Thursday, March 29, 2018

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Farmer Boy
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1933

"When a man undertakes a job, he has to stick to it till he finishes it." ~ Father
Farmer Boy tends to be a popular favorite of the Little House series. It is a charming story, written by Laura as a compilation of childhood tales about her husband; I wonder what Almanzo thought of it.

I love to read Farmer Boy for the great quotes about work, life, and America. I won't write a synopsis this time because you can read that HERE.

Almanzo
Instead, here are some of my favorite sections, with the help of Laura Ingalls Wilder's whimsical writing skill. For example, Almanzo, age 9, and his sister Alice (close to his age) were working in the field when Almanzo, observing how his sister had to wear a dress while she worked, asked if she didn't want to be a boy. She first answered yes, but changed her mind. She added,
"Boys aren't pretty like girls, and they can't wear ribbons."
"I don't care how pretty I be," Almanzo said. "And I wouldn't wear ribbons anyhow."
"Well, I like to  make butter and I like to patch quilts, and cook, and sew, and spin. Boy's can't do that. But even if I be a girl, I can drop potatoes and sow carrots and drive horses as well as you can." 
So there.

Almanzo was so eager to grow up and be responsible. He did love to care for the farm animals:
He helped to feed the patient cows, and the horses eagerly whinnying over the bars of their stalls, and the hungrily bleating sheep, and the grunting pigs. And he felt like saying to them all: "You can depend on me. I'm big enough to take care of you all."
When Almanzo asked his father why he did not hire out the work of threshing, using a machine, his father explained how that was work for the lazy man who rather have more time on his hands than prevent waste and do a good job.
"All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?"
"No," said Almanzo. He had enough of that on Sundays. 
My favorite, favorite section I copied into my journal was the whole lecture on Independence Day. It is too long to record here, but to shorten it . . . on July Fourth, the town had a celebration and lit the cannons.
"That's the noise that made the Redcoats run!" Mr. Paddock said to Father." 
Father replied that muskets may have won the Revolution, but it was axes and plows that made America. Almanzo wanted to know what he meant. Father explained that the War was fought for a little strip of land, but "it was farmers who went over the mountains and cleared the land and settled it and farmed it, and hung on to their farms." Yes, it was Indian Territory, and the Spanish, French, and English owned parts of it, but they weren't interested in developing the land like the farmers were.

There's something to say about a farmer. That was what Almanzo aspired to be when he grew up.

And he did.

Almanzo and Laura at Rocky Ridge Farm, 1940s

10 comments:

  1. Lovely post. I love the image at the end. True enough: he did what he set out to do. I just reread this one with my mom over Christmas. :)

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    1. I still wonder what Almanzo thought of Laura's story. Did he have any input, aside from sharing all of his childhood stories? Did she read it aloud to him when it was done? What did he think? I bet he had a good laugh. If I had more time, I'd do more digging.

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  2. My favorite part is where he nearly falls into the river, and is scolded for being careless, because a great big 9yo boy ought to know better. I wonder how many of us would consider our 9yos quite old enough to be using some common sense.

    I don't think they fire off an anvil at the Fourth of July celebration, do they? That was a common thing to do back then and now I can't remember if it was mentioned. My mom wrote up a blog post about it once: https://goldfieldsbooks.com/2013/03/24/anvil-firing/

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    1. Jean, that was really interesting. I've read of that somewhere, but I do not recall the firing of the anvil in Farmer Boy, especially b/c they had the real thing, and several of them.

      Nine-year old common sense was definitely a lot younger during Almanzo's time. I'm just now beginning to see glimmers of common sense dawning in my teenagers. : /

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  3. Definitely one of my favorite LIW books! My husband keeps trying out various recipes inspired by or mentioned in this book because he's fascinated by them :-)

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    1. Farmer Boy has the best ideas for recipes. We made taffy and donuts when we did our Little House school year.

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  4. I love those passages you singled out here. Yes, Alice gets her own back on why it's good to be a girl :) And it's great to see someone like Father in action, who works hard, but teaches his children about the value of what he's doing at each step. What a guy.

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    1. Boys need more fathers like him.

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  5. Always a favorite book. Near where my parents live in Florida is a site where Almanzo and Laura briefly lived. I think the heat was too much for them.

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    1. They relocated to Florida after Manny's stroke b/c the cold weather was not good for him; but it obviously did not work out. I'm glad they preserved the site in honor of their memory. :)

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