I grew up in small towns of Kansas but never lived on a farm. I had friends that did and I spent the night with families on their ranches and farms in both south central and north-eastern Kansas. My brothers worked on farms for extra money during holidays and summer vacation. They learned to detassel corn, put up hay, and plow. They loved the hot meals that they received as partial payment for their services. And they especially loved when tractor cabs were equipped with a radio and much later air conditioning. None of my brothers chose farming as a full-time occupation. Prairie life is full of daily chores, the caring of animals, and paying attention to the weather. A hard but rewarding life for those with an appreciation and love of the land. As a child, I loved reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and worked my way through all nine of them lickety-split. I loved the television show too. Through her writings, she shared both the joys and the trials of life on the prairie. And she helped me to understand the history and heritage that surrounded me growing up in the Midwest.
More than eighty years after it was first written, the memoir, that is the basis for her children’s book series was handwritten in pencil on Big Chief tablets, was published in 2014 as Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill. I ordered it last month (second printing) as well as a collection of the nine books that followed the writing of the memoir. I devoured the memoir in one setting and can’t wait to find time to go back and read more carefully all of the annotations. They are rich with details and additional information about the characters that I have grown to appreciate and love — even the sharp-tongued Nellie Oleson.
If you want to learn more about the book, please check out http://pioneergirlproject.org/