3.03.2011

Ma and Pa Ingalls

Somewhere in the Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about a terrible time when the whole family, including Ma and Pa, were struck with some severe pioneer fever and were laid out in bed.  Ma and Pa couldn't get up to take care of the girls, draw water from the well, or meet the needs of Jack the brindled bulldog, and it took some kind Indians* to save them from certain doom.

I've thought about this quite a bit yesterday and today, as Biffle and I have become Ma and Pa Ingalls. Maybelle Ingalls is in perfectly good health, having gotten through her stomach flu by the end of the day on Tuesday, but by the time she'd emerged rosy-cheeked and energetic, she'd communicated the disease to both her parents.  We've been taking turns on who gets to sleep/vomit and who is trying hold their heads up and take care of Maybelle.  It's been tricky.  Benya, playing the role of Jack the brindled bulldog, has been quite anxious.

Biffle and I are both emerging from the worst of the illness--we're both able to keep down both water and Gatorade today!--but yesterday was pretty ugly.  For instance, yesterday morning before I realized how sick I was, I made the stupid decision to take Maybelle on a walk to the park.  Once we got to the park, I sat in the grass while Maybelle and Benya roamed around.  I realized then that getting back up onto my feet and getting us all home was not going to be an easy task.  When we were halfway home, Maybelle fell out of the wagon, bumped her head, and wanted to be carried.  I could pick her up, but I couldn't hold her and walk--it was just too much.  So I started wondering if maybe some kind stranger driving by would be moved to stop and help.  I was thinking, "Which people programmed into my cell phone are not currently teaching class and could come and get us?  Is there a way I could strap Benya to the wagon so that she could pull me and Maybelle home?"

Fortunately, we did make it home, and come to think of it, that's the least ugly of the stories I could have told you.  So I'll leave it at that.

We're better today.  I doubt we're going to need any rescuers, and it's possible that we'll make it through tomorrow with less than the sixteen hour of sleep we've been requiring.  But if anyone has been trying to get in touch with me to no avail, this is why.


*Biffle has pointed out to me that it wasn't Indians but some other white pioneers who saved them--I don't think there's much love for the Indians in the Little House books--but in my fever-addled mind they're Indians.

10 comments:

Jims said...

On Little House: The Ingalls family is saved primarily by the first (and only, I think) black character in the series, who was a frontier doctor, and secondarily by some other white settlers. But none of this changes the main story of your post--no one likes a stomach flu.

Biffle said...

Sadly, Alison left out one of the more lovely elements of the story, to wit: Jack the brindled bulldog went out the frontier road and awaited passersby, and upon finally getting their attention, crawled backwards to lead them toward the Ingalls house.

I've yet to be able to get Benya to even back up at all, much less lead someone to our ague riddled selves.

Alison said...

Okay, I'm adding to the discussion here. Right after commenting, Biffle looked up the chapter "Fever 'N' Ague" in Little House on the Prairie, and he says "Through the whole chapter, Jack is killer. Laura leans on him so that she can get some water for Mary, and things like that. Here's what it actually says about Jack getting them the doctor:

"It was a strange thing that Jack, who hated strangers and never let one come near the house til Ma and Pa told him to, had gone to meet Dr. Tan and begged him to come in."

There's no definitive evidence there that he crawled backward, but Biffle is sure that happened at some point in the book. Jims, any remarkable memory of that event?

Jims said...

I can't specifically recall Jack crawling backwards, though it may well have happened. Most of my childhood memories of Jack involve being traumatized when Pa wouldn't let him ride in the wagon as they crossed a large river, and all the characters thinking Jack had drowned. That was my first dawning inkling that Pa was kind of a turd.

Alison said...

Yes, it's true: patriarchy makes turds of the best of us.

Biffle said...

Listen y'all: Pa was no turd.

Kenneth said...

The Fever 'n' Ague chapter has always lingered with me. As I recall, Ma thinks the ailment comes from watermelons.

Biffle said...

that's great, kenneth. Alison was surprised you hadn't weighed in on this. Seems she knows you better than i do. nerds of a feather, i guess...

Kenneth said...

During long Wisconsin winters, I often think of the The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder's account of how the family endured a tough snowy season. Pa tells of nearly wandering into oblivion in a whiteout. I sometimes think the same thing could happen to me, or that at least I could miss my bus.

Jims said...

Things Pa did that made me think he was a turd (all from different books in the series):
-Proudly participated in a minstrel show
-Always had to move West even though Ma clearly didn't want to and the family may have been more secure staying in Wisconsin
-Moved to Indian territory without actual word from the government that it was legal, and then complained when it wasn't and the family had to move
-Didn't let Jack ride in the wagon, even after the time he nearly drowned
-Ate all the oyster crackers when he was stuck in that haystack during a blizzard (o.k., so he couldn't help that one)