Book 2 in the Little House series sees some big changes in the lives of the Ingalls family. Charles becomes unhappy as the woods of Wisconsin become more and more crowded so he decides that they will move west.
The first part of the story chronicles the road trip. Imagine packing up everything you can take in a covered wagon and traveling for weeks. Each night you have to stop and make camp – build a fire, cook dinner and sleep in the great outdoors. After a few scares, they finally reach Oklahoma and decide they have found their new home.
Charles begins building a house and barn. The descriptions of the building process were fascinating. When you run out of nails, you can’t just go to Lowe’s and pick up a box. You have to improvise. They dig a well, plant a garden and become friends with their neighbors. When the Ingalls arrived, it looked like there was an old Indian camp nearby but noone was there.
Then, they came back. The Osage.
Reading with modern and grown-up sensibilities is interesting to say the least. I’m not going to spend time giving you a social and political commentary about the way Indians were treated. All I will say is that reading this story from Laura’s perspective made me think. As written, Charles Ingalls is a good man. He is quick to point out to his family and his new friends in Oklahoma that the Indians seemed to mean them no harm and they should basically respect each other. The only time he truly showed fear of them was the night of the War Cries. (So well written! I got goose bumps.) Before leaving Wisconsin, he researched to ensure the territory he was moving into was open for settlement by the government. From his viewpoint, it was available land to claim. Obviously, the Osage saw that differently.
I guess I can’t spoil a book this old so here goes. The ending was sad. When Charles found out the government had signed a treaty with the Osage saying that the settlers had to leave, he was furious (the first time we really see him lose his temper). His anger stemmed from the fact that he thought he was clear to move to this spot. He wasn’t angry with the Osage but with the government. And, when told that soldiers will be coming to move them out, he takes a deep breath and tells his family they are leaving the following morning and won’t wait to be driven from their home. Modern, adult Mary thought, “Good, this is Osage land.” But a small part of my heart was broken. The Ingalls’ blood, sweat and tears had gone into building this home with their own hands and they had to leave almost everything. Charles handled it better than me:
Ma sighed gently and said, “A whole year gone, Charles.” But Pa answered, cheerfully: “What’s a year amount to? We have all the time there is.”