Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Long Winter

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Memoir, Children's

Seven months of blizzards. Seven months of imprisoning cold, with barely a day's breaks between storms.

Seven months of waiting in the dark for your food to run out.

In many ways, this is a hard book to read. While it is obvious that the author survived, there is no guarantee that the lengthy cold will not take some other toll on the town of De Smet. The trains stop running, so there is no food coming into town, and no coal or even wood to burn. Laura's family takes to twisting hay tightly together so that it will burn like wood instead of flaming and dying. They run out of kerosene, so they make a tiny lamp with button and grease. They run out of flour, so they grind wheat in a coffee mill. And then they run out of wheat, and two men make a dangerous run for a rumored settler to buy his seed wheat so that the town will not starve.

And yet there's a stubborness in this book, a refusal to give up in spite of the circumstances, and one senses that even with the cold-imposed isolation, there is hope. And finally, finally, spring does come.


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