Book Recommendation- Dear America Series

Author: Multiple authors

In third grade, I set a goal to read every single Dear America book in my elementary school library. The books took up two full shelves, so it was a daunting task, but I soon found out the problem would be what I would do when I finished them all. Each book in the series is written in diary format, from the perspective of a young girl living through an important event in American history. Each girl has a distinctive voice and personality, making each book a joy to read. The topics run from immigration to New York to escaping concentration camps and fleeing to America, along with everything in between. I would recommend any of them, as there are plenty of stories to satisfy any history lover. However, for those looking for pioneer stories like Laura’s, there are a few options. Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie is written from the perspective of a young girl encountering hope and hardship on the Oregon Trail. West to a Land of Plenty describes the life of a young Italian immigrant girl moving to the American West. My Face to the Wind is the diary of a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse on the prairie. (And if you’re looking for something for a young boy to read, a spin-off series called My name is America is told from a male perspective).

Advertisements

Pioneer Cooking: Parched Corn

The next step up from Lettuce Leaves with Vinegar and Sugar, Molly and I decided, was Parched Corn. The recipe sounded fairly simple and only used three ingredients: corn, butter, and salt.

corn

Parched corn is on page 212 of The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker and shows up in Laura’s book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, when talking about her Thanksgiving.

“There were corn dodgers and mashed potatoes. There were butter, and milk, and stewed dried plums. And three grains of parched corn lay beside each tin plate.

At the first Thanksgiving dinner the poor Pilgrims had had nothing to eat but three parched grains of corn. Then the Indians came and brought them turkeys, so the Pilgrims were thankful.

Now, after that had eaten their good, big Thanksgiving dinner, Laura and Mary could eat their grains of corn and remember the Pilgrims. Parched corn was good. It crackled and crunched, and its taste was sweet and brown.” (81)

Laura writes fondly of parched corn, so Molly and I thought we would try it, as it seemed simple enough to match our cooking abilities.

looking

Molly and I (with a cameo by Molly’s grandmother) attempt to figure out the true meaning of “dried corn.”

The recipe calls for one ear of dried field corn or one cup of dried sweet corn. I would recommend getting an ear of corn and having it dry out before attempting this recipe. This is where Molly and I ran into a few problems. First of all, the local grocery store did not have ears of corn at the time, as the crop in South Dakota was not in at that time.. Instead we used a can of sweet corn and left it out to dry. By the time we were ready to make the parched corn, our canned corn was nowhere near dry enough.. We ended up having to bake it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes. At that point, we thought it was dry enough and decided to parch it.oven

In hindsight, I would say if you are going the canned corn route to either give your corn about a week to dry out on a cookie sheet or just start by drying it in the oven, which is probably the fastest way.

Once you have your dry corn, the process is fairly simple from there. The recipe says to use two tablespoons of butter to cover the pan. Once the butter is melted, cover the skillet with the corn kernels. Then stovestir the corn constantly, as it begins to puff up and jump on the skillet (and, in some cases, right onto your face) You will do this for about 3-5 minutes or until it looks done. At that point, you can add some salt for flavor and then it is ready to eat! The taste is similar to popcorn, but with more of the corn flavor retained. I would definitely recommend eating it fresh though. We brought some in for our coworkers the next day to try and they were not quite as impressed as we were!final-product.jpg

TV Show Truths: Reverend Alden

Another classic favorite on the hit TV show is Reverend Alden. His character in the TV show “Little House on the Prairie” was based off the Reverend Alden in the book series Little House on the Prairie and from Laura’s real life.

Walnut Grove:

Reverend Alden, whose full name is Edwin Hyde Alden, first came to Walnut Grove as a pastor. He was traveling around to help establish churches in the Minnesota area

Dabbs Greer

Picture Credits: IMDb

including: New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Springfield, Walnut Grove, and Marshall. Due to his traveling, Reverend Alden only preached in Walnut Grove every few weeks (Pioneer Girl 72-73). Laura wrote about this in her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, “Three or four Sundays they went to Sunday school, and then again Reverend Alden was there, and that was a church Sunday” (188). The TV show also followed closely to the books and Laura’s real life, as Reverend Alden was not at church in Walnut Grove all the time, but he would come every few weeks. In the episode “Voice of Tinker Jones,” references were made to Reverend Alden’s monthly visits and how on the weeks that he was not there the elders would take turns preaching and the kids would have Sunday school.

De Smet:

In the TV show, Reverend Alden is present throughout all nine seasons and he continued to be present in the Ingalls real lives in De Smet as well. Reverend Alden was sent west to start new churches as he had done in Minnesota. It was with Reverend Alden that the Ingalls had the first church service in De Smet, which was held in the Surveyors house February of 1880 (Pioneer Girl 187-88). Laura also talks about the excitement of seeing Reverend Alden again in her book By the Shores of Silver Lake, “Laura could not say a word. Her throat was choked with the joy of seeing Reverend Alden again” (SL 215). The Ingalls and Reverend Alden were both equally surprised by their encounter by Silver Lake. Reverend Alden did not know that the Ingalls had left Walnut Grove and the Ingalls did not know that Reverend Alden was heading west starting more churches.

Family:

At the time the Ingalls met Reverend Alden in Walnut Grove in real life, he was married to Anna and had a young son named George (Pioneer Girl 73).  In Laura’s books, she never mentions Reverend Alden having a wife or family. The TV show did loosely follow Reverend Alden’s real life. In the episode “Preacher Takes a Wife,” Reverend Alden marries a woman named Anna. In the TV show, Reverend Alden was older than he was in real life and in Laura’s books. Due to him getting married later in life he did not have any children and he did not have a second marriage like he had in real life. Despite some of the changes, in the books, TV show, and real life, one thing that was not changed was Reverend Alden’s close relationship to the Ingalls family.

TV Show Truths: Eliza Jane Wilder

As I mentioned in the last post, many characters in the TV show “Little House on the Prairie” are based on the characters from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book series, Little House. An interesting character to look at is Miss Eliza Jane Wilder, Almanzo Wilder’s older sister. In the TV series, Eliza Jane comes to town with her brother Almanzo at the beginning of Season Six. This is similar to when Eliza Jane moved to De Smet, Dakota Territory, with her younger brother Almanzo and her older brother Royal.

Homesteading:

Eliza Jane Wilder filed the claim on her land in 1879, but did not move to it permanently until around 1882; meanwhile, brothers Almanzo and Royal were working and living on their own claims, nearby. It was the fall of 1882 when Eliza Jane started teaching in De Smet (Pioneer Girl 241-42). In the book, Little Town on the Prairie, Laura also mentions Miss Wilder having a claim and a shanty just beyond the schoolhouse (149). The TV show condensed the different stages of the Wilders moving to De Smet in order to move the plot along; however, in Season Six Almanzo lives with his sister, Eliza Jane, instead of them living separately like they did in real life and the books.

Teaching:

In the TV series Miss Wilder first appears as Walnut Grove’s new teacher and Laura quickly takes a liking to her brother Almanzo. Then in the episode “Back to School,” where Eliza Jane and Almanzo first appear, Laura pretends to forget something in order to talk to Miss Wilder with the hopes of meeting her brother. A similar situation occurs in the book, Little Town on the Prairie, “Almanzo often brought [Eliza Jane] to the schoolhouse in the morning, or stopped after school to take her home. And always Laura hoped that Miss Wilder might, perhaps, sometime, ask her for a ride” (LTOP 149). At this point in the book series Laura had already met Almanzo when he took her to and from the Brewster school, but it provided the basis for Almanzo picking up and dropping off Miss Wilder at school. In real life, there is no account as to if this happened or not; however, the TV show did follow the book.

2017-08-05 (2) (1)

Eliza Jane, pictured above, in her 60s.

Regarding Eliza Jane there is a discrepancy between her character in the TV show versus the book. Laura portrayed Eliza Jane as a mean school teacher who lacked control of the classroom in her book series. In Pioneer Girl, Laura also discussed how Miss Wilder lacked control of the classroom and that she did not believe in punishment, except for when it came to Laura and Carrie (246-47). The book, Farmer Boy, also gives some insights into Eliza Jane as a child. Laura described Eliza Jane as a strict, bossy older sister, which is explicitly shown in the chapter “Keeping House” (203-227). Even though that chapter shows Eliza Jane at her worst, it also shows her at her best, when she covers up the black polish mark in the parlor for Almanzo.

In the TV show, the producers cut Eliza Jane some slack and made her a more likeable person. She was still strict in the TV show, mentioning that she would give the students a zero on their homework if it was not turned in on time; and Willie, in away took Laura and Carrie’s place and always was punished. However, overall, she was a more amiable person than she is in the books.

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte- A Pioneer for Native Americans and Female Physicians

The Omaha Indian Reservation in 1865 was a place caught between two worlds: the modern, White world, and the traditional world its residents had lived in for hundreds of years. In a log cabin on the Northwest side of the reservation, a place more conservative Omahas called “Village of the Make-Believe White Men”, an 8-year-old girl named Susan was tasked with watching over a sickly elderly neighbor while messengers went to find the white agency doctor. The woman was in agonizing pain, but the doctor ignored all four messages pleading for his help, and young Susan watched the woman eventually succumb to her illness. It was then that Susan realized that for her people, something was going to have to change.

Susan La Flesche Picotte was born on June 17th, 1865, on the Omaha Indian Reservation. She was the youngest of four daughters born to Chief Joseph La Flesche (Iron Eyes) and Mary Gale (One Woman). Both of her parents were mixed Omaha and white, and so Suan grew up caught between two worlds. As a young child she was educated in a mission school on the reservation. She later received education at the Hampton Institute, one of the first universities for people of color. During her time at the Hampton Institute, Susan was advised by a mentor to attend medical school. With this mentor’s help, Susan secured a scholarship from the U.S Office of Indian Affairs, making her the first person to attend college on a federal grant. Susan graduated from the Pennsylvania Woman’s Medical College at the top of her class, becoming the first Native American Female physician in the country.

Susan returned to the reservation she was born on, medical degree in hand. On the reservation, she was responsible for some 1,200 people and was on call 24 hours a day. As one of the few female doctors and the only Native American one in the country, Susan faced discrimination and hostility from some of her patients. Nevertheless, she threw everything she had into their care. Susan was paid ten times less than an Army or Navy doctor with the same amount of patients, yet she was still forced to pay for her own supplies when the Indian Affairs Office ran out, which was often. She was sole doctor within a 1,350 mile radius, and was often forced to walk several miles to reach her patients. Beyond her capacity as a physician, Susan often found herself acting as a parent, lawyer, advocate, and teacher. SusanLaFlesche

Through all of this, Susan’s dream remained opening a hospital on the Omaha reservation. While she worked on that, she also advocated tirelessly for hygiene and disease prevention standards to be raised on the reservation, and for the rights of Native Americans to be recognized as legal citizens. In 1894, she married a Sioux man named Henry Picotte, and the two moved to Bancroft, Nebraska. Susan opened a private practice there, treating both white and native patients, while also raising two children. Her husband Henry suffered from severe alcoholism, and Susan was often forced to care for him alongside her patients until his death in 1905 from tuberculosis. This experience sparked a lifelong passion in Susan for the American Temperance Movement. She was considered controversial for her condemnation of the scourge of alcohol available on reservations across the country.

As a Native American woman, Susan knew well what it was like to have her knowledge and experience discounted right off the bat. Even as a child, her goal was to help her people. “It has always been a desire of mine to study medicine ever since I was a small girl,” she wrote years later, “for even then I saw the need of my people for a good physician.” In 1913, Susan finally achieved her lifelong dream of opening a modern hospital on the Omaha Reservation. She would end up passing away just two years later from what was believed to be bone cancer. Her tireless work on behalf of the Omaha people led to a legacy of activism. She was at the forefront of many causes of Native Americans and is considered a trailblazer of the women’s movement in the United States. The hospital she worked to open remained open until the late 1940’s, at which point it became a museum dedicated to Susan La Flesche Picotte and to the history of the Omaha people.

TV Show Truths: Mr. Edwards

When Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing her Little House series in the early 1930s, she probably did not imagine there would be numerous museums established in many of the places and homes that she lived in. She also did not likely fathom that years later, we would consider her one of America’s famous children’s authors.

Today, there are a wide variety of Laura fans, the ones who love the books, the ones who love the TV show, and the ones who love Laura’s real life. Of course, there are also fans, like me, in the middle who like a mix of all three. There are a few Laura fans that are very critical of the TV show as a lot of the Ingalls’ life has been fabricated for Hollywood; however, not everything in the TV show is incorrect, there are many people, events, and items in the TV show that were accurate based on the books and even based on her real life.

When looking at the characters, of course Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace are all true to the books and real life. Earlier in the year some blog posts were written to debunk some of the myths about the TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” In those blog posts they discussed how Albert, Cassandra, and James were not adopted by the Ingalls family. Also, characters like Adam Kendall and Percival Dalton, Mary and Nellie’s husbands respectively, were not real characters. Even though these characters were not real, many of the characters in the TV show were in the books or from the Ingalls’ real life. To start this series off I am going to look at a favorite, Mr. Edwards.

Mr. Edwards is a character in the TV show who is also in the book; however, his specific character has not been found in the Ingalls’ actual history. The pilot movie of “Little House on the Prairie” stays very close to the description Laura Ingalls Wilder gives of Mr. Edwards in her book Little House on the Prairie. In both the family makes his acquaintance in Kansas where the Ingalls are building their new home, Laura really admired Mr. Edwards; one reason was because “he could spit tobacco juice farther than Laura had ever imagined that anyone could spit tobacco juice” (LHOP 63). Mr. Edwards also loved to dance and sing. In the book, Mr. Edwards asks Charles to play the fiddle for him as he leaves, so Pa plays the song “Old Dan Tucker” which the girls, Laura and Mary, and Mr. Edwards sing as he leaves to go home.

Victor French

Victor French as Mr. Edwards – Picture Credit imdb.com

 

The TV show picks up on this, as it is in a way Mr. Edwards theme song. Edwards sings it while he works and when he is in a good mood, which would then add a little hop in his step. Another part about Mr. Edwards that the TV show accurately did, was the Ingalls’ Christmas in Kansas. Edwards crossed the freezing creek on Christmas Eve to bring presents, from Santa, to Mary and Laura. He also brought Ma sweet potatoes for her to cook for Christmas supper. Edward’s visit that Christmas Eve made a lasting impression on the Ingalls family.

The TV show does expand upon Mr. Edwards role as he becomes a lifelong family friend of the Ingalls; however, he was rooted in the Mr. Edwards that Laura wrote about. Now that we know that Mr. Edwards comes from Laura’s books, where did Laura create the character of Mr. Edwards, was he a real person? This is a hard question because there is no conclusive evidence as to who Laura based the character of Mr. Edwards on. In Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Laura called the man who brought them Christmas presents in Kansas Mr. Brown (16). However, there is not a Mr. Brown or Mr. Edwards in the 1870 census of Rutland Township, near Independence, Kansas, but there is a Mr. Edmund Mason. Mason was a bachelor living close to the Ingalls cabin, which many people believe to be the Mr. Edwards/Mr. Brown.

There is also another thought that Mr. Edwards is not just one person and instead he was a combination of people who impacted the Ingalls life in a positive way. This thought came from The Long Winter, where Mr. Edwards slips Mary a 20-dollar bill that she used towards college (113-114). In Pioneer Girl, Laura mentioned that when the railroad camp, by Silver Lake, was getting cleaned up Uncle Hi, Hiram Forbes, gave “Mary and handful of bills” (174). Thus, it is possible that Mr. Edwards giving Mary the money in The Long Winter was based off Uncle Hi in real life.

Who is right, the TV show or books? The answer is neither, but the two did stick together and convey a very similar Mr. Edwards.

Book Recommendation- Hattie Big Sky

Author: Kirby Larson

For readers like me who are interested in reading more about the life of Homesteaders in the American West, there is a Newbery Medal-winning book that is perfect for us. The hero of Hattie Big Sky, Hattie Brooks, is a 16-year-old girl living with an aunt and uncle in Iowa during WWI. She has been moved from relative to relative since she was orphaned at the age of five, and she’s tired of never having anywhere to put down roots. When a distant uncle dies and leaves her his unproven homestead in Montana, Hattie jumps at the chance to make her own home. As a sixteen-year-old solo homesteader, Hattie faces more than her share of struggles. With the help of her kind neighbors and her own inner strength, Hattie proves to herself and everyone else that she is capable of anything. Hattie Big Sky and its sequel, Hattie Ever After, are stories about one courageous, resilient girl, and the opportunities she took advantage of in the West.