I found myself rereading Little House on the Prairie these holidays, after... some 30 years or so. Two of the actual houses are within an hour's drive of here, and although I have not yet been to see either of them, they are on my resolution list for 2009. I skipped past the first two books in the series to get straight to Kansas.
Apart from the obvious appreciations I have thereby rediscovered (my microwave, dishwasher, and central heating, topping the list this week as we sit under inches of snow) the story is more phenomenal than I remembered. I can't imagine riding over a frozen lake in a covered wagon, and hearing it break up the day after the crossing. I'd never ride over a frozen lake in a snow covered wagon again after that, if it was up to me, let alone ford a swollen river in one, and then spend a summer getting to some predetermined destination in a field of tall grass in "Indian country." The charm of the story barely disguises the constant threat to life and limb from wolves, malaria, prairie fire, chimney fire, and such. Every time Pa goes off to trade furs, I worry he won't return and that his four women on the prairie won't even have the wagon to get to Independence in.
I've gone back to read The House in the Big Woods, in an attempt to discover why on earth they ever left their cozy log cabin beset by bears. But there is so much incident in every chapter, I'm keeping a close eye on craft along the way. I had been wondering if it was time to begin reading them to Daughter, but she is nervous enough about robbers and other picturesque disasters of contemporary life. I don't know how useful it would be to scare her silly with buffalo wolves to boot.
18 hours ago