Post 45:
“Bunny” and “The Race”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

“January 7, 1983 – EXCELLENT

Nellie somehow gets Laura’s horse. She whips it and it runs off. Nellie falls and she is temporarily paralyzed.Then she gets Laura to do her homework for her. She gets well and doesn’t tell anyone so they will continue to serve her. Laura finds out and pushes her down a hill. Ha, Ha!”

Bunnylaura

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From Anne —

The prairie is sometimes sunshiny, sometimes sadistic.  In this pair of episodes, sadism triumphs. First, Nellie abuses a poor steed named Bunny.  Then she abuses her family, Laura and anyone who’s ever had a disability by faking paralysis. Then it’s Laura’s turn to inflict pain for fun! In an epic way.
 
Laura’s peeping at Nellie while Nellie dances with a doll to a diabolical music box seems lifted from Psycho. The close-ups of Nellie screaming while she barrels down a hill are absolutely a reference to the staircase scene in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, the visceral film about the Russian Revolution: 

04

Love how Laura sits down and rests on a rock before she goes for the Big Shove.  The Nellie’s dummy body double flops over into the retention pond.  At this rate, they both deserve at least one night in jail.

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From Tracy —

Is it me or do these two episodes show both Nellie and her mother Harriet at their absolute worst? For the life of me I can’t remember any episodes where they acted this despicably.

But first let’s talk about the main actress in these two shows: Bunny the horse! What an actor! I swear you can read so much in those thoughtful eyes as she chews on Laura’s apple.

At the time I was watching these episodes as a kid I was actually riding horses and grooming them and mucking out their stables. I never had my own horse but ohhh how I wanted one. So the idea of Laura trading her horse for a stove just about killed me. Then when Nellie starts whipping Bunny like a red headed stepchild . . . well, I wanted to crawl through the screen and rip Nellie’s head off.

I will see your Battleship Potemkin reference Anne and raise you a Wizard of Oz reference. When Harriet goes out to the Ingalls to thank Pa and then discovers Bunny it’s so much like Miss Almire Gulch riding out to Dorothy’s farm to get Toto it’s uncanny:

Then there’s Nellie’s over-the-top rage when she sees Laura and Jason ride off together. That’s when I began to wonder if Nellie wasn’t in some part based on Bette Davis’ terrifying portrayal in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane:

But I digress. Onto “The Race” – not nearly as good an episode as “Bunny” but a hell of a lot less violent. Here we see Mrs. Oleson get taken for a ride literally by a thoroughbred she’s buying for the incredibly undeserving Nellie. And then she throws over her own daughter in order to win the race.

I wanted to smack both Mr. Oleson and Mr. Hansen who don’t even try to go up against the old battle-ax when she tries to con a win for Team O.

About the only thing that did my heart good after that was seeing Laura win, seeing a silver cup exchanged for shiny shoes and seeing that the Oleson’s had an outdoor privy like everyone else.

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Post 44:
“The Pride of Walnut Grove”

38 - 12:27

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 27, 1982 – GOOD

Mary wins a math contest and goes to Minniapolis (sic) for a state contest. Meanwhile, Laura tries to act like Ma. She keeps house, bakes, etc. Since Walnut Grove paid for her trip Mary feels she has to win. She is 1st runner up & they have a party anyway.”

_________

From Anne —

Welcome to the prairie, where there is nothing digital. Especially Little House video content. Tracy says that NBC or whoever holds the license for the LHOP TV episode canon has scoured the world wide web, erasing any clip, blip or full episode. We’re going from memory, gals! Let’s see just how deeply Little House embedded itself in our collective memory … without visual aids.

So, I don’t really recall much about this episode. It sounds good, though, and by gosh, that’s the review I gave it: “GOOD.”

How many of us waged battle in an academic contest when we were young? I won the 3rd grade spelling bee (though you wouldn’t know it here…in my journal entry I spell Minneapolis “Minniapolis”). I also had a game-winning answer in a 5th grade quiz-show format history contest.
Q: ‘Who said “I have not yet begun to fight”‘ ?
A: John Paul Jones.

Funny thing is, I only knew this because it was referenced in a episode of The Carol Burnett Show, a show I used to beg to stay up and watch on Saturday nights, along with Sonny and Cher. Like many of us, I have a diploma from the University of Boob Tube.

We all know Mary Ingalls was a Type A, high achiever perfectionist. It must have devastated her to lose a math contest in Minneapolis.

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From Tracy —

Hey if anyone out there has suggestions for how to post links to the shows, please let us know. If NBC was so worried about their content why aren’t the episodes available on iTunes for purchase? Or at least streaming somewhere on Netflix? I’m sure there’s at least another dollar or two to wring out of this series and I’m sure the stars would appreciate a heftier check from their royalties (?). Les sigh.

Well now back to the episode. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the episode too but I did watch it last year. And I do remember my stomach tightening in sympathy over how Mary did in the competition. I was a little Type A perfectionist myself and entered damn near everything like the awards junkie I am.

Both girls were so mature in this episode and I loved how Laura didn’t get jealous but worked extra hard so that Pa wouldn’t be overburdened. Seems to me she fell asleep at the dining table while talking to Pa?

Besides I am a sucker for any episode that features bunting and bandstands.

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Post 43:
“The Blizzard”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 23, 1982 – EXCELLENT

Miss Beadle sends the kids home from school. She doesn’t know it’s turning into a blizzard. The mothers come and find no children at school. They start search parties and find everyone. Mr. Edwards doesn’t come back till the morning. One guy dies. At the end Charles reads a Bible part.”

(No full episode available on YouTube)

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From Tracy —

In honor of the horrid crappyness of the current winter, we bring you this Little House episode . . . which rocks.

I think I must have play acted it a dozen times with friends. We would tilt our bodies forward with our hands outstretched like we were walking into a blinding wind. We did this even in the summer. And then we got to live it during the Blizzard of 1978 in Indiana.

But back to the episode. First off I have to ask — why the hell brandy? There is a lot of brandy drinking in this episode and I just have to say “uck”. What’s wrong with whiskey ?

Perhaps that’s just what people drank when it was cold. Or it was considered more polite and dainty.

But still . . . whiskey . . . a much better choice people!

Of course you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol at all in the cold as it lowers core body warmth temperature. It does make you feel warmer temporarily which is of course is the whole point.

Another issue – why aren’t the citizens of Walnut Grove a bit more panicky about snow? Didn’t the Ingalls learn this by now, considering the episode “Survival” when they’re holed up for weeks with strangers in an abandoned cabin? That was during Season One! This is Season Three! Just sayin’. 

Some special moments — Willie being sweet to Miss Beadle. His blond bun reverence is so lovely. You just know he’s wanted to touch her hair forever. And Mary was smart to suggest following the fence.

But when it’s too cold even for the horses (!) there’s not much hope for two little girls.

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From Anne —

Gosh, you remember this well, Tracy.  What a nice, morbid game to play: the zombie-esque blizzard walk.What I recall most clearly from this episode (since I don’t have the luxury of watching it again on YouTube) is Miss Beadle’s wrinkled brow.  And her profound guilt, which turns to self-loathing … when you’ve done something so bad and there’s nothing to do but accept everyone’s hatred, or pity.  But hey, it’s not her fault there was no Al Roker back then.  Miss Beadle had a way more legitimate excuse than the mayor of Atlanta, that’s for sure.And no one can forget how, in this episode and a handful of others, tragedy brings out sweetness and sympathy from Willie and his stone-cold mother Harriet.

And on that note, let’s pause for a sec to remember Richard Bull, who died last week.  His real life wife of 66 years (Barbara Collentine) and his TV wife 10+ years (Scotty MacGregor) had dinner to discuss what a good man he was.  He gave dimension and dignity to one of the most hen-pecked characters in TV history.  Thanks for everything, Mr. Oleson!

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Post 42:
“The Gift”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 22, 1982 – POOR

Mary & Laura want to buy Reverend Alden a gift. They send away for a medicine set to sell so they can get more money. They can’t sell any medicine so Nellie buys a Bible.”

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Sorry for the lateness of the post. Both Anne and I have been traveling and on vacation.

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From Anne —

How entrepreneurial were you as a kid?  I was a social entrepreneur, starting a veterinary practice for ailing stuffed animals, and a public advocacy “Be Kind to Animals” campaign, involving leaflets drawn in crayon inserted into sandwich baggies left in mailboxes.

But I certainly wasn’t a dope pusher, like Mary and Laura are in this disappointing episode.  Pyramid schemes on the prairie?  Give me a break.

It’s amazing that Rev. Alden lets the girls completely off the hook for greed — maybe because that greed is about a bigger, better gift for him.  This moral misdirection is why I rated the episode “poor.”

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From Tracy —

Well . . .  sigh . . . I was a dope pusher. The drug was sugar. My personal dread every year was the damnable Girl Scout Cookie Drive. I hated going from house to house whoring myself to the system. Even then I had a sense of shame over the tackiness of it all. There were about a dozen girls in my hood who were better connected than me. Their mom’s and dad’s would take in their forms to their offices and then they would clean house within the neighborhood too. Dad was the boss at his work and didn’t feel it was right to make his employees buy my shit. And Mom was the last of the stay-at-home mothers.

I have to say I loved Reverend Alden in this episode. While I sometimes find his preaching and expectations of everyone boring and irritating, he did a masterful (and creative!) job of saving the Ingalls girls’ asses. Bravo Preacher Man.

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Post 41:
“The Talking Machine”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 21, 1982 – EXCELLENT

Laura starts to like this scientific kid named Jason. Nellie likes him, too. To get his attention, she buys a talking machine. It doesn’t work, so she records Laura saying mushy stuff about Jason and plays it for the class. Jason writes on the bard “Jason loves Laura” and later they carve their names in the sweetheart tree.”

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From Tracy —

I agree with Young Anne. THIS EPISODE SERIOUSLY ROCKS.

It has everything. Let’s examine the checklist:

√ Great dialogue and use of old fashioned words like “passel” and “gullywhopper”

√ Heroic curly headed boy

√ Pa being even more wonderful than usual

√ Insanely cool props

√ Science and science fiction

√ Full-on Nellie treachery and hissy fit

This episode is also very pro-women. Pa channels Alan Alda. Not only does Pa tell Laura she is pretty enough but also that she could be a scientist or even a woman doctor. And he rushes to defend her honor in the end.

He even defends a female horse’s honor when the talking machine salesman wonders if his horse’s sex is to blame for its fear of lightning:

Salesman: “The onliest thing in the world that blows that mare up is lightning. Do you suppose it’s because she’s female? Their juices run different than ours.”

Pa: “Naw. I know plenty of male horses that spook at lightning too.”

There there’s Nellie acting like Rhoda from The Bad Seed. Watching her go from tantrum to hatching an diabolical plan is delicious.

Then finally there’s Jason. Swoon! I would have so crushed on him too if I’d been at that school. Those curls! Those blue eyes! That big beautiful brain! And all of his neat experiments and toys! Steampunkers take note. This episode is prop porn.

399px-Kyle-cassidy-steampunk

But wait . . . it gets better! At the end he also defends Laura honor and bravely claims he wrote “Jason loves Laura” on the blackboard “because it’s true.”

Rock on brainy romance. Rock on.

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From Anne —

OK, I’m going to be cynical for a minute. Are we sure that Jason actually wrote “Jason loves Laura” on the chalkboard? Maybe someone else did it. He’s a bit slow to claim the graffiti, don’t you think? But there at the end, when Laura and Jason are beaming moody smiles at each other across the tiny classroom, I expected a “wow-chicka-bow-wow” chord to slip out from the indomitable Little House Soundtrack Orchestra.

Yup, Tracy. Not only do we get full-on Nellie in tantrum-turned-plan-hatching mode (that’s the stuff  Confessions of a Prairie Bitch is made of). We also get some tension between Laura and Mary. Mary clearly thinks Laura is an idiot for running around after Jason. Mary’s suitors always came to her…

Great observation of the feminist-yet-romantic strain here.  It’s tough to do both. The female horse comment is quite subtle and gamely done.

Indeed, the actual 1870s-1880s were a hot time for inventors. Lightbulbs, phonographs, wind turbines, movie cameras were off the presses or in the works. Maybe Jason would have been the Elon Musk of his day.

Speaking of inventions, a contemporary inventor is coming to Indianapolis soon for the TEDxIndianapolis conference.  Can’t wait to meet this guy; invention is always sexy.

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Post 40:
“A Matter of Faith”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 20, 1982 – FAIR

Charles and the kids go on a camping trip. Before they leave, Ma cuts herself. Later she is alone, she loses the cow, because she faints. She make it back to the house and has to cut her sour (sic) open. Charles finds her and Doc Baker comes.”

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From Anne —

Crap, what started out as a spa day (well, sort of; she still had to bake 20 pies) … turns into an emporium of delirium for poor old Ma. Lancing one’s own leg is not a popular spa treatment, even on the hardscrabble prairie. This sore has indeed gone quite sour.  Hope that pus is not the secret ingredient in any of Ma’s pies. The joke’s on Rev. Alden if so.

What’s not to love about the theramin-juiced soundtrack to this harrowing episode, along with a good old-fashioned thunderstorm made of 100% sound effects, and — the money shot — a Psycho-eque close up of Ma’s roly-poly eyeball.

Psycho Eyeball Eye

Carolyn Ingalls Eye Matter of Faith

My husband’s Aunt Sharon got the proverbial cat scratch fever from … a cat scratch, the day before her son’s wedding. Not a pretty sight, not a pretty sight.

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From Tracy —

This episode SERIOUSLY freaked my sh*t out when I was a kid. In fact I think it was the scariest episodes ever in the Little House canon.

On Little House if you don’t have bad luck you don’t have any luck at all and that goes double for poor Caroline this time. And bread poultices aren’t going to cut it.

But in case you ever do want to make a bread poultice, here’s the recipe.

I thought she was going to cut her leg off after she reads this Bible verse:

“And If thy food offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched . . .” (Mark 9:45)

And shame on the town of Stoddard who couldn’t get their act together and bake their own damn pies for their bazaar.

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Post 39:
“In the Big Inning”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 18, 1982 – EXCELLENT

Walnut Grove forms a baseball team. They find a really good pitcher. They play against Sleepy Eye. W. G. is up, it’s last inning, bases loaded. They meet 4 runs to win. Charles is up. He gets a homer.”

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From Tracy —

Of course Young Anne would love this episode. It has baseball in it. Something she loves dearly. Well, only if it involves the Chicago Cubs. Now I remember feeling disappointed that this was going to be a sports focused LHOP until I saw Mr. Mumford pitch. Then they had me. Because there’s nothing Young or Middle Aged Tracy likes better than an underdog story.

Laura and Pa’s expressions after Mr. Mumford tries to kill the chicken hawk are priceless.

Other great moments include:

— Seeing Doc Baker in his “PJs”

— Hearing this line come out of Mr. Edwards:

“You do that again I’m going to come out there and stand on your eyelids!”

— Seeing all of those Sleepy Eye handlebar mustachioed ruffians swill beer and do bad things. Definite culture shock for the W.G.

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From Anne — 

True dat, Tracy. I loved baseball back in the ‘80s, much more than I do now. The strike of ’94 (1994, that is) really soured me. True too that baseball seems to have a corrupting influence on the citizens of Walnut Grove. Baseball begets gambling, brawling, profiteering, and worst of all, marketing — with the mill and the mercantile competing to be the sponsor of the team.

Did you see that red hat Pa is wearing? For a minute it looked like it had a gold McDonald’s logo. What’s next, groupies on the prairie?

In one way this episode reminds me of Bull Durham.  I love it when Ma and Pa lay in bed eating popcorn and giggling. I presume that this is either a prelude or a post-coital ritual, wouldn’t you?

Important cultural question: which came first, the handlebar waxed mustache, or baseball?  They’re running neck in neck…

Speaking of old-timey baseball, some of my Big Car (bigcar.org) friends here in Indy have recreated a ball team that existed in 1884, not long after the time period represented in this Little House episode.  Check out the Indianapolis Hoosier Vintage Base Ball team here.

9737994

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Post 38:
June Little House Newsletter

 

To read, print out or download the newsletter, click here.

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From Anne —

It’s 1984.  Young Anne is 14, heading into sophomore year in high school, and has started reading Seventeen Magazine. You can tell by the way I mimic its perky, season-specific copywriting. That’s the spirit of the Little House Newsletter: a testing ground for my magazine journalism career that didn’t totally happen.

You can also tell I am the daughter of a librarian. Thirty years before Google, all of the information nuggets in the Little House Newsletter came from either:

1) A paperback biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder with a super cheesy cover:

9780380016365_p0_v1_s260x420

2) back issues of People magazine from my mom’s library.

I remember using a huge paperweight of a book called the Readers Index to identify any article about anything related to Gilbert, Landon or Grassle. And I remember ordering that pulp biography by Donald Zochert (above) and counting the days ’til it came.

So the issue is always punchy mix of LHOP show and books. I bet Patrick Laborteaux (“Andy Garvey”) had no clue who Carrie Ingalls Swanzey (herself a newspaperwoman) was. But there they are, commingled in my little timeline in purple, top left.

My editorial choices in this dense little issue of Little House Newsletter mirror my concerns at this age: love, madness, time, and Mattel commercials.  My guilt at getting the issue out late is also noted twice!

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From Tracy –

What Young Anne created here would later have a name — a zine. And even in this webby age the counterculture still produces tons of them. Here’s a selection from the shelves of the famous Powell’s Books here in Portland which carries at least 30 of them at any given time:

Powell's Books Portland Zines Shelves

Now for those of you who don’t remember a time before personal computers and the web, just imagine the time it would take to create this zine. Yes photocopiers existed and Anne had the awesome power of a librarian mother at her disposal. But she wanted each of the sections to be in a different color. And color photocopiers or printers were definitely not available to the general public. So that meant creating each one by hand. I think Anne had about four or five devoted followers to her newsletter. So we’re talking a lot of work. But that’s her. A woman who is a perfectionist and loves the details.

Here’s some irony. This time I’m the one apologizing for the lateness of the  Little House Newsletter. Anne was right on time this go around. (Sorry Anne!)

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Post 37:
“Remember Me” Part 2

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 17, 1982 – FAIR

Charles is about to separate the kids by giving them to two different kids (sic). Mr. Edwards doesn’t like it so he asks Grace to marry him and they adopt them.”

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From Anne —

What was Landon’s thing with orphans? Walnut Grove was a revolving door for random kids—everybody from Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) to Todd Bridges (Diff’rent Strokes). 

That’s where 13-year-old Anne’s “Fair” rating comes from, I think—a sense of weariness. My summary of this episode is about as short as any of them. 

Today I think that it was a total mistake not to send the little girl with the hip, straight-talking wealthy lady. That decision probably shortened the little girl’s life by a few years. She could have been smarter, healthier and well-travelled. Think about it; Mr. Edwards’ grammar really sucks.

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From Tracy —

I feel frustrated by second part of this two-parter too. I think because all the girls have to take one for the team. In this case it’s both Alicia and Grace.

Yes, it’s about time that Mr. Edwards finally proposed to Grace. But as much as I love Mr. Edwards I can’t help but feel Grace could do better.

Then there’s the orphaned Alicia. I agree with Anne. She should have gone with the Widow Minerva. European schools for Pete’s sake!

And poor Charles! He gets stuck with all of the hard work and everyone beats him up for it. No good deed goes unpunished. Not even in Walnut Grove.

 

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Post 36:
“Remember Me” Part 1

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 16, 1982 – FAIR

This lady is going to die & Charles has to find a home for his (sic) kids. Continued tomorrow.”

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From Tracy —

WHAT A TEAR JERKER! This is a humdinger of a two-part episode. It’s really, really not fair of Landon to hit us right at the beginning with partially drowned puppies and then 15 mins in make us face the death of Patricia Neal.

Yes that’s her with the velvet gravel voice. Some of you out there may know her better in Breakfast in Tiffanys as the hero’s er um “patron.” Here’s her best scene in that flick where she is a very epitome of a”stylish girl.”

Her beauty and extreme talent shows through in this role as Mrs. Sanderson too albeit without a wardrobe from Pauline Trigére.

Landon’s writing really is great in this episode. Take this quote from her speech at the church:

“I’d appreciate it if no one said anything right today. It’s not a decision to be made in haste. It takes 9 months to have one child. So folks should at least think on it a day or so before having three.”

It’s not quite as good as her line in The Day The Earth Stood Still  but then that’s a high bar to clear.

So say, can you tell I’m a Patricia Neal fan?

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From Anne  —

I sure can tell. Thank you for the Breakfast at Tiffany’s clip. I wouldn’t wear it, but she carries that plaid suit with much moxie.

I remember my parents seeing me glued to this episode and gasping, “Oh my god, that’s Patricia NEAL!” Her gravitas and acting chops raise this simple show into the stratosphere. Really caused Kevin Hagen, Landon and the gang to up their acting game. Wonder what made her agree to be on the show?

Yeah, Landon pulls out all the stops, with the driving rain and the Bible verses. I remember feeling the deep seriousness…

Patricia’s face is like a huge elegant lily!

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