In our last post, I talked about how so few of the Little House books actually contain any mention of Laura’s birthdays. We used information from Pioneer Girl and Little House on the Prairie to learn some things about Laura’s birthday on the road. This time, we’re gonna look at Laura’s unmentioned birthdays in Kansas and by the shores of Silver Lake.
A Not-so-happy Sick Day
The chapter that immediately follows the Christmas chapter in Little House on the Prairie is “A Scream in the Night.” This chapter is set in late winter, just around the time of year that Laura would have had her birthday. In this chapter, the whole family hears a scream that turns out to be coming from a panther. Pa ends up trying to hunt down the panther to prevent it from later hurting Mary and Laura, but an Indian that Pa meets in the woods finds it first and kills it instead.
In Pioneer Girl, Laura describes the time immediately following the Ingalls’ Christmas in Kansas as the winter that the whole family had the whooping cough. That is the only detail that we have from her autobiography about this time in her life. So it may just be that poor Laura was sick during her birthday in Indian Territory.
New Friends and Old Friends
In the chapter “Happy Winter Days” from By the Shores of Silver Lake, the Ingalls family celebrates New Year’s Day with their good friends Mr. and Mrs. Boast. In the days following their festive celebration in the Boasts’ house, Mrs. Boast comes over every day to the Ingalls’ temporary winter home in the surveyors’ house to play in the snow with Laura and Carrie or do her sewing and knitting with Ma and the girls in the house. It’s during this time that Mrs. Boast also gives Laura a stack of old newspapers that she had brought with her from Iowa and that are filled with wonderful stories for Laura and the girls to read. Mrs. Boast also shows the Ingalls family how to make their own whatnot shelf, which was a stylish thing to have in Iowa at the time. The chapter never explicitly mentions Laura’s birthday, but this must have been a happy time for Laura with Mrs. Boast making every day delightful.
Laura also tells about these wintry days with the Boasts in Pioneer Girl, writing that “All our evenings were spent in our big room, listening to Pa play the violin, telling stories, playing chickers, and always, every evening singing” (Pioneer Girl 186). Although the books describe this as happening in March, Laura also recalls that Reverend Alden from their church in Walnut Grove and a missionary friend of his stopped by to visit the Ingalls family one cold, snowy night in February. Reverend Alden and his friend held the first church services of the area there in the surveyors’ house (187). What a wonderful treat for the birthday girl.