Friday, June 13, 2014

Rolling Six Feet Under The Prairies


One of my friends from NLQ and Facebook, Tapati Daniels, posted a link to a story from last summer in the Boston Globe newspaper - Little Libertarians on the Prairie.

The entire premise of the article is that author Laura Ingalls Wilder had been heavily edited and rewritten by her daughter, professional writer Rose Wilder Lane. It's not new 'news', anyone that has done any in-depth research on beloved children's author  Laura Ingalls Wilder turns up Rose and her editing and rewriting. Rose was the engine driving the entire thing, she was the one with the contacts in the world of publishing and written word. The most Laura had done in the arena of writing was to pen a farmer's wife column for the local Mansfield Missouri newspapers.

The Little House books arrived at a perfect moment in American history, during the Great Depression, at a time when most American families were being forced to practice an austerity unknown to many of them before. The fact that the Little House books outlined a happy family life with financial hardships faced head on and together made them appealing to a struggling nation.

I was surprised to learn that Lane had injected enough Libertarian thought into the books to make Rand Paul weep with joy, yet at the same time it was unsurprising. I remember all the outcry and rejection of the Little House books by my former sisters and friends in the fundamentalist evangelical circles that these books smacked of feminism and female self-reliance. The Prairie Muffin brigade really seems to hold Little House as hated for those reasons.

It was known by Rose Lane's history and own words that she was virulently anti-government and pro freedom, so it's not unbelievable that she injected her own beliefs about the free market system, hard work and personal liberty into the books. What she also did was to edit out some of the unpleasant truths of those days.

Just compare the descriptions of life in a railroading camp in "By The Shores of Silver Lake" to others written about the same subject, to AMC's "Hell on Wheels" and it's source materials and tell me that the Little House books were heavily edited and sanitized for children?

Which is too bad, because I would love to know what that summer spent by the Ingalls family on the frontier with the dregs of society carving out the track beds for the railroads was like. Did Pa Ingalls have to spend every night sitting in front of their shanty door with a loaded rifle to keep the riff raff away?

Still even with the heavy editing the books stand the test of time as well as shows how far as a society we have come.

When life hands me a particularly shitty time and I start feeling ungrateful and grumbling I will go back and reread the Little House books, especially 'The Long Winter'. It always makes me very grateful that I'm living in these times and don't have to worry about going out to chop firewood just to keep from freezing to death. It's taught me not to whine quite so much about my more modern problems.

As I was growing up in an extremely dysfunctional family filled with infidelity, alcohol abuse and neglect in South Louisiana I found great comfort in the Little House books. That book series was one of the things that helped me survive my wretched childhood and know that families aren't supposed to be filled with drinking and fighting.

I have to say that of all the Little House books my personal favorite is the one that is the most grim "The First Four Years", published after Rose and Laura's deaths about the first four years of Laura's marriage to Manly Wilder. This was the one Little House book that Rose Lane did not edit and that was published just as Laura had written it. In the first four years or Laura and Manly's marriage just about everything that could go wrong did. I was blessed by the fact that as horrible as things worked out the Wilders made the best of it and moved on into the future as best they could. I know in modern times a couple might have divorced after having lost everything to forces beyond their control and losing a child.

To me that is the ultimate message of the Little House books that the fundamentalist evangelicals could benefit from, life isn't all lollipops and sunshine, you push on through with your family. It seems to me that is a family value that they claim to have but I rarely see in practice.

My only problem with Little House is that Rose Wilder Lane ignored her mother's wishes and left all royalties and controlling interest in the books to her attorney Roger MacBride. Roger MacBride settled in central Virginia to raise his only child while starting to establish the Libertarian party. He ran for president as  Libertarian during the 1976 elections. He could well afford to run with the Little House money.

It's not Roger MacBride I object to, it's his silly daughter Abby MacBride. During the several years I worked for Bitchy Galore, a drunken woman with her own insurance agency in Virginia, I got to see what the Little House legacy has created. Bitchy and Abby were good friends and members of the same country club and Abby showed up at the agency occasionally. Abby lives in a way that would have horrified Charles and Caroline Ingalls and their ways of thrift. Abby in those days ran about Central Virginia in an expensive foreign convertible, dressed in expensive clothes, living like some horrible rich Eurotrash tourist. Towards the end of my time at Bitchy Galore's agency Abby married the local golf pro of the country club.

I know that the Ingalls have to be rolling in their graves that their lives of economy and hard work have enabled some silly thing to live like a 'Real Housewife'. It's a slap in the face.

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About Bitchy Galore: I named her that because her father is a powerful man with the Republican party in the state and with the State Police.

When I worked for her she was around forty five and on husband number six. Loud mouthed, vile words, outspoken and bitchy, made even worse by the fact that I was still drinking the koolaid of my old church. She made me gasp and blink in shock at least a dozen times a day. Screeching about her ex husbands, fighting with her current husband, listening to her police scanner to know everything happening in the county, drinking, drinking and driving, trying to get me to drink with her.

We knocked heads once when she accused me of looking at pornography on my computer and was majorly embarrassed after I pulled up computer history and showed her that the porn sites had all been accessed by HER HUSBAND while I wasn't even working.

I remember when a lightening strike burned down the womens dressing room cottage and Bitchy got the bright idea to make a nude calender of all the female golfer members of the country club to raise money to rebuilt the dressing room. She came up with the idea after sitting her office drinking and watching the movie "Calender Girls" one day during work hours. I tried my damndest to talk her out of it, but like a bull in a china shop she rambled and ranted about it during a country club member meeting and the other ladies shot her down. I'm glad because the local rednecks would have gotten their hands on that calender and been hooting and laughing all over the hollows.

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