Little Town on the Prairie (Chaprer 22)

Little Town on the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Chapter 22
Unexpected In April

Everything was settled in the little house on the homestead. Outdoors the snow was all gone, a green mist of new grass lay over the prairie, and plowed land spread black and sweet-smelling under the warm sun.

For two hours that morning Laura had studied. Now as she cleared away the dinner dishes she saw her slate and schoolbooks waiting and she felt the soft breeze beguiling her to go walking with Carrie and Grace in the spring weather. She knew she had to study.

“I think I’ll go to town this afternoon,” said Pa as he put on his hat. “Is there anything you want me to get, Caroline?”

Suddenly the breeze was icy cold, and Laura looked quickly from the window. She exclaimed, “Pa! There’s a blizzard cloud!”

“Why, it can’t be! This late in April?” Pa turned to see for himself.

The sunlight went out, the sound of wind changed as it rose. The storm struck the little house. A whirling whiteness pressed against the window and the cold came in.

“On second thought,” said Pa, “I believe I’d rather stay home this afternoon.”

He drew a chair close to the stove and sat down. “I’m glad all the stock is in the stable. I was going to get picket ropes in town,” he added.

Kitty was frantic. This was the first blizzard she had known. She did not know what to make of it, when all of her fur stood up and crackled. Trying to soothe her, Grace discovered that a spark would snap from her wherever she was touched. Nothing could be done about that, except not to touch her.

Three days and nights the blizzard raged. Pa put the hens in the stable lest they freeze. It was so cold that the dismal days were spent close to the stove, and though the light was dim, Laura doggedly studied arithmetic. “At least,” she thought, “I don’t want to go walking.”

On the third day, the blizzard left the prairie covered with fine, hard snow. It was still frozen when Pa walked to town next day. He brought back news that two men had been lost in that blizzard.

They had come from the east on the train, in the warm spring morning. They had driven out to see friends on a claim south of town, and just before noon they had set out to walk to another claim two miles away.

After the blizzard, the whole neighborhood turned out to search for them, and they were found beside a haystack, frozen to death.

“Being from the east, they didn’t know what to do,” said Pa. If they had dug into the haystack and plugged the hole behind them with hay, they might have lived through the blizzard.

“But whoever could have expected such a blizzard, so late,” said Ma.

“Nobody knows what will happen,” Pa said. “Prepare for the worst and then you’ve some grounds to hope for the best, that’s all you can do.”

Laura objected. “You were all prepared for the worst last winter, Pa, and all that work was wasted. There wasn’t one blizzard till we were back here and not prepared for it.”

“It does seem that these blizzards are bound to catch us, coming or going,” Pa almost agreed.

“I don’t see how anybody can be prepared for anything,” said Laura. “When you expect something, and then something else always happens.”

“Laura,” said Ma.

“Well, it does, Ma,” Laura protested.

“No,” Ma said. “Even the weather has more sense in it than you seem to give it credit for. Blizzards come only in blizzard country. You may be well prepared to teach school and still not be a schoolteacher, but if you were not prepared, it’s certain that you won’t be.”

That was so. Later Laura remembered that Ma had once been a schoolteacher. That evening when she had put away her books to help Ma get supper, she asked, “How many terms of school did you teach, Ma?”

“Two,” said Ma.

“What happened then?” Laura asked.

“I met your Pa,” Ma answered.

“Oh,” Laura said. Hopefully she thought that she might meet somebody. Maybe, after all, she would not have to be a schoolteacher always.

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