Rocky Ridge Farm – A Laura Ingalls Wilder Story
By T. L. Tedrow
Chapter One – On the Road to Missouri, Part 1
August 30, 1894
As the covered wagon hit the water filled hole near the crest of the hill outside of Springfield, Missouri, Laura’s pencil slipped off the nickel note pad diary she was keeping. The scratches on the pad were a testament to the rough road they’d been traveling.
Laura looked over at her husband, “Manly, can’t you keep this wagon on the road? Look what you’ve done!”
Manly, rolling his eyes in a way that Laura wouldn’t be able to notice, barely looked over at his pretty-but-plain twenty-seven-year-old pioneer wife. Manly had a soft spot for this exuberant, outspoken and impulsive woman that went beyond their marriage vows.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who didn’t want to marry a farmer, was married to a farmer. It was a fact of life he always remembered and she never forgot.
They were each other’s best friends in a world of strangers and friends left behind. Though they loved each other fiercely, both were strong willed and enjoyed teasing and arguing with each other in playful camaraderie.
“Laura, if you’d look around you’d notice that these roads are filled with immigrants.” Manly waved his hands as if addressing a convention. “Why just look at ‘em all. By jinks, this road looks like a city on wheels.”
Laura put down her pad and looked around. Daughter Rose, seven years old and holding Jack the spotted bulldog on her lap behind the wagon seat, peeked her head between them.
“Mama, why do all these people look so different?” Rose asked.
Laura, noticing the clothes and hearing the strange languages of the drivers and families that greeted them, waved to a Frenchman who tipped his hat without losing the beat of the song he was singing to his children.
“Rose, these people are from all over the world,” Laura said to her daughter.
Manly snorted along with the horses, “Seems like the whole danged world is here.”
Laura chuckled, “Oh Manly, these people are doing what we’re doing. Hoping for a better life. Leaving their problems behind.”
Manly mumbled to himself. “If their behinds had stayed behind with their problems, we’d all be better off.”
Laura sighed, “Oh Manly, don’t you know what it says on the Statue of Liberty that France gave us? ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send … the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”
Spurring on the team, Manly looked at Laura and said, “We got enough tired, poor, and homeless people here already. Ain’t nobody lifting a lamp to a golden door for us.”
Laura grabbed the reins, guiding the team left, just missing an immigrant’s wagon. The driver let loose with a shaking fist and a string of Italian-American curse words.
Handing back the reins, Laura said, “You better watch where you’re going.”
Manly shook his fist over his shoulder at the immigrant they’d just passed. “And I don’t see the French putting up no danged Statue of ‘Miss Come-On-Over and Freeload’ in their harbor!”
Laura sighed, “These people need help, they need a fresh start.”
“Laura, the Lord helps those who helps themselves, which to me don’t mean helping these immigrants to help themselves to what we’ve built up here in America.”
Laura looked at her husband with exasperation. “Manly, have you forgotten how we all got here in the first place?”
Manly snorted his disagreement, “‘Cause times have changed, Laura. Times have changed.”