Sunday, March 27, 2016

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Farmer Boy
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1933
Little House Read-Along

The third book in the Little House Read-Along was Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder's retelling of about one year during her husband Almanzo's childhood.  It is sweet to imagine Almanzo sharing his stories with Laura, as she collected them in her heart, until one day she decided to tell this story. 

Farmer Boy provides ample lessons in idleness, waste, cheating, lying, prudence, diligence, financial responsibility, independence, self-sufficiency, entitlement, and accountability.  But (not surprisingly) Farmer Boy is mainly about farming (which is hard, physical labor) and good food.  Little Almanzo thought of food a lot, and no wonder!  With the work he and his family were required to do daily to maintain their farm, they developed mighty appetites.  (I once read that families like Almanzo's ate well over 1,200 calories at each meal.  God help me if I surpass that caloric intake in one day.)

Almanzo
Look at this passage:
In just a minute Mother's candle-light shone on the stairs and she was calling.  Another day had begun.
There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play.  The life of the earth comes up with a rush of springtime.  All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree, are trying to take the fields.  Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly.
Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle.  From dawn to dark he worked, from dark to dawn he slept, then he was up again and working.
Farming was in Almanzo's blood.  When a shop owner in town asked Almanzo's father if he may apprentice Almanzo, we are reminded of why Laura titled the book Farmer Boy.  After Father shared the news with Mother, she exploded!  (I totally love this woman.)
"Well!"  Mother snapped.  She was all ruffled, like an angry hen.  "A pretty pass the world's coming to, if any man thinks it's a step up in the world to leave a good farm and go to town!  How does Mr. Paddock make his money, if it isn't catering to us?  I guess if he didn't make wagons to suit farmers, he wouldn't last long!"
"That's true enough, "  said Father.  "But - "
"There's no 'but' about it!"  Mother said.
Later on in the conversation...because Mother was not done...
"I feel the same way you do," said Father.  "But the boy'll have to decide."
And later still...
"He's too young to know his own mind," Mother objected.
Almanzo took another big mouthful of pie.  He could not speak till he was spoken to, but he thought to himself that he was old enough to know he'd rather be like Father than like anybody else.
Before Father asked Almanzo what he wanted to do, he explained to him both sides of being a Farmer, good and bad.  He said,
A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather.  If you're a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber.  You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come.  You'll be free and independent, son, on a farm.   
My favorite illustration of Almanzo.  Always thinking of food.

On Independence Day, Almanzo asked his Father,
"...how was it axes and plows...made this country?  Didn't we fight England for it?"
"We fought for Independence, son," Father said.  "But all the land our forefathers had was a little strip of country, here between the mountains and the ocean.  All the way from here west was Indian country, and Spanish and French and English country.  It was farmers that took all that country and made it America."
"How?" Almanzo asked.
"It was farmers that went over the mountains, and cleared the land, and settled it, and farmed it, and hung on to their farms."
"It's the biggest country in the world, and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America, son.  Don't you ever forget that."
Almanzo James Wilder

 And as you may well already know, Almanzo did choose farming for his livelihood.

3 comments:

  1. I love the pictures you've included in your review, Ruth! And I love how you quote Dad's explanation of the differences between farming and other careers. I do believe it is either 'in your blood' or not. As I think I mentioned in my review, I miss it greatly, but changes occur... So glad you're with us in this Read-Along!

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    1. Thanks, Lynn.

      Farming must be in one's blood b/c otherwise, you're in for a surprise. It is not easy ever. Even today w/ the equipment and technology farmers can use; they still have to get up before the sun. They probably work past sundown, too, now that we have electricity.

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    2. Agreed! It's never been easy, especially if you don't chemicalize your land to death! :)

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