On The Banks Of Plum Creek (Chapter 36)
On The Banks Of Plum Creek
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Next day the storm was even worse. It could not be seen through the windows, for snow swished so thickly against them that the glass was like white glass. All around the house the wind was howling.
When Pa started to the stable, snow whirled thick into the lean-to, and outdoors was a wall of whiteness. He took down a coil of rope from a nail in the lean-to.
“I’m afraid to try it without something to guide me back,” he said. “With this rope tied to the far end of the clothes-line I ought to reach the stable.”
They waited, frightened, till Pa came back. The wind had taken almost all the milk out of the pail, and Pa had to thaw by the stove before he could talk. He had felt his way along the clothes-line fastened to the lean-to, till he came to the clothes-line post. Then he tied an end of his rope to the post and went on, unwinding the rope from his arm as he went.
He could not see anything but the whirling snow. Suddenly something hit him, and it was the stable wall. He felt along it till he came to the door, and there he fastened the end of the rope.
So he did the chores and came back, holding on to the rope.
All day the storm lasted. The windows were white and the wind never stopped howling and screaming. It was pleasant in the warm house. Laura and Mary did their lessons, then Pa played the fiddle while Ma rocked and knitted, and bean soup simmered on the stove.
All night the storm lasted, and all the next day. Fire-light danced out of the stove’s draught, and Pa told stories and played the fiddle.
Next morning the wind was only whizzing, and the sun shone. Through the window Laura saw snow scudding before the wind in fast white swirls over the ground. The whole world looked like Plum Creek foaming in flood, only the flood was snow. Even the sunshine was bitter cold.
“Well, I guess the storm is over,” said Pa. “If I can get to town tomorrow, I am going to lay in a supply of food.”
Next day the snow was in drifts on the ground. The wind blew only a smoke of snow up the sides and off the tops of the drifts. Pa drove to town and brought back big sacks of cornmeal, flour, sugar, and beans. It was enough food to last a long time.
“Seems strange to have to figure out where meat is coming from,” Pa said. “In Wisconsin we always had plenty of bear meat and venison, and in Indian Territory there were deer and antelope, jackrabbits, turkeys, and geese, all the meat a man could want. Here there are only little cotton-tail rabbits.”
“We will have to plan ahead and raise meat,” said Ma. “Think how easy it will be to fatten our own meat, where we can raise such fields of grain for feed.”
“Yes,” Pa said. “Next year we will raise a wheat crop, surely.”
Next day another blizzard came. Again that low, dark cloud rolled swiftly up from the north-west till it blotted out the sun and covered the whole sky and the wind went, howling and shrieking, whirling snow until nothing could be seen but a blur of whiteness.
Pa followed the rope to the stable and back. Ma cooked and cleaned and mended and helped Mary and Laura with their lessons. They did the dishes, made their bed, and swept the floors, kept their hands and faces clean and neatly braided their hair. They studied their books and played with Carrie and Jack. They drew pictures on their slate, and taught Carrie to make her A B C’s.
Mary was still sewing nine-patch blocks. Now Laura started a bear’s-track quilt. It was harder than a nine-patch, because there were bias seams, very hard to make smooth. Every seam must be exactly right before Ma would let her make another, and often Laura worked several days on one short seam.
So they were busy all day long. And all the days ran together, with blizzard after blizzard. No sooner did one blizzard end with a day of cold sunshine, than another began. On the sunny day Pa worked quickly, chopping more wood, visiting his traps, pitching hay from the snowy stacks into the stable. Even though the sunny day was not Monday, Ma washed the clothes and hung them on the clothes-line to freeze dry. That day there were no lessons. Laura and Mary and Carrie, bundled stiff in thick wraps, could play outdoors in the sunshine.
Next day another blizzard came, but Pa and Ma had everything ready for it.
If the sunny day were Sunday, they could hear the church bell. Clear and sweet it rang through the cold, and they all stood outdoors and listened.
They could not go to Sunday school; a blizzard might come before they could reach home. But every Sunday they had a little Sunday school of their own.
Laura and Mary repeated their Bible verses. Ma read a Bible story and a psalm. Then Pa played hymns on the fiddle, and they all sang. They sang,
“When gloomy clouds across the sky
Cast shadows o’er the land,
Bright rays of hope illume my path,
For Jesus holds my hand.”
Every Sunday Pa played and they sang:
“Sweet Sabbath school more dear to me
Than fairest palace dome,
My heart e’er turns with joy to thee,
My own dear Sabbath home.”