Posted by: Hannah | 09/16/2014

book 1, chapter 11

You know, summer is not conducive to blogging. At all. After last winter’s frigid temperatures and never-ending tenacity that dragged me into the Slough of Despond with tentacles of road salt and broken shovel handles, I was determined not to waste a single minute of warm, sunny weather.

I didn’t waste very damn much! But I was also seldom around my computer for long enough to compose a sentence.

With less than three weeks to go until Blissdom Canada, it seems silly that I haven’t been posting much. Also my traffic seems to be up again, for no reason that I can determine, so hey! content would be good!

And that brings us back again to Hannah Reads Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Confession time – I just spent an hour writing a recap of Chapter Ten. I thought it was pretty good. I posted it. And WordPress added a “2” at the end of the title… meaning there was already a post called “book 1, chapter 10″… oh please don’t tell me… yup. I wrote a recap twice. TWICE. Sigh.

However! We can’t let a little thing like that keep us down or make us question the very life choices that brought us to a point where we can write an entire short essay and then completely forget about it. We must forge ahead and trust that the highly-organized mind we once possessed will return when the children leave home.

Chapter 11 – Harvest

Pa and Uncle Henry are trading work, because that’s How Shit Got Done in pioneer times. Very sensible. They travel to each other’s farms, with their families, to work on harvesting and shocking the oats. (‘Shocking’ involves tying the oats into bundles and then stacking the bundles in such a way as to help shed the rain.) The Ingalls family head to Uncle Henry’s house, and the girls are excited to spend the day with their cousins, including Charley, the eldest at eleven.

“At home, Pa had said to Ma that Uncle Henry and Aunt Polly spoiled Charley. When Pa was eleven years old, he had done a good day’s work every day in the fields, driving a team. But Charley did hardly any work at all.”

Rain is threatening, and if the oats were not cut & shocked before the heavens opened all the grain would be spoiled. Pa & Henry decide that Charley will have to forgo his life of leisure for the afternoon, and act as their helper in the fields. He’d be fetching water and the whetstone to sharpen the scythe blades. That’s it. Even I know that’s not very damn much. Charley ought to be able to handle that, surely!

But Charley has other ideas. He is not the grand help that Pa & Uncle Henry figured he would be. In fact, he goes out of his way to be a nuisance. He gets in the way of the scythes. He hides the whetstone. He follows them around asking questions and isn’t prompt with the water jug. When that just gets him ignored, he steps up his game by hiding in the oats and screaming as if in terrible pain.

He does this three times, laughing like a damn asshole every times, and when Pa says later “if he had been Uncle Henry, he’d have tanned that boy’s hide for him, right then and there” I have to agree. Sack up, Charley. You waste time today and this winter all of Henry’s lifestock will starve and they might have to go all Donner Party on you.

The fourth time Charley starts screaming, Pa instructs Uncle Henry to ignore him. After listening to him scream for quite a while, they finally decide to check on him – and it turns out he actually was in trouble, because he’d stepped in a yellow jacket nest. “He was jumping up and down and hundreds of bees were stinging him all over. They were stinging his face and his hands and his neck and his nose, they were crawling up his pants’ legs and stinging and crawling down the back of his neck and stinging. The more he jumped and screamed the harder they stung.”

Take that, Charley. The universe will punish your lies. In fact Pa actually says “served the little liar right” and I don’t know quite how everyone thinks Pa is all soft and lovable. Clearly he’s a bearded madman.

So Charley is sent unceremoniously back to the house, covered in hundreds of stings. Aunt Polly and Ma strip him down, cover him in mud, and wrap him head to toe in sheets. Look at this picture, which haunted me as a child and still gives me the squicks. Look how those children of the corn are just standing around gazing at him!

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This chapter isn’t about the harvest. This chapter is a morality tale about being a Useful Engine.

Next chapter – The Wonderful Machine.

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Responses

  1. THIS CHAPTER. I remember this so clearly from my childhood, including the illustration. CHARLEY YOU ASSHOLE. I remember reading that and wondering HOW Charley even pulled off being such a dick, because in my house, in the 1980’s, you didn’t play that “Cry Wolf” game. Damn, Charley. Survival is in your lazy-ass hands. You deserved every one of those life-threatening stings.

  2. I remember this chapter! Kinda served him right I thought. Now knowing how much those stings would have hurt I have a little more sympathy.
    Pa don’t play.

  3. I also have a clear memory of this chapter from childhood. No sympathy for Charley from this gal, either.

  4. Oh I love love this series! You’ve inspired me to re read it 🙂

  5. I always love that chapter because it’s somehow refreshing to learn that overly permissive parents have existed for a long, long time.


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