Monday, August 20, 2018

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These Happy Golden Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1943

In this episode of Laura's life, she was fifteen-years old, and Almanzo (almost ten years her senior) was courting her, though she did not know it. She took the job as schoolteacher on a claim twelve miles away, during winter, and had to board with a family she did not know. It may not have been so bad, living with this family, if it was not such a dreary, uninhabitable home; but because Laura wanted to earn the money to keep Mary in school, she bit her tongue and stuck it out. She must stay for six long weeks.

When the first weekend approached, she expected to survive her time with the Brewsters somehow; but at the close of Friday, jingle bells and beautiful horses rescued her. And Almanzo, too! For the remaining five weekends, Almanzo took Laura back to the Brewster's, and picked her up Friday afternoons to drive her home again.

I love how Laura laid down the law, after feeling guilty for Almanzo's efforts to drive his horses 24 miles in freezing weather, and "for nothing." One day she garnered the courage to tell him:
I'm 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. 
But he still came the next weekend to get her. Laura thanked him, and he replied,
What do you take me for? Do you think I'm the kind of fellow that'd leave you out there at Brewster's when you're so homesick, just because there's nothing in it for me?
Then he admitted he "almost decided against it" because the temperature was below forty below zero (and no, that's not a typo). However, Cap Garland pricked his conscience and told him, "God hates a coward." Laura asked if he came because he wouldn't take a dare, and Almanzo answered: "No, it wasn't a dare. I just figured he was right."

Laura survived her first school, and did an excellent job. Being away and in such horrid conditions helped her to appreciate her joyful, pleasant home and loving family even more. She was back at school with friends, and taking sleigh rides in town, with Almanzo. So that part about her not going with him anymore went out the window.

One day a lady friend told Laura that
An old bachelor doesn't pay so much attention to a girl unless he's serious. You will marry him yet.
Shocked, Laura replied,
Oh, no! No, indeed I won't! I wouldn't leave home to marry anybody.
Nonetheless, by summertime, Laura was going for buggy rides, with Almanzo. On one of those drives, Almanzo picked up Nellie Olsen, but that was a big mistake, and Laura put her foot down. It was either Nellie or her, and Almanzo had to choose. Poor Nellie.

Almanzo was breaking in some wild colts, and Laura was brave enough to drive them. When Cap saw her drive them down Main St., Almanzo told her that others said Laura wouldn't get into the buggy behind those colts, but Cap said she would. And Laura asked if he made a bet, to which Almanzo (clarifying that he himself didn't make a bet),
I wouldn't bet about a lady.
Laura taught some more school, and finally ended her career as a student because it was official: she was going to be married. Almanzo, always the proper gentleman, gave her a ring and a date, and I suppose even asked permission of Laura's father first, long before Laura knew anything about an engagement.

Long story short, the wedding plans needed to be moved up because Eliza Jane, Almanzo's sister, was heading west to take over to turn the wedding into more than Almanzo and Laura could afford; hence, Almanzo suggested a quick wedding at Rev. Brown's house, at the end of the week. Laura did not have time to make her wedding dress and had to be married in her brand new black cashmere, which I say is a pretty fine shade to be married in, if you ask me.

Laura, always the forward thinking woman, made sure there were no vows about obeying one's husband, and Almanzo "soberly answered,"
Of course not. I know it is in the wedding ceremony, but it is only something women say. I never knew one that did it, nor any decent man that wanted her to.
Laura assured him she would not say she would obey him, and Almanzo asked if she was "for women's rights, like Eliza?" Oddly, Laura answered no, but added that she "could not make a promise that [she] would not keep," and that she "could not obey anyone against [her] better judgment." Almanzo agreed.

And like that, they were married by the end of the week. It was bitter sweet, and I felt tears of joy and sadness choking me. Sorry to be dramatic, but I hate to see Laura leave her happy home, yet, it is a breath of fresh air to see her off with Almanzo. I know she loved him very much, and he was a picture of a true gentleman.

The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was when he told Laura something like, "This time next month, you'll be making my pancakes." That just did not sound right, but I guess Laura knew that was exactly what she would be doing because he would be out in the elements doing back-breaking, stinky farm chores; yeah, I would rather be making his pancakes, too.

One more item: and this is what tears me up: after they made it official, Laura and Almanzo had dinner at Laura's home, and then it was time to say goodbye to the family. Almanzo was, as usual, standing by to help Laura up into the buggy, but Pa interjected, and said,
You'll help her from now on, young man. But this time, I will. 

Laura and Almanzo, late 1940s

Golden years are passing by,
These happy, golden years. 


Michelle Ann said...

This is a wonderful series of books. I only read them for the first time a few years ago, but I think most children's classic books can be enjoyed by adults.

Ruth said...

Yes, I agree, too; especially the Little House series b/c Laura wrote for children about mature ideas, which adults can certainly glean from.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

It's been years since I read this one. That last bit about Pa is making me cry. Can't wait to get to this one with my kids! So I can blubber all over the place? Maybe. These books make me tear up a lot anyway, they're kind of used to that.

Paula Vince said...

That remark from Almanzo about Laura making his breakfast pancakes raised my eyebrows a bit too. Especially since we know he could make such brilliant one himself anyway :D

It's such a great story. She was young, but always let him know where he stood with her in no uncertain terms. I felt emotional too, when she left home, but love how Pa supported Almanzo as Laura's suitor all through, starting from the pick-up trips from the Brewsters'. He knew she'd be with a great guy.

Cleo said...

It is sad to see a happy time in life come to an end, even if another one is beginning. Life is full of changes and it's best to embrace them the best we can. It must have been hard for Ma and Pa to see her go though.

Ruth said...

It seems so silly, but I have done it twice w/ this one. I get choked up b/c she has to leave her wonderful home, and "this man" takes her away so she can make pancakes for his breakfast. It seems so cruel. But I know better b/c she loves the idea of managing her own home, and I also know that she loves Almanzo!

Ruth said...

Absolutely!!! I would and will feel the same way if my girls (if they so choose to marry) are courted by such capable men as Almanzo was. I suppose I can think the same if my sons pursue such capable ladies, as well.

Ruth said...

It sure was, and Laura alluded to Pa's "clearing of the throat" and Ma's "choking back tears." : (