Tonight I was reading to my daughter before bed. We’re closing in on the end of Little House in the Big Woods. I was reminded that the section on hulled corn–that delicious treat that takes three days to make–is actually in the chapter “The Wonderful Machine.” Hulled corn, I’ve learned, is hominy, which I never heard of before I moved to Kansas. It’s basically corn kernels without their hulls, right? I’ve put it in soups. Laura likes it with milk and sometimes they eat it for breakfast with honey. How do you like your hominy?
I’ll admit it: chapters with “wonderful” in the title are my least favorite. (See: “Wonderful Afternoon,” By the Shores of Silver Lake.) I’m not much for description of machinery. But reading out loud forces you to feel the shape of the words sliding past your mouth. I noticed a few things. Like the part of the machine they called the “horsepower” — four horses simply walking in a circle like spokes from a wheel. (Anyone else find it hilarious that vehicle strength is still described in terms of horsepower?) And Laura and Mary watched “with all their eyes.” If there’s a more beautifully simple phrase for a child’s visual awe, I have yet to hear it.