Rocky Ridge Farm – A Laura Ingalls Wilder Story
By T. L. Tedrow
Chapter One – On the Road to Missouri, Part 3
As the horses began another uphill pull, Manly coached them forward. Immigrants seemed to be everywhere with cows, goats, sheep and flocks of children trailing behind their wagons.
Manly shook his head and turned back to his wife. “Where’s that one from?”
Laura listened to the family talking and heard the distinctive Scottish brogue. It brought back family memories. “Scotland.”
“Scotland! How do you know?” Manly exclaimed, slapping his hat. “They ain’t wearing those kilt dresses!”
“I heard it in their voices. My great-great grandfather was Johnnie Blue, from the Scottish peninsula of Kintyre,” Laura said very matter-of-factly.
“Never saw your pa wearing no kilt!” Manly joked.
Laura looked straight at him, “Manly, you old fool, when you come to America you leave a lot of the old country behind so you can become part of the new country.”
Manly eyed her right back, trying to keep a straight face. “I’ve always said that Scots are a tricky bunch. Those Scotties we just passed were probably your cousins. I bet you had some secret hand sign that I didn’t catch. That’s how you knew ‘em, isn’t it?”
Laura, not catching the gleam in his eye, said, “If you’d talk less and listen more, most questions always answer themselves. You’ve heard Scotch brogue before.”
Manly took off his hat and wiped his brow. Another wagon came ‘round the bend, “Ok schoolmarm, where be these people from?”
As they got closer, Laura saw that it was a family of black farmers heading back from town with a load of seed. “They’re from Africa. They might not have come here by choice but all the same, they’re from Africa.”
Manly scratched his chin. “I guess that one was easy. Everyone knows where the black folks came from.”
The black family waved to the Wilders. Manly tipped his hat and Laura waved back.
Rose squeezed her mother’s hand. “Mama, they seemed like nice folks.”
Laura laughed, “People are people Rose. They all have the same needs to eat, sleep, have a roof over their heads and to be happy.”
Rose peeked under the edge of the wagon flap and saw a black boy of about her age peeking back. She dropped the flap and turned to her mother. “Were they happy as slaves Mamma? That old farmer who camped besides us last night said those people were happiest when they were slaves.”
Laura looked at Rose. “Would you be happy held against your will? Put that old farmer in chains and he’d shut his mouth. Just because people are not the same color or go to a different church, doesn’t mean that they’re still not people.”
Manly “giddiyapped” the horses again. “Lordy Laura, you’d think you was givin’ a sermon on the Sabbath. Let’s get back to the game of guessing where all these foreigners are from.” Looking at the wagon coming down the next rise, he said. “How ‘bout that one?”
Laura looked over and recognized the Russian flag flying from the wagon hoop and said, “Russia.”
“How can you tell?”
“I recognize the flag.” Laura waved to the Russians and shouted, “Where you heading?”
The man dressed in a funny mixture of prairie and Cossack clothes smiled and said in a stilted English, “Biz-Mark Nor’ Da-ko-ta.”
“Good luck,” Laura shouted, watching the Russian family heading towards the place they had just left. “You’ll need it,” she whispered. Just the mention of the Dakotas brought a wave of sad memories over her.
“Don’t wish nothin’ on ‘em that we went through,” Manly said, looking over at Laura who was deep in thought.
Manly moved the wagon over to avoid another hole in the road. He wanted to get Laura out of her mood, so he playfully jabbed a finger into her side. “Ok Miss Smarty-pants, let’s find one without no danged flag and see if you can tell me where it’s from.”
Laura shook off the memories and smiled bravely, “Just point one out.”
Spotting one he thought looked right for stumping Laura, Manly pointed to a wagon without a flag parked against a growth of trees alongside the road. “Where’s that one from?”
Laura looked and looked and looked. Manly had stumped her! She hated to admit it but he had.
As they passed slowly by the wagon, Manly held the reins smiling smugly. “Ha-ha. Got you, didn’t I!”
Laura began to turn away without the answer but Rose pointed to the painted letters “Canada” on the back of the wagon that had just come into view.
Smiling, Laura said, “Why, that wagon parked by the trees over there is from Canada.”
Manly looked at the wagon and then to Laura. “Canada? How can you tell?”
Winking at Rose, Laura laughed, “Manly, if you’d look before you speak, you’d see the word ‘Canada’ painted on the side.”
Rose giggled at her father’s discomfort. Manly, ten years Laura’s senior was never a match for her intellect. Their likes and dislikes blended nicely on so many things that they were an unmatched well-matched pair.
What had probably attracted her to Manly, was simple: he was just like her pa. Without a doubt, he had Pa’s heart and soul.
Pa and Manly. They both loved to sing and would always press ahead no matter what the odds. They might not plan ahead but they’d always press ahead when their backs were against the wall.
End of Chapter 1