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In the Big Woods
Laura had two sisters. Mary was the oldest, and Carrie was the youngest. Laura was right in the middle. They all lived with their Pa and Ma in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.
All around the house, as far as Laura and Mary could see, were the trees of the Big Woods. There were no other houses, and no other children for them to play with. They played with each other and their good old bulldog, Jack.
The house was small but comfortable. Upstairs there was a big attic. Downstairs was a little bedroom and a big room to live in. There was an iron stove in the big room, and a table and chairs.
In the bedroom was a big bed for Ma and Pa. Mary and Laura slept in a little trundle bed, which was very low to the ground. Every morning Mary and Laura made their bed. Then Ma pushed it out of sight beneath her big bed.
After Mary and Laura made their bed, they wiped the breakfast dishes. Then they helped Ma with the chores. Each day had its own chore. Ma would say:
"Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."
Laura liked the churning day best. Churning meant making butter out cream. Ma poured cream into a tall called a churn. She put a long pole into a hole in the churn lid. The pole was called a dash.
Ma moved the dash up and down, up and down, through the hole. Sometimes she rested, and Mary got to churn for a while. Laura would have liked to help, the dash was too heavy for her. It too long, long time for the lump of butter form in the cream.
After thework was done, Laura a Mary could play. Laura liked noisy games like running and shouting a climbing trees. But Mary liked games like playing house. She was neat and prim. Laura thought it was more fun to be wild. It was hard to say what Carrie would be like, because she was just a baby.
Mary had a doll named Nettie, a real rag doll, because she was the oldest. Sometimes Mary let Laura hold Nettie, but only when Laura's doll wasn't looking.
Laura's doll was named Susan. She was really just a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief. But she was a good doll anyway. It wasn't her fault she was a corncob.
In the wintertime, when the Big Woods were filled with snow, Mary and Laura stayed inside to play with their dolls. They climbed up to the attic where all kinds of good food was stored. There were huge round pumpkins to use as chairs and tables. Bright red peppers and white onions dangled overhead. There were hams and squashes and good-smelling herbs. Everything was snug and cosy.
In spring, Mary and Laura had playhouses under the two big oak trees in front of the house. Mary had her own tree, and her playhouse was beneath it. Laura's playhouse was under Laura's tree. Each playhouse had a carpet of soft grass. Green leaves made the roofs, and through them Laura and Mary could see bits of sky.
Laura's playhouse had a swing. Pa had hung a slab of bark to a low branch of Laura's tree. That made it Laura's swing, but she had to let Mary swing in it whenever she wanted to.
Mary had a cracked saucer to play with. Laura had a beautiful cup with only one big piece broken out of it. They made little cups and saucers for their dolls out of bits of leaf. Every day the dolls got fresh leaf hats. And Pa made two wooden men to live in the playhouses with the dolls.
Sometimes when Pa came home early he would have time to play with Laura and Mary before supper. One game they loved was called mad dog. Pa would run his fingers through his thick, brown hair, making it stand on end. Then he dropped on all fours and growled. He chased Laura and Mary all around the room.
They were quick at dodging and running away. But once Pa caught them against the wood-box, behind the iron stove. They couldn't get past him. Pa growled a terrible growl. His hair was wild and his eyes were fierce. He was just like a real mad dog.
Mary was so scared she couldn't move. Laura screamed. With a wild leap she scrambled over the wood-box, dragging her. big sister with her.
And suddenly there was no mad dog at all.Just Pa, standing there with his blue eyes shining.
"Well," he said to Laura. "You're only a little half-pint of cider half drunk up, but by Jinks! you're as strong as a little French horse! "
"You shouldn't frighten the children so," Ma said. "Look how big their eyes are. "
Pa laughed. He took down his fiddle and began to play and sing. Laura and Mary forgot all about the mad dog. Laura clapped her hands in time as Pa sang out.
"And I'll sing Yankee Doodle-de-do,
And I'll sing Yankee Doodle,
And I'll sing Yankee Doodle-de-do.
A and I'll sing Yankee Doodle! "
Mary smiled, Laura clapped, and Baby Carrie cooed in Ma's lap. Nights like that were the best times of all.Pioneer Sisters. Copyright © by Laura Wilder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.