Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Golden Excerpt for a Cold Day

I drove into Thief River Falls today. Twenty-five miles. In the cold temps. In my car.

My toes froze. It took me about an hour to warm up once I got home.

But I had forgotten to get a birthday treat to send to school with Sophie. Since our school district does not allow homemade treats, I have to think ahead, and I'm not always very good at that. The check-out lady at Hugos commented on my boldness, coming out on a day like this. But when I explained that I was in hot pursuit of a birthday treat, she well understood my heroics. It's what moms do.

Remember in These Happy Golden Years, when Laura taught school in Brewster settlement, twelve miles south of DeSmet?  She stayed during the week with a family, the wife of whom was suffering from prairie madness.  Although they were not yet a couple, Almanzo, with help from his faithful Morgans, Prince and Lady, drove his horse-drawn cutter each Friday to pick Laura up so she could spend the weekend with her family.  He then returned her to Brewster each Sunday afternoon.

Laura was not quite comfortable with this arrangement, not wanting to be under any sort of obligation to Almanzo.  So one Sunday, she finally blurted out somewhat clumsily,
I am going with you only because I want to get home. When I am home to stay, I will not go with you any more. So now you know, and if you want to save yourself these long, cold drives, you can.
Little did Laura know that this would be the week Mrs. Brewster would become totally unhinged.  Laura was awoken one night by the sounds of uproar. When she peeked out the curtain that separated her bed from the rest of the room, she saw Mrs. Brewster standing in the moonlit room waving a butcher knife and screaming at her husband to take her home.

Laura knew she had two weekends left before the end of her term.  She knew Almanzo would not be coming for her on Friday, after her cold-hearted comments the previous Sunday.  She dreaded the thought of spending the weekend with Mrs. Brewster.

Friday dawned cold, with a fiercely blowing wind.  Laura could not keep the schoolhouse warm, so the kids studied with their coats on, and took turns standing near the stove. 
Laura dreaded the day's end.  She was afraid to go back to the house.  She was sleepy, but she feared to sleep in Mrs. Brewster's house.  All day tomorrow and all day Sunday she must be in that house with Mrs. Brewster, and much of the time Mr. Brewster would be at the stable.
As Laura's day trickled by, and the students studied quietly in the frigid classroom, Laura fretted.  She worried about the weekend; she wished she had not told Almanzo of her intentions so soon; she considered letting the students out early because of the extreme cold; and she worried about the students walking home.  And in the midst of all these worries, she heard a sound that brought joy to her heart,
Suddenly she heard sleigh bells.  They were coming!  In a moment they were at the door.  Prince and Lady passed the widow, and Clarence exclaimed, "That Wilder's a bigger fool than I thought he was to come out in this weather!"
Download the book to read about Laura's trip home in the chapter titled, "A Cold Ride."  Or just pull it off the shelf if you are like me and don't happen to have an e-book reader.  That way you also get to smell the paper smell and feel those pages slipping by.

I'll share this last quote, however, that it might bring a new perspective to anyone who feels aggravated at our mere twenty-something degrees below zero.  Especially considering all our modern conveniences, such as heated vehicles and cell phones, that make travel today safer and more comfortable than it was for Laura and Almanzo.
"You took a long chance, Laura," Pa said soberly. "I did not know that Wilder was starting until he had gone, and then I was sure he'd stay at Brewster's.  It was forty below zero when that crazy fellow started, and the thermometer froze soon afterward.  It has been steadily growing colder ever since; there's no telling how cold it is now."

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