We went through all the Little House on the Prairie books a year or so ago for Chestnut, much longer ago for Diana. We all had our favorites: I am partial to The Long Winter, Chestnut went for Little Town on the Prairie, Diana was a fan (as we all were) of Little House in the Big Woods, which has the craziest non-narrative narrative of anything, and seems the most truly Laura of the books. (The others were more edited/cowritten/rewritten by Laura Ingalls's daughter, the writer and right-wing-nut Rose Wilder Lane; there is an excellent article on their collaboration, and the books about their collaboration, in The New Yorker.)
But here's the thing: we never got around to reading Farmer Boy. We just…didn't. We looked for it, going so far as to buy a copy of what looked like Farmer Boy, but was only On the Shores of Silver Lake with the Farmer Boy cover taped on.
And I just felt like it was fine. I mean, it's not really part of the story, is what I thought. We won't miss anything of Laura's life. And besides, a smaller, less acknowledged part offered: it's about a boy. How crucial could it be?
I wish I weren't this way.
But, time went on. We made it through the various books. Though there were times when it was too scary to think Pa might die in the blizzard and we had to take a break, we persevered and made it all the way to These Happy Golden Years, and even dipped into The First Four Years, then backed off. Other books interceded. People got older.
Then this past week, I went to the amazing book store in midtown, where many, many books are a dollar, and you can wander among the stacks for hours, take home a huge bag, and just spend $20. I was looking for The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase for Chestnut, who is just the right age and personality for these books right now. And there, sitting snugly on the shelf, in excellent condition, was Farmer Boy. For $1. I grabbed it.
And brought it home. Chestnut has been reading it, and then rereading it ever since. She loves it. She wants to read about the pig getting candy. The melons. Life on the farm. All of it. And it's so excellent to watch. And I hope to hell I have learned something about the gender of the protagonist and its relevance to anything, which is just about nil. I hope I've learned. It's possible to learn, isn't it?
And now a semi-related question: I have a vivid memory of reading these books as a kid, and Pa panning for gold in a stream and finding a huge smooth gold nugget, but then never finding another one. I read through all the books hoping to find this scene, only it's not there. Did I imagine it? Did I watch it on TV and think I read it? What the heck is going on with the big smooth egg-shaped gold nugget? Does anyone know?