From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wilder, Cather, and Sandoz - Writers of the Prairies

History and Old Stuff...



Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) saw the Great Plains when it was still virgin prairie and wrote about it from a child's viewpoint for children. I am a big fan of Laura's writing. We have visited the Little House on the Prairie Museum at Independence, KS, and also the Wilder House and Museum at Mansfield, MO (twice!) What a thrill to see Pa's fiddle and to visit the very room where Laura wrote her stories by hand on a tablet of paper.

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was born only six years after Laura, but she wrote about the settlement of the Great Plains with an adult viewpoint for adults. Willa Cather's birthdate is similar to my great-grandparents. Some of my great-grandparents came to America and the Nebraska prairies as immigrants, very much like those around Red Cloud (Nebraska) whom Willa Cather wrote about. I have always loved Willa Cather for seeing and recording the very soul and spirit of that historic place and time.

Many people have told me that I should read Mari Sandoz (1896-1966). She wrote many books about the Nebraska Sandhills and the Great Plains, but I have only recently bought several of her books. I have started reading Love Song To The Plains, and I've posted a quote from it -- the opening paragraph of the book -- here in the sidebar.

My mother's family were early residents of Sheridan County, Nebraska, as was Mari's family. My grandmother and many other people from Gordon thought Jules Sandoz was a crazy, dangerous old coot, and that Mari painted too glowing a picture of him in her book, Old Jules. I heard this talk when I was a child, and my opinion of Mari Sandoz was tainted by their remarks. I didn't know that Mari herself had been abused both physically and mentally by her father, yet wrote of his accomplishments as a pioneer with respect.


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3 comments:

Sarabeth said...

Oh, I've been to the Laura Ingalls Wilder places you mentioned as well. My husband of three months thought I was such a nut for wanting to go. I even remember him having a "Little House on the Prairie" omelet at a restaurant in Mansfield, MO. A piece of cheese had been cut to resemble a house and melted on top of the egg.

Genevieve said...

I think it's safe to say that the Wilder house and museum at Mansfield will be enjoyed greatly by anyone who likes Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I want to share a bit of what my dear Nebraska friend, Sammie, wrote to me about Mari (Marie) Sandoz today after reading this blog entry. (Sammie is one of the people who has told me that I should read some
Sandoz books.)

I agree with what you said about her, and even her brothers didn't agree with some of her writings. But I love her love of life and the Sandhills and have felt just like her. She has a way of describing how I often felt about the [Sandhill] life. I may not have grown up when she lived but some things just don't change with time in the Sandhills and with growing up in that lifestyle!!! ... I had a wonderful childhood filled with curosity, real freedom, and little fear, and a great love for the hills, valleys, and nature! I would do it all again. and I think this is how Marie felt.

I think Jules was a rough, tough, and even mean man that got his ego from "ruling his roost". Everyone jumped when he was around and even Marie's mother seemed tough on the kids to me but I think this was often not the way it was and besides I doubt if she could have stayed with such a man if she hadn't been that way. I doubt if many modern women would, ha!!

LoieGram said...

I've been to the house/museum in Burr Oak, (I think) Minnesota, and to the one in SW Minnesota at Walnut Grove, MN, near Lake Laura, where we camped.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.