Dad Doesn’t Always Know Everything

November 18, 2008

Now that I have a son, I think about the Little House books from the male point of view more and more. Every once in a while, I even think about asking the Man of the Place to read them. But I don’t, because I know he’d do it. And I know he doesn’t have the time. But I do have a little internal chuckle thinking of him reading about Laura and Almanzo’s courtship or Ma’s delaine.

So I was tickled to read this post by a guy reading Little Town on the Prairie to his kids. Oh no, it’s time for Mary to go to college? What does he know about making clothes? As his kids found out, not all that much.


What Word Did Mr. Barclay Misspell?

July 17, 2008

“The only stupid thing about words is the spelling of them.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ain’t it the truth. My competitive, perfectionist daughter gets angry when she spells a word wrong, and I’ve found myself saying to her more than once, “Sweet thing, you’re just going to have to memorize it. It’s a crazy language out there, and spelling rules don’t always make sense. Get used to it.”

Me, I love spelling. I love the spelling bee in Little Town (even though I’ve never heard, let alone known how to spell, xanthophyll outside of that context), I loved spelling bees as a kid, and I still love spelling bees. I pretty much think that with more spelling bees, the world would be a better place. I still remember the word I misspelled TOTALLY RANDOMLY in my sixth grade classroom (raspberry, with the darn errant P), the word that earned me the middle school spelling title (grandeur) in eighth grade, the word that I lost on at the subsequent regional competition (emissary) and even the word that the clinched the winner of that competition (numismatist).

I also love grammar, and consistency of style, and ferreting out any errors in both — aka copy editing. I’ve never held a professional copy editing position, though I’ve copy edited as part of my job for businesses, and now I’m a professional proofreader. But copy editing for a newspaper is serious stuff. There are all kinds of errors that don’t have anything to do with spelling or grammar that the copy editor is responsible for fixing, and his or her eyes are typically the last to see the copy before it’s printed. It’s a lot of pressure, and copy editors are worth far more than they make. Just ask Gene Weingarten, author of this fabulous column in my favorite national newspaper, the Washington Post.

I always thought the “Spelling Bee” literary would be an absolute delight of a Little House story to reenact on stage.

Fresh From the Garden

July 9, 2008

“It is so hot,” Ma said. “I believe I will have cottage cheese balls with onions in them, and the cold creamed peas. Suppose you bring some lettuce and tomatoes from the garden, Laura.”

Today I was at a Farmer’s Market in my town. And by “Farmer’s Market” I mean “guy selling produce on the street.” It was darn good produce, though. I scored two cucumbers, three tomatoes, five new potatoes, two beets, three carrots, a yellow squash, and two red onions — for ten bucks and a nickel.

The red onions were the final selection, and as I chose them I thought about my relationship with onions. I don’t like onions. As an adult I have learned to eat them cooked, as in onion rings, or chopped up small and flavored up big, as in salsa. But for the most part, onions, like egg salad and olives, are on my List.

Yet when I first read these lines, and at every reading thereafter, I salivated. Cottage cheese balls with onions? Bring ’em on! Creamed peas? Better yet, cold creamed peas? Where’s my fork? For some reason, I picture the onion-studded cottage cheese balls centered on a lettuce leaf placemat, with a few adorning tomato slices.

Even after all these years, with the steamy days of July in full force this still sounds like the perfect summer meal.

Friday Comment Roundup – May 9, 2008

May 9, 2008

I first want to ask that you please forgive me if I don’t keep up with comment approval promptly. Sometimes in my eagerness and excitement I forget that I have to approve new posters. I’ll get better.


So many of the comments y’all have sent in are too delicious to hide in the comment window, so I’m bringing them out in the sun.


Thanks to the fans here, I’ve learned that my favorite typo, the one from Little Town on the Prairie, isn’t in at least one Sewell-illustrated edition.


Then Nansie got specific and asked: I don’t see that typo in any of my copies of LTP; which editon/cover are you reading?


To which I answer: I’m one of those lazy fans who doesn’t collect different editions, so the only two copies I have in my possession are from the yellow set I was given in the very early 80s and the similar-looking blue set published in 1971 (purchased recently on eBay). I don’t own any single Sewell-illustrated books.


Nansie also says: My favorite was the line in TLW that Pa would have to bring in the hay in his teeth, one BALE at a time!!


Now that’s the kind of thing my fandom would cause me to overlook. Funny how our brains do that, isn’t it? I bet I found a way to rationalize the use of “bale” there. I’m trying to recall … wasn’t it supposed to be “blade”? It seems I remember reading that in the book I read the most.


Susan uncovered an uncanny similarity in the six-degrees realm, which I will quote verbatim, I love it so much:


Here’s a “Six Degrees of Separation” kind of thing: another actress has played both the child and “mother” roles in the same story — Patty Duke has played both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. And when she played Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller was played by . . . Melissa Gilbert!


Jackie, poor girl, admitted to never having read the Little House books. Jackie, I agree with Dakotagirl, you are certainly in for a treat if you do read them. Please report back if you do.


Connie, Jonni, and Dakotagirl are all in favor of a group meeting at the Lake Thompson lodge, perhaps next summer. I think this sounds promising and may merit the formation of a committee. What do you think? Maybe I’ll add a link to that here for interested parties on the blog.


And Dakotagirl, I do hope you can manage to make it to Malone. I know how hard arranging that kind of travel can be, so my fingers are crossed for you.


Connie provided some fabulous insight regarding all her travels to the Little House sites – she may just be the most well traveled Laura Ingalls Wilder fan out there. Her comment is so full of useful travel nuggets that you all should just go and read it in its entirety.


And Connie, I promise not to tell my kids about the pancake men in advance! Thanks for the info on wifi in Ward’s – I for one always appreciate knowing that.


Sarah Sue reminds us that staying on Ingalls Homestead is the way to guarantee a sunrise experience in De Smet. And both she and Connie make sure we remember the Kingsbury Country Club in De Smet, where I too have eaten a few times. And it’s under new ownership, Connie? Good to know!


Amy also responded to my post on “Managing” by shedding new light on Laura’s handling of Clarence at the Brewster School –- a shrewd observation that hadn’t occurred to me:


I always thought it was interesting how Laura “punished” Clarence by making him write his spelling words on the blackboard, then later she “rewarded” Ruby by allowing her to write her spelling words on the blackboard. The same task can be a reward or a punishment, depending on how it is presented. Just like Tom Sawyer and the job of whitewashing the fence.


I leave you with these lovely thoughts from Connie about the Psalm Laura used to turn to when traveling.

Typo in “Little Town”

May 8, 2008

Today was a very long day. The post I planned will have to wait. But do check in tomorrow–it’s going to be a veritable comment-fest with responses for everyone.

In the meantime let’s talk typos. I’ve been witness to, if not a participant in, discussions of various typos throughout the Little House series. Even for a copy editor like myself, I admit I haven’t noticed many. The fan in me tells me I simply must be too close to the work to be critical. 🙂

But one typo has always rankled me, and I wonder if anyone else has noticed it. It’s in “Mary Goes to College” in Little Town on the Prairie. Mary has gone to, uh, college, escorted by Ma and Pa, who have left the three remaining girls to mind the house in their absence. Laura decides to do the spring cleaning, and at one point, Grace is not-so-helpfully blacking the stove, and she spills the box of blacking. The one-sentence paragraph that follows reads thusly:

“Her blues eyes were filled with tears.”

Kills me every time.