Posted by: Hannah | 05/19/2014

book 1, chapter 10

At this rate I’ll be finished recapping the series mid-way through the year 2020. You folks who blog two or three times a week because your blog is your business? I salute you. If I had to blog that consistently it would mostly be pictures of attractive men interspersed with lamentations about millennials and how I don’t understand them.

Chapter 10 – Summertime

In the summertime, folks in the Big Woods actually go visiting just for fun, not to trade work or anything; the pace of work is not as frantic as in spring or fall, so this is the time when they can relax a bit and perhaps spend several consecutive hours in idleness. Occasionally neighbours like the Huleatts even come to spend the whole day; Ma and Mrs. Huleatt visited and looked at a ‘Godey’s Lady’s Book‘ which Mrs. Huleatt had brought, and Pa and Mr. Huleatt looked at the horses and the crops and smoked their pipes.

That sounds like “get out & leave us alone, husbands, we’ve got some celebrity gossip to catch up on” to me.

One day, Aunt Lotty comes to visit, and Ma does something so completely bizarre that I have to wonder if Laura made the whole thing up just to dig at her. She dresses the girls in their best and curls their hair; then she sends them out to wait for their guest, saying Your hair is curled beautifully, and Lotty is coming. Run meet her, both of you, and ask her which she likes best, brown curls or golden curls.




Good parenting there, Ma.

Aunt Lotty is awesome though, and just says she likes both kinds best. Because of course she does. HONESTLY, MA. WHAT THE HELL.

However, Laura is simmering mad about it all day, and no wonder. By the time Aunt Lotty goes home, the girls are described as tired and cross, which I totally get, as you should see my kids after their own beloved young childless auntie goes home after a lengthy visit. They are picking up wood chips when Mary, taking a leaf out of Ma’s book, decides to Stir Some Shit as sisters often do.

Laura grabbed the biggest chip, and Mary said: “I don’t care. Aunt Lotty likes my hair best, anyway. Golden hair is lots prettier than brown.”

So Laura does what she’s been threatening to do the whole book; namely, she hauls off and slaps Mary right in the face. And Pa sees her, and says that the girls must never strike one another. To drive that point home, he whips Laura with the strap and puts her in time-out until sunset.

This whole vignette is kind of brilliant, because it really puts the reader inside Laura’s head. We don’t find out how Mary reacts to being slapped. We don’t know if Ma has even a moment’s remorse for setting these events in motion by deliberately fanning the fires of sibling rivalry. All we know is that Laura’s feelings were hurt, that she was punished, and that she never gets to explain her side of the story.

In this chapter we also learn how Ma makes cheese, in the usual detailed way – I’m pretty sure I could make my own cheese now if only I had a ready supply of calf’s stomach lining and fresh unpasteurized milk. And Pa finds a bee tree full of honey; he claims he chases away a bear to get it, and also that the bees don’t sting him because oh, bees never sting me.


They all sit down to a delicious dinner of bread and honeycomb, and fun fact – did you know Laura, Carrie, and Pa were all diabetic? It’s true! And I cannot imagine why. #breadandsugarisnotdinner


Extra-credit reading: this recently-released letter from Rose Wilder Lane to her mother Laura after reading the first draft of By The Shores of Silver Lake. If you’ve never delved into that relationship before, brace yourself; Rose comes across as a petulant brat, and knowing that Laura once had to fight off her cousin Charley with a knife because he wanted to kiss her might tarnish your memories a bit.

Next chapter – harvest time!




  1. Even if your blog was all “pictures of attractive men interspersed with lamentations about millennials and how I don’t understand them,” I would still read it!

    That letter was SO interesting! As someone who has (in the past) written fiction, I’m fascinated by the way one’s personal experience undergoes a metamorphosis when written about. As a kid, I thought Laura’s books were completely factual, so your posts and other stuff I’ve read since are enlightening to say the least. That having been said, I think the books are still (mostly) great. And yeah, I’m glad Laura took Rose’s advice and didn’t include fighting Charley off with a knife.

  2. That letter is fascinating. OMG LAURA FOUGHT OFF OLD YELLOW JACKET CHARLEY. And seriously, when I read Silver Lake as an adult, all I could think of was that those girls would be in serious danger with all those horny men around, and hardly any women in sight. Those railroad workers would snap up a virginal young teen in a SECOND. Good god, Ma must have had nerves of steel.

    Also, that chapter is totally weird. The thing about the hair?

  3. Rose is so condescending to her mother that it just puts my teeth on edge. And that letter really makes me wonder how much of Ma’s horrible “HAVE NO FUN EVER” attitude is simply due to editing! There’s a world of difference between “Don’t go to the railroad because the men there are not safe and will almost definitely try to hurt you” and “Don’t go to the railroad because it’s not ladylike, sit home and sew instead.” Sheesh, Rose. Way to make your grandmother a villain.

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