to the world, comes to fruition.  I greatly admire her because her kind of feminism is one of determination and purpose. Even through her hardships, obstacles, and defeats, she remained firm and resolved.  Oh, yes, she was angry - frustrated by her circumstances - but she knew her capabilities and her worth. When she was not taken seriously, she moved on.  Her purpose was to accomplish what needed to be done, even though it meant leaving the place she loved.  

When I finished this book, I ordered my very own copy; yesterday it arrived.  This is one story I will gratefully read again.  

Portrait of Jill Ker Conway, by Sarah Belchetz-Swenson, 1987

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The First Four Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1971

Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957.  Afterward, her manuscript for The First Four Years was found, and it was decided by the publishing company and a close family friend to publish this final story of The Little House series.  It has an incomplete and melancholy feeling compared to the previous eight books, but my third read settled on an optimistic closure to Laura's stories.  

The First Four Years began a retelling of Laura's and Almanzo's wedding day, in 1885.  Laura expressed that she did not want to marry a farmer.  Proverbs must have been popular in those days because Manly, Laura's nickname for Almanzo, used them like Pa and Ma: "Everything is evened up in the end . . ."  He claimed, "Farmer's are independent," and he promised that if the farming failed after three years, he would quit and do whatever Laura wanted.  

Manly provided a ready-to-move-in home for Laura, and she "looked the place over with the pride of possession."  Often times, when Laura felt anxious about the finances or the farming or the trees not growing, she reminded herself not to worry; Manly didn't.  

Laura did not always agree with Almanzo.  For example, he lent every tool that a needy neighbor asked for, even knowing the borrower may never return it.  When Laura thought the same neighbor would ask for a hog to scald, Laura sarcastically thought she would give it to him if he asked because she knew Manly would have given it.  When a terrible hail storm struck, Manly suggested they make ice cream.  Laura facetiously asked her visitor if she felt like celebrating, and the woman replied, "No!  I want to get home and see what happened there.  Ice cream would choke me." And later, Manly purchased a beautiful clock during a time when Laura was adding up doctor bills and costs for medicine.  She questioned his judgment, but he was not concerned.  

In their second year of marriage, Laura had a baby girl, Rose, whom she absolutely adored. Nonetheless, there was still plenty of concern about expenses.  Laura did not agree that they could afford a new stove, though she resigned that to be "Manly's business."  That's what I say, myself, when I disagree with my husband's purchases: "It's on him."   

At one point Almanzo and especially Laura were very sick with diphtheria.  Rose was spared and remained with Laura's mother.  But Almanzo suffered a stroke soon after because he overexerted himself before he was fully recovered.  Thereafter, Laura needed to help Manly with his work until he could use his hands again.  

Now there were more doctor bills, and those stupid trees weren't doing very well.  They needed more cultivation and babysitting.  Almanzo had to sell the homestead to a buyer, and he and Laura moved back to the tree claim.  Then they got into the sheepherding business.   Apparently, it was an election year and a Democrat was likely to win the White House.  "Mr. Whitehead, being a good Republican, was sure the country would be ruined.  The tariff would be taken off, and the wool and sheep would be worth nothing."  They sold Laura's colt to help buy 100 sheep, with cousin Peter, who shepherded the sheep on their property.   

In the fourth year of marriage - the year of grace, Laura called it - the crops were mostly failures.  The treacherous wind storms were a problem for the sheep, as they would roll over and over, unable to get up.  Then Laura found out she was pregnant again, which was never a pleasant time for her. Thankfully, a neighbor brought over a load of books for her to read, which was like medicine for her condition.
And now the four walls of the close, overheated house opened wide, and Laura wandered with brave knights and ladies fair beside the lakes and streams of Scotland or in castles and towers, in noble halls or lady's bower, all through the enchanting pages of Sir Walter Scott's novels.
She forgot to feel ill at the sight or smell of food, in her hurry to be done with the cooking and follow her thoughts back into the book. 
The grief of farm life continued, although she must not let her pride be a burden.  The trees were mostly lost, and Manly could not "prove-up"; he had to pre-empt the land.  Soon after, Laura delivered her baby boy, who died three weeks later.  She described the days that followed as "mercifully blurred."   Another day, a fire started in the kitchen of their claim shanty, which consumed their house and almost everything in it.  Laura felt like a failure.

Some pages back, Laura lamented how she hated farming.  During a time of weakness, she thought,
How could [I] ever keep up the daily work and still go through what was ahead.  There was so much to be done and only [myself] to do it.  [I] hate the farm and the stock and the smelly lambs, the cooking of food and the dirty dishes.  Oh, [I] hate it all, and especially the debts that must be paid whether [I] work or not.
Now after some painful suffering, and at the end of four years of farm life, Laura pondered:
It would be a fight to win out in this business of farming, but strangely she felt her spirit rising for the struggle.
The incurable optimism of the farmer who throws his seed on the ground every spring, betting it and his time against the elements, seemed inextricably to blend with the creed of her pioneer forefathers that 'it is better farther on' - only instead of farther on in space, it was farther on in time, over the horizon of the years ahead instead of the far horizon of the west.
She was still the pioneer girl and she could understand Manly's love of the land through its appeal to herself.
"Oh well," Laura sighed, summing up her idea of the situation in a saying of her Ma's: "Well always be farmers, for what is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh." 
I must admit that I literally was grieved for Laura and wanted her to return to her little girl days of times past - to return to the comforts and securities of home, with Ma and Pa; but Laura, being more mature and responsible than I was at 19, was proud to be the mistress of her own domain and optimistic about the future.  

This may be the end of The Little House series, but it is not the end of Laura's and Almanzo's story, that we know. She left journals and articles and letters beyond the first four years on that first farm in South Dakota.  My family and I visited their homes in Mansfield, Missouri.  Unfortunately, you cannot take pictures inside the homes, but it was wonderful and exciting.  If you ever are in the neighborhood, don't miss the opportunity to experience it.

Home of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder:




My daughter, standing under one of the
many surviving apple trees
that the Wilder's planted on their property.

Rocky Ridge , the home that Rose had built for her parents:




This is a little ice house that Almanzo built
on a stream that ran through their property.
It still stands today.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriquez by Richard Rodriquez

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
Richard Rodriguez
Published 1982

In honor of Richard Rodriquez, though I did not know it, yet, I checked his autobiography out of the library.  

Richard Rodriguez was born (1944) in San Francisco, California, to Mexican immigrant parents. As a six-year old child with limited use of the English language, he was disconnected from the American public.  That changed when he attended Catholic school, and Irish nuns forced (and his parents encouraged) him to learn and speak English publicly, even privately at home; this altered his life drastically.  He traded his private life for a public one.  He ceased being a minority, in a cultural sense, when he decided to use his public voice and take advantage of his educational benefits.  

Mr. Rodriguez covers quite a few major social topics in his book : 
public v. private lives, 
minority status (class v. race), 
religion (Catholicism and Protestantism), 
Affirmative Action programs, 
and (my favorite) 
literature. 
Reading through his autobiography was like having a pleasant conversation with Mr. Rodriguez about these issues.  As he presented his experiences and ideas and opinions, I thought about them and most of the time agreed with him. Yet, even if I did not agree, I still appreciated the conversation.  

Mr. Rodriguez thought it was personally unfair for him to be considered a minority - and receive benefits through Affirmative Action programs - simply because of his Mexican heritage, when he had more opportunities than those who were living in poverty, including poor non-minorities.  People, he said, are stuck in poverty because they are not taught to use their public voice; opportunities are not available to them because they remain immoveable in their private lives, kept apart (in order to preserve their identity) from the rest of the American culture.  Instead, they must be encouraged to mix publicly, in language and culture, rather than being stuck in their own private worlds.

Speaking of mixing, he does not like racial labels either because he believes we are all a little bit like one another.  If we study our histories deeply, we find that our stories are intertwined, not separate; maybe we are not all that diverse after all.  

On a personal note, for example: when I read early American history (when American colonists were British), I cannot help but feel a kin to Britain, even though my Italian ancestors did not come to America until the late 1800s and early 1900s.  British history is my history, too. And when I read Russian lit, I feel a little Russian.  What connects us all together is the human story that we relate to.  We are all connected - and I would add, we are all mixing.  Today there are no names for these mixed races and cultures and histories, and yet some want to label people with words that do not even describe us anymore.

Mr. Rodriguez related his personal struggle with skin color, especially because his mother was most conscientious of his dark complexion.  It reminded me of how my brother and I were teased for our dark complexion, where we grew up in a predominately Irish neighborhood in Brooklyn.  It did not really bother me, but today every one seems extremely sensitive at the mention of their skin color or race.  To repeat: we are all mixing anyway, and soon there will be no names for us anymore.  

One final point about Mr. Rodriguez that I like most is his love for literature.  When he mastered the English language (at an early age), he read voraciously for information.  Yet, when he matured, he developed a love and appreciation for literature, unlike reading for information.  

In 1998, he gave a speech on University of California TV about books and learning.   He said, "You are not alone when you are reading a library book.  Think of all the people who have read that book. Library books are about connecting lives."  And finally he said (in reference to his youthful quest for knowledge), 
"Books are written, one on top of one another.  Books are relational, intimate, personal, and are about the soul, . . . not about information."
If you want to delve more into these topics, pick up a copy of Hunger of Memory, by Richard Rodriguez, and join the conversation.    

Richard Rodriguez

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Back-to-School Freebie: Ten Books for Required Reading

Back to School Freebie: Ten Books for Required Reading
(for higher education)

I've done something like this before, but I didn't look at my previous list; therefore, I am sure I came up with some different books this second time around.  So you understand, I have a bent toward Western-Civ, and if you're in my classroom, there's a lot of traditional Westernized-classic lit and history going on here.  

Fiction:

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Stowe gives everyone in America a good scolding 
over slavery and Christianity.

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
The most important WWI fiction you should read.

Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion - Jane Austen
Either one will do.

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
The War and Peace of the American Civil War Era.

Far From the Madding Crowd or Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy
Hardy wanted to be a poet.  You can tell.

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Makes you want to read Russian lit.  

"The Crucible" - Arthur Miller
Yeah, why did Miller really write this, 
and why did he pick on the Puritans?

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
A joyous story about forgiveness and redemption.

The Age of Innocence or The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton
Just read Wharton.

1984 - George Orwell
One of the BEST in dystopian lit.

BONUS:

Germinal - Émile Zola
Dare to read this one.

Non-Fiction:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Harriet Jacobs
Harriet Jacobs' amazing autobiography of determination 
to escape slavery and save her children.

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass - Frederick Douglass
Another autobiography from an ex-slave who stood up to injustice.

Up From Slavery - Booker T. Washington
Born into slavery, Washington went on to be a voice for freedom and liberty.

Walden - Henry David Thoreau
Maybe a little self-centered, but definitely an introspective, quiet book.

Confessions - Augustine
Augustine's life story about his struggle with sin and conviction.

Bonhoeffer - Eric Metaxas
WWII pastor and spy, accused of plotting to kill Hitler.  
Is it ever right for pastors to plot to kill?

The Four Voyages - Christopher Columbus
Everyone hates Columbus, and they don't even know why.  
That prejudice is based on lies.  

The Gulag Archipelago - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A Russian soldier survives the Gulag and writes about it.

The Journals of Lewis and ClarkMeriwether Lewis & William Clark
Find out what it takes to run a tight ship.

Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
The true story about WWII hero, Louis Zamperini.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The Dressmaker of Khair Kana
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Published 2011
Book Club

I read this book for my local (in person) book club.  It was a true story (written in story format) about a family of sisters living in Afghanistan, at a time when the Taliban came into power in their part of the country.  Laws changed drastically overnight, for women and girls, of course: they could no longer attend school, work outside of the home, leave the house without an escort (usually a male), and they had to wear the stupid chadri in public (see image).  

Chadri (Afghanistan)*
 *Don't tell me women WANT to wear this.  
Why don't men put a sheet over their head and try to live!  
Sorry, I'm inserting my emotions again.

To earn an income - essentially, to EAT - the main character, Kamila, turned her home into a shop and employed her sisters (and even a few neighborhood women and girls who needed work to earn a living, too) as seamstresses.  Kamila was instantly successful in finding shopkeepers in town to buy their dresses and suits, and soon she had a reputation as a savvy businesswoman.  


One day a bridal party, needing a wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses in only a few days, urgently approached her.  The bride was to marry a Taliban member.  Kamila understood that the Taliban now knew what she was doing in her home, and that they had accepted it, so long as she continued to keep a low profile and followed the rules for women. 

In addition to the political changes, several anxious events occurred during this time: Moussad, military leader of the Northern Resistance in Afghanistan, was assassinated, and September 11th, 2001, happened.  The assassination of Moussad meant the Taliban had a stronger hold on the country; and when the Taliban did not turn over Osama bin Laden, the United States began military attacks on Afghanistan.  Kamila and her family lived and worked anxiously under these conditions.

But there was a good turn of events, too.  Due to Kamila's clever and courageous entrepreneurship, U.N. Habitat, an institution in Afghanistan seeking to recruit women for a work project, approached her.  With permission by the Mob - I mean, Taliban - the organization would be able to teach girls the value of work (after the Taliban prohibited it).  Kamila's family was against her working with Habitat because . . . FEAR.  Rules changed every day, and one never knew when the Taliban would lash out at a woman for breaking a law that was suddenly altered.  

Once she was stopped at a checkpoint while traveling to Pakistan with Habitat.  Because they did not have a male escort, the Taliban threatened them with arrest and questioned their loyalty as Muslims.  With an AK-47 pointed at her forehead, Kamila used her cleverness to talk their way out of the predicament.  Her experiences had taught her that the Taliban could be reasoned with, "as long as one was polite, firm, and respectful."

Well, because of the attacks in Afghanistan by the U.S., the Taliban were on the run, and many cities were freed from their stronghold.  For some reason, men immediately shaved their beards, but women were still apprehensive about ditching the chadri.  FEAR.

Kamila continued her work with Habitat in her country, but next moved to international outreach within the United Nations and with global aid, Mercy Corps.  She was invited to participate in a two-week MBA program for Afghan businesswomen in the United States, and she even met Condoleezza Rice, who invited her to Washington D.C., to tell her own story to members of Congress, business people, and diplomats.  

Condelezza Rice and Kamila Sadiqi

But Kamila's desire was or has always been to help the people in her country, to educate them and create job opportunity, especially for women.  She said,
Money is power for women.  If women have their own income to bring to the family, they can contribute and make decisions.  Their bothers, their husbands, and their entire families will have respect for them.  It's so important in Afghanistan because women have always had to ask for money from men.  if we can give them some training, and an ability to earn a good salary, then we can change their lives and help their families.
It is a good story; unfortunately, it isn't riveting storytelling.  Nonetheless, I am really glad I read Kamila's point of view.  She is a remarkable woman.  She could have lived in utter FEAR, but she did not.  She stood out.  However, I do wonder about all of those women who do live in FEAR, under those regimes, whose stories are not being told?  I wish someone would tell those stories, too.

Kamila Sadiqi, 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books That Have Been on My (TBR) Bookshelf Forever!


Ten Books That Have Been on My (TBR) Bookshelf Forever!
(And they look the part.)



The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame - Victor Hugo

The Republic - Plato

The Last Days of Socrates - Plato

Politics - Aristotle 

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Idylls of the King - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

Of these ten, I will read Treasure Island with my kids, later this year, for our Exploration school year, and The Republic is part of my WEM Reading Challenge; but other than that, is there one I should move up on my TBR list?

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago
Boris Pasternak
Published 1957

I was intimidated to write about Doctor Zhivago; hence, I had been avoiding it like my nine-year old avoids brushing his teeth before bedtime.  It has been weeks since I finished this book and put it down to rest. What am I supposed to say? except this book is one of my more memorable reads this year, and maybe since I started reading classics four years ago.  Its emotion is magnified because I recently finished Solzhenitsyn's Gulag, which covers similar time periods and political and social themes of Soviet Russia.

This was a typical Russian literature experience for me, like with Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.  The characters and their names were many, the themes were profound, and the human relationships intertwined and complicated.  I completely loved it overall, though sometimes I was clueless about the Russian history.  That's ok.  Some day I will be abreast of Russian history.

Since I watched the 2002 film version of Zhivago before I read the book, I knew about the adultery within the story, which perplexed me.  Our main character, Yuri Zhivago, is supposed to our hero. He says and thinks almost all the right things, yet his adultery is unacceptable.  It was difficult to rectify that conflict.  I even felt stronger about it while reading the book than I did watching the movie.  How can this man be so corrupt in his marriage, and yet have admirable views about life, liberty, freedom, individuality, and art?  How can he seek what is good and commit what is so wrong at the same time? He is almost incredible.  I suppose that is what makes him a tragic hero.

Yuri, the tragic hero (from 2002 film version)

Adultery aside, Pasternak shares insightful ideas through his characters' words.  On life:
People who can say that have never understood a thing about life - they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat - however much they have seen or done.  They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded.  If you want to know life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it.
. . . about Russian society and Marxism:
I don't know a movement more self-centered and further removed from the facts than Marxism.  Everyone is worried only about proving himself in practical matters, and as for the men in power, they are so anxious to establish the myth of their infallibility that they do their utmost to ignore the truth.  
All customs and traditions, all our way of life, everything to do with home and order, has crumbled into dust in the general upheaval and reorganization of society.  The whole human way of life has been destroyed and ruined.  All that's left is the naked human soul stripped to the last shred, for which nothing has changed because it was always cold and shivering and reaching out to its nearest neighbor, as cold and lonely as itself.  
. . . untruth came down on our land of Russia. The main misfortune, the root of all the evil to come, was the loss of confidence in the value of one's own opinion.  People imagined that it was out of date to follow their own moral sense, that they must all sing in chorus, and live by other people's notions, notions that were being crammed down everybody's throat.
. . . on art:
. . . art always serves beauty, and beauty is delight in form, and form is the key to organic life, since no living thing can exist without it, so that every work of art, including tragedy, expresses the joy of existence.
. . . the "love" of Yuri and Lara (these two were made for each other):
Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth!  Their thoughts were like other people's songs.
They loved each other, not driven by necessity, by the "blaze of passion" often falsely ascribed to love.  They loved each other because everything around them willed it, the trees and the clouds and the sky over their heads and the earth under their feet.  
And that is just a raindrop in a deluge of ideas throughout the book.

The writing (translation by Max Hayward and Manya Harari) was perfect.   I loved it so much, even though it was tragic and left me shaking my head.  What people under duress will write!  Pasternak even rejected his 1958 Nobel Prize, due to threat of deportation by the Soviet government; meanwhile, Solzhenitsyn rebuked his fellow writer for declining the award.  But like Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak had a great love for Russia and, even with all its faults, couldn't bear to leave it.  (I don't blame him.) Later, in 1989, Pasternak's son accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of his father, as they had not removed his name from their records. 


Boris Pasternak (1890 -1960)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These Happy Golden Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1943

[My Little House posts are super long with lots of spoilers.  I cannot simply write a review; I have to relive each book.]

A friend looked at my bookshelves and asked me the dreaded question: "If you had to save one book from a fire, which book would you grab first?"  (And as I write this, there is a fast moving wildfire twelve miles from my house that we are monitoring.)

It's fire season in California

I automatically said my Bible.  She said, "Of course!" But of these books, which would you grab; and I said instantly, "My  Little House series."  And if I had to narrow it down, I would save These Happy Golden Years.  Yes, this is my absolute all-time favorite of all the Little House books.  This book fills me with such joy and happiness; I want to jump into Laura's shoes.

These Happy Golden Years opened with Laura starting her first teaching job.  (Reminder: she's fifteen.) Naturally, she doubted her abilities, but Pa said, "Success gets to be a habit, like anything else a fellow keeps on doing."  His advice was to think first, then speak and act afterward.

Laura's first day of school

She was to board at the Brewster's shanty, twelve miles away, for eight weeks.  That's a long sleepover for someone who has never been away from home before.  The worst part, however, was that "Mrs. Brewster was so unpleasant, Laura could hardly swallow (her dinner)." Laura referred to the Brewster's house as "horrid."  She discovered later that Mrs. Brewster was miserable because she hated living in the West.  At least Laura would be at school all day, five days a week; but then it hit her that she would be stuck at the Brewster's all weekend.  She would not be able to go home.  What a nightmare!

But that Friday afternoon, to Laura's surprise, Almanzo Wilder arrived in his sleigh to take Laura home for the weekend.  He drove twelve miles in freezing, icy wind and snow for her.  He also looked at the Brewster shanty in disgust.  (He hated Laura staying there.)  When Laura arrived home, she said she was so happy, "her throat ached.  She could hardly go to sleep."  Home was so happy, she wanted to stay there forever.

Almanzo drove Laura back to the Brewster's for week two, which was Laura's worst school week ever.  She could not manage her students.  Then she remembered how Miss Wilder must have felt when her classroom was out of control.  At the end of class on Friday, Almanzo took Laura home, and Laura had a long talk with her parents about her school.  Pa did his everybody's-free-you know-like-it-says-in-the-Declaration-of-Independence spiel, again.  He also added: 
1.) be patient, 
2.) see things [Clarence's] way, 
and 3.) don't force him.  
Ma shared: give way; don't pay attention to bad behavior; be pleasant and nice; and be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.  After Laura returned to school for week three, she applied her parents' advice, and it was a success. 

Every weekend Almanzo brought Laura home and back again to the Brewster's.  During one drive, Laura blurted out,
I am going with you only because I want to get home.  When I am home to stay, I will not go with you any more.  So now you know, and if you want to save yourself these long, cold drives, you can.
Yikes!  She could have kicked herself because she realized too late that it could mean being stuck another three weekends at the Brewster's.  In fact, that very week, in the middle of the night, Mrs. Brewster turned into Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction and threatened her husband with a knife.  Gratefully, Almanzo came for Laura on Friday, after all.  When she thanked him for coming, he replied, "No need for thanks.  You knew I would."  She answered, "Why, no, I didn't."  And he said, 
What do you take me for?  Do you think I'm the kind of a fellow that'd leave you out there at Brewster's when you're so homesick, just because there's nothing in it for me?
Let that sink in.

Laura completed her time at Brewster's, and Almanzo took her home on the last day.  That was supposed to be the last ride.  But Laura saw the young people sleigh riding up and down Main Street, and she thought she had been forgotten, until she heard the familiar sleigh bells of Prince and Lady. Almanzo invited her to go riding.  Laura was a sucker for beautiful horses, and she instantly changed her mind about "going with" Almanzo.

Meanwhile, Laura continued her education during the week and found other jobs to do on Saturdays in town, to continue earning money.  Every Sunday after church, she enjoyed the sleigh rides behind Prince and Lady.

One week, Laura's Uncle Tom visited the Ingalls family.  On that Sunday, Almanzo came to pick up Laura for a sleigh ride.  He was quiet for awhile, until he asked Laura whom "that young man was." Imagine that: Almanzo jealous!

Laura stayed several weeks with Mrs. McKee and her young daughter out on a claim shanty because Mrs. McKee was afraid to stay by herself while her husband worked in town. She complained that the man-made law was absurd.  As Laura described it, "The government bets a man a quarter-section of land, that he can't stay on it for five years without starving to death."  Mrs. McKee commented:
Nobody could.  Whoever makes these laws ought to know that a man that's got enough money to farm, has got enough to buy a farm.  If he hasn't got money, he's got to earn it, so why do they make a law that he's got to stay on a claim, when he can't?  All it means is, his wife and family have got to sit idle on it, seven months of the year.  I could be earning something, dressmaking, to help buy tools and seeds, if somebody didn't have to sit on this claim.  I declare to goodness, I don't know but sometimes I believe in women's rights.  If women were voting and making laws, I believe they'd have better sense.  
You can say that again!

Another day Mrs. McKee mentioned Almanzo, but Laura shrugged it off.  Mrs. McKee said, "Don't worry, an old bachelor doesn't pay so much attention to a girl unless he's serious.  You will marry him yet."  This shocked Laura, and she replied, "Oh, no!  No, indeed I won't! I wouldn't leave home to marry anybody."  

Laura liked the prospect of earning money for work.  Pa said, "That's the way it is once you begin to earn."  (It's liberating!)  Laura got another teaching certificate and taught a new school, closer to home, that spring.  She was so excited because she was paid a little more than a dollar a day.

But Laura still had a wandering spirit.  When she looked to the Wessington Hills, sixty miles away, she said, ". . . they make me want to go to them."  Her friend Ida replied, "When you got there they would be just hills . . ."
In a way, that was true; and in another way, it wasn't.  Laura could not say what she meant, but to her the Wessington Hills were more than grassy hills.  Their shadowy outlines drew her with the lure of far places.  They were the essence of a dream.
Walking home in the late afternoon, Laura still thought of the Wessington Hills, how mysterious their vague shadow was against the blue sky, far away across miles after miles of green rolling prairie.  She wanted to travel on and on, over those miles, and see what lay beyond the hills.
That was the way Pa felt about the West, Laura knew.  She knew, too, that like him she must be content to stay where she was, to help with the work at home and teach school. 
Back to reality, Laura continued her Sunday rides with Almanzo in the buggy.  One day he tried to make a move - ok, hardly a move; but he did try to put his arm around her, and she cut it short immediately.  She caused Almanzo's new wild colts to break into a run, and he was forced to put both hands back on the wheel - you know, the lines.  Almanzo concluded, "You're independent, aren't you?"  (He catches on quick.)

Once, Almanzo showed up on a Sunday afternoon with Nellie Olsen in his buggy.  Nellie chatted and giggled incessantly, cozying up to Almanzo.  The next Sunday, Nellie was in the buggy again.  Laura found her annoying, and knew she had to take action.  She sneakily spooked the colts into a run, and Nellie screamed with horror.  Laura thought, She would never try to hold [Almanzo], but no other girl was going to edge her out little by little without his realizing it.

Almanzo told Laura he would be back next Sunday and they would all go again.  Laura said, "We'll not all go.  If you wan to take Nellie for a drive, do so, but do not come by for me.  Good night."  And next Sunday he returned, without Nellie.  (The End.)

My favorite illustration of Manny and Laura

Almanzo bought two more new wild colts to tame, and Laura was brave to ride with him and even to learn to drive them.  He also took her to a new singing school, which was sort of like a date.  During one of those nights, Almanzo picked up Laura's hand and proposed to her, "I was wondering . . . if you would like an engagement ring."
"That would depend on who offered it to me,"  Laura told him.
"If I should?" Almanzo asked.
"Then it would depend on the ring," Laura answered and drew her hand away.
She had her ring next Sunday.  Ma said, "If only you are sure, Laura.  Sometimes I think it is the horses you care for, more than their master."  And Laura answered, "I couldn't have one without the other."

Almanzo had to go away to Minnesota for the winter, and Laura realized that she would miss him. She even felt a little insecure about him seeing old friends and girls he used to know.  (You know the feeling.)  On Christmas Eve he showed up unexpectedly, during a terrible snowstorm, but it was a wonderful reunion.  Almanzo admitted that he did not want to stay away so long.

Mary came home for another visit, and asked, "Do you really want to leave home to marry that Wilder boy?"  Laura contradicted her, "He isn't that Wilder boy anymore, Mary.  He is Almanzo." Mary persisted, "But why do you want to leave home and go with him?"  And Laura replied, "I guess it's because we just seem to belong together."

One day during church, a stray kitten and dog came into the building, and of all people, the kitten found shelter inside Laura's hoop skirt.  It took all Laura had not to break into laughter, and still Mary reproved Laura for violently shaking in silence.  After church, Mary rebuked, "Laura, I am surprised at you.  Will you never learn to behave yourself properly in church?"  And Laura replied, "No, Mary, I never will.  You might as well give me up as a hopeless case."  They all had a good laugh when she shared what actually happened.

Almanzo had urgent news.  His mother and sister were planning a big church wedding; to prevent that from happening, they needed to be married as soon as possible.  So they agreed to a quick wedding immediately.  First, Laura dropped a bomb:
Almanzo, I must ask you something.  Do you want me to promise to obey you?
Of course not.  I know it is in the wedding ceremony, but it is only something that women say.  I never knew one that did it, not any decent man that wanted her to.
Well, I am not going to say I will obey you.
Are you for women's rights, like Eliza?
No.  I do not want to vote.  But I cannot make a promise that I will not keep, and Almanzo, even if I tried, I do not think I could obey anybody against my better judgement.
The night before her wedding, Laura requested Pa play music.  He asked what she wanted to hear, and she answered, "Play for Mary first.  Then play all the old tunes, one after another, as long as you can."

The next morning she and Almanzo were married.  This was such a bittersweet time, saying goodbye to her home and family, to begin a new chapter in her life.  She once thought to herself, The last time always seems sad, but it isn't really.  The end of one thing is only the beginning of another.

When Almanzo and Laura were driving to their new home, as husband and wife, she only then realized that Almanzo had hitched Prince and Lady to the buggy, instead of the wild colts.  She exclaimed, "Why, you are driving Prince and Lady!" Almanzo replied,
Prince and Lady started this.  So I thought they'd like to bring us home.  And here we are.
On the first night in their new home, Laura's heart was full of happiness.   
"It is a wonderful night," Almanzo said.
"It is a beautiful world," Laura answered, and in memory she heard the voice of Pa's fiddle and the echo of a song,
"Golden years are passing by,
These happy, golden years." 


Manny and Laura, 1885