Tuesday, October 16, 2018

On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane

On the Way Home
Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane
Published 1962

This is my second read of On the Way Home. (Here is a LINK to my first review.) Again, this is a super short journal entry record of the trip Almanzo, daughter Rose, and Laura took on their way to settle in Missouri, after leaving South Dakota. Mansfield, Missouri, would become their final home.

In her journal, Laura observed the condition of the land, the kinds of crops that grew in the area, the weather, the trees, plants, and wildlife. I was impressed with how she named trees and plants or flowers that she saw, which puts me to shame because I can rarely remember the trees and shrubs that my husband and I specifically planted on our own property.

Along the way, the Wilders met many other families doing the same thing. Laura called them emigrants, and many of them were Russian. Some were going north, some south, and some west. No one was satisfied where he was; therefore, they were headed to someplace they believed better. 

Before they left South Dakota, they camped near the James River. Laura was fond of the area. Upon leaving, she looked back to admire the scene, wishing she could describe its beauty. She wrote:
We all stopped and looked back at the scene and I wished for an artist's hand or a poet's brain or even to be able to tell in good plain prose how beautiful is was. If I had been the Indians I would have scalped more white folks before I ever would have left it. 
Yikes! That wasn't culturally sensitive. Or is it acceptable to talk about scalping white people? I can't keep up sometimes.

Our visit to Mansfield, Missouri
For sure, Laura hated Nebraska. She described it as desolate and bare, without houses, fields, trees, or grass. She said it reminded her of Lydia Locket's pocket: "nothing in it, nothing on it, only the binding round it."

Laura is referring to a little English nursery rhyme that goes like this:

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Nothing in it, nothing in it,
But the binding round it.

Obviously, it had changed somewhat, but the meaning is understood.

The next entry I noted was her description of the morning glories. One morning, as they started on their way, she wrote:
The wild morning glories are rioting everywhere, all colors like the tame ones. 
Around Prescott, Kansas, before entering Missouri, they met a family who had spent two months in Missouri and declared,
Right there is the place to go if man wants to bury himself from the world and live on hoecake and clabber.
They don't call it Misery for nothing.

Once Laura and Almanzo found a place to settle, Laura ended her diary; but Rose filled in the rest, many years later. I did not include this in my first review, but here it goes. The money they had saved in South Dakota, to purchase the property in Missouri, was lost. Laura was enraged; especially when, as Rose recalls, Laura interrogated her to be sure Rose had nothing to do with its disappearance. (You know how a kid is often a parents' first suspect?) But she did not. When Almanzo calmly suggested that it might turn up,
Laura flared out that he knew as well as she did, 'nothing turns up that we don't turn up ourselves.'
Imagine driving a covered wagon with the whole of your belongings, over 600 miles, just to lose the all the money you had to buy property. I would be enraged, too.

What the house looks like today
Well, good news: they found the money and bought the property; and Almanzo began building their home, using natural resources and raw materials from the land. Rose recalled how Laura planned
 a bookcase, no, two bookcases, big bookcases full of books, and a hanging lamp to read them by, on winter evenings by the fireplace.

Today, that home is a museum, and you can visit it; and yes, though visitors are not allowed to walk into the parlor and take a peek, there are several bookcases full of books.


Sharon Wilfong said...

I was not aware of this book. Thanks for the review.

Paula Vince said...

Wow, what a beautiful house it is! So easy to see why it was her dream house, compared to the two-roomed, dirt-floored places she'd lived in as a child. Your family must have such great memories of your visit! I love the photos. I love the quotes you've highlighted too. I think Laura would be very perplexed if she was able to return to our politically correct culture :)

Ruth said...

You're welcome!

Ruth said...

It was so amazing to be there. The house was so tiny inside (b/c it was built for them), and Almanzo had built everything for Laura's height. He even invented or constructed things in the kitchen to make her job more convenient. How awesome to live in a house that your husband built with your work in mind!

I think Laura would be really sad (or offended) to know that her work and her attitude is critiqued harshly today by our hyper-sensitive feelings as being too offensive toward particular races of people. It's cultural history and she was rather truthful of it. We need to have thicker skin. That's why I thought it was rather honest of her to make such a remark in favor of scalping white people -- not that I condone any such thing -- knowing Indians lost their homes so others might move in. Too bad we couldn't all live together, but sadly, that wasn't going to happen either.