Prairie Fires: Chapter 13 (Part 1)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 13

(Tweet Link: Part 9) Okay. Let's... let's gird our loins. Deep breaths. Chapter 13 of #PrairieFires. Part #9 in my series of threads. I'm gonna admit to being a bit exhausted. I will continue because I don't like leaving things unfinished, but... these are awful, depressing people. Genuinely, I had to go take a break after Part #8.

Laura and Rose are some kind of case study in how traumatized people can turn around and absolutely terrorize others in an attempt to assert control over their lives. Rose is the most obvious problem, what with the "adopting" and abusing of young boys, and sucking up to famous friends only to castigate them unfairly when they fail to perform to her fantasies.

But Laura is only better in comparison. She's cruel and cold to her neighbors and handyman. She wills her house and farm to Rose but demands she doesn't give/sell it to some people who've stayed with Laura and Almanzo in the past, because she thinks they're messy and shiftless. She reads like a tiny petty tyrant who is furious that no one else is as amazing as she is--including, often, her own husband. Her famous temper is mentioned a lot. Almanzo basically avoids the house as much as possible. It's sad, truly.

I can't even really empathize with them in an "oh no, these people would've been better with counseling" because they're... you know... horrifically racist and Rose likes Hitler. Like, I feel bad feeling bad for them. There needs to be a word that means "feeling sympathy for someone who doesn't deserve it, and honestly there are so many other people who could use that sympathy more and better". Ten points if some wordsmith can word "Melania" into the proposed word.

I feel weird because, like, I knew in advance there was going to be some Libertarian garbage and I knew about the Ingalls squatting on indigenous land, but. Nazis and child abuse, I did not expect. Anyway. We're here now, and we'll soldier on. So okay but. Diving in. Laura has finished her series. She wants to be done. Goes home to Rocky Ridge, tries to avoid everyone. But fans are clamoring for more. She writes back to each fan letter, politely saying she's done.

Meanwhile, Grace dies. Grace and Laura hadn't been super close--Laura disapproved of Grace's husband's New Deal reliance (fuck you, Laura, we can't all be writers)--but she's still saddened. Only she and Carrie are left. Her agent--who she has an amicable relationship with and who is not an asshole like Rose--warmly encourages her to write more. Laura vacillates between tempted and capital-D done. She says she'll work more on her adult manuscript. (The First Four Years material.)

She doesn't seem to make a lot of progress on it, probably because she's tired. She's still doing all the "farm wife" chores + taking care of an increasingly invalid Almanzo. (Almanzo is in his 80s and "frail". I remember skin cancer being mentioned a long time ago. Did he get better or was it a false alarm? Idk.)

America flings herself into war after the Pearl Harbor bombing, which is of course a shattering of all Laura and Rose's isolationism ideals. Pioneer fiction is on the upswing, though. Oklahoma! opens on Broadway and now I'll have shitty songs stuck in my head for a week. (Alright, you Oklahoma stans, you can settle down in my mentions. I lived in OK and heard the songs way too many times. Can I interest you in some Hamilton or Wicked?) Parallels are drawn between Oklahoma! and These Happy Golden Years. Published the same month, they feature horse-drawn romances, song-based wooing, potential kniftings, and end in Almanzo/Curley embracing the glory of farming.

I just.



THGY gets great Kirkus reviews and a Newbery Medal and it's time to smash-cut to Rose who is not doing nearly so well. hahahahaahahah fuck you, Rose. Rose, you will remember, had been making half a million in today's dosh with a prestigious magazine until a new editor walked in one day and said "holy shit, this is terrible writing" and sacked her. (Well, stopped hiring her as a freelancer and probably sent all her calls to voicemail.)

Rose, Ayn, and Isabel...make an attempt.

Rose Wilder Lane, Ayn Rand, and Isabel Mary Paterson each published philosophical works early that year. Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom appeared in January 1943; Rand’s The Fountainhead followed in April; Paterson’s The God of the Machine came out in May. Three weird sisters in an antifeminist trifecta, they each celebrated in their books the strapping male as a hero, and exhibited a striking dissociation from what was happening around the world. Emphasizing free will as essential to liberty, the works laid the foundation for the libertarian political movement in the United States.

Rose is opposed to "collectivism", to empowering the group over the individual, to taxes, government, planned economies, education, and philanthropy. I guess she's no longer pretending to be a communist like the cool kids? Paterson is a role model slash mentor to Rose and Ayn and she sounds awful. Like, punch-in-the-face awful.

"Although Paterson’s book was published a few months later than the others, she had been discussing the same ideas and deploying the same images in her column for years. She may well have been startled to see those images & arguments appearing in Lane’s book without attribution."

I do love that Rose is consistent in her "plagiarize people and publish in a rush to undercut them" ideals. It is interesting that Rose gravitated to a female mentor, given her hatred of Laura. It's also a bit odd to think of this as a "mentor" relationship; Rose is... in her late 40s? early 50s? at this stage.


@arthur_affect And eventually all three of them would cut ties with each other and denounce each other’s work, as rugged individualists are wont to do

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh. That explains so much, actually.

@arthur_affect I just remember reading about all of Rand’s feuds as the “movement” progressed and it’s exhausting   If you’ve ever talked to an Objectivist who stridently insists that Objectivists are NOT libertarians, this is why (bc the libertarian “brand” was associated w Paterson/Lane)

Parallels are drawn between Rose's "Discovery of Freedom" and Paterson's "God of the Machine". There are a lot of similarities. And Rose was Paterson's neighbor and often guest. Will someone finally sue Rose for plagiarism? I DO NOT KNOW. ...God, she basically just took all of Isabel's material, added a couple articles from the encyclopedia about Egypt and Phoenicians, spackled in a bunch of Laura's personal history, and knocked off for lunch.

She feels the 1894 depression proves that depressions can be weathered by anyone willing to work hard. Wasn't she bouncing around Europe at the time? The timeline is muddled. Anyway, Rose Wilder never worked hard in her life, so it doesn't matter. I'm going to go get some pie, brb. Pie has been gotten.

It's... idk how to say this? Interesting? It's interesting to me that Rose despises her parents but hauls them out for "authenticity cred" when she wants to bolster her wild political views. In "Discovery of Freedom", she hauls out Laura's dugout house in Plum Creek as an example of pioneering thrift and how depressions are totes no big deal. But Rose hated Laura's thriftiness. And she spent her whole life building houses. (& Caroline hated the dugout.)

In 1894, as @rikibeth reminds us, Rose was 10. And her family was fleeing De Smet because they were too impoverished to stay.

@rikibeth 1894 was when they left DeSmet for Missouri. So, she was under 10. Clearly she had sophisticated economic insights at that age.

Rose reminisces about the Russian family that met them and gave Laura biscuits and how the cows were so bountiful etc. and the Russian woman took biscuits from her blouse next to her skin. Boob biscuits. Huh. Rose doesn't seem to understand that this is an argument for communal living and groups instead of RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM oh and also the Russian woman showed you charity which you hate. I guess she should've let you starve.

Rose asserts (and we need a little Wikipedia citation needed here) that taxation brought down Rome. I love conservatives' obsession with Rome, btw. Growing up in Christian schools, we heard about Rome being pre-America all the time. "[Thing] brought down Rome and IT WILL BRING DOWN AMERICA" is conservative catechism. Taxes, gay sex, abortion, Pusheen the Cat, whatever.

"But, Ana, I don't think Pusheen could take down Ro--"


Pusheen the Cat as a DINOSAUR

(As a side note, I am mildly alarmed at how many people are now following me solely because of this live-tweet. Like... do... do you all know what you're signing up for? because I am w e i r d and not at all respectable.)

Anyway, Rose talks about how Caroline (her grandmother) held an ethical responsibility to return all favors and gifts with favors/gifts of her own. But she "forgets" things like the Christmas charity the Ingalls took, the Wilder's seed wheat they ate, the state aid for Mary to go to school, and outright stealing Osage land because they could. And running out on debts in Burr Oak. And the thing is, Rose known about all these things. Laura told her and wrote them down and they talked at length about how much to edit and leave out. Recently! She knows.

So she's just... lying. I don't really get that. Color me naive, I know. I can understand the human cognitive dissonance thing of twisting facts to fit your worldview, but Rose doesn't do THAT. She doesn't twist facts, she just discards them. No, not even that, because she praised the "skipping out on debts" thing in one of her books. She seems so ideologically fluid, in a really upsetting way to me. She picks and chooses facts, then picks and chooses competing facts, and as long as it "feels true" at the time, she's good.

I hate her, but I'm also kind of afraid of her. Like, I feel like Rose would be your BEST FRIEND FOREVER until she could make a buck throwing you under a bus and then whoop you're gone. Then again, that may be a concise summary of libertarianism right there, so let's move on, mustn't dwell.

"Lane's assumption of authority about economics was perhaps the most unconvincing position she had ever taken." ajsdhajkhkhahahahahahah

Fraser notes, and please imagine me cackling, all of the many many many ways in which Rose is not qualified to pronounce on economies. What with living constantly beyond her means, saving nothing, throwing all her money into get-rich-quick stock market schemes, and mooching. Fraser notes "the only person in her family who could claim financial expertise was her mother". BUT ROSE ISN'T GOING TO TALK TO HER.

Paterson's book was respectfully reviewed but hardly anyone bothered to read it. Rose's book... Okay, authors, gather round. The Kirkus review of Rose's book was "choppy, discursive, unorganized, and superficial" and concluded with the words "So what?"

Okay, one of y'all needs to GET ON THIS because I need this too.

@solipsisters Dying to know who wrote the RL Wiki pg, which portrays her as a superstar writer and amazeball money-maker who generously kept her family afloat. I really hope someone edits the page to comport with this bio and that a major Wiki brawl breaks out.

We here pause from dragging Rose Wilder Lane to drag Ayn Rand: "the gobbets of turgid argument disgorged by [the Fountainhead's] characters over the course of seven hundred pages showed Paterson's heavy influence." All three women denounced social security, but Rand registered for it and accepted payments, arguing that she had paid into it and deserved the money. Rose decided that refusing social security was akin to RESISTING SECRET POLICE and decided somebody needed to DO SOMETHING.

She sends a postcard to a radio commentator saying that Social Security was designed by Hitler (who... I guess she doesn't like anymore?) and somehow the postcard ends up in the hands of the FBI and guys I am so h e l p. They send a state trooper to her house to, like, check up on this weird postcard about Hitler and Social Security?

Rose is weeding her garden and yells at the state trooper that "I am an American citizen. I hire you, I pay you. And you have the insolence to question my attitude?" She expands the incident into a pamphlet calling the State Troopers "Gestapo" and... insisting that "Jews were plotting the 'complete destruction' of American constitutional government." She accuses the FBI of tampering with her mail. Hoover's flunkies open a file on the whole thing.

My god this is a disaster.

 @theshenners So she's admitting the government owes her something as a member of the American collective?


God, she and Rand both are like 'I hate all government but since they're taking my money, I get a say in how the government is run.' She goes to the Associated Press and tells them that "Social Security is National Socialism. No one could hate the Germans more than I do. I have two boys in the service, one of whom I believe to be in a concentration camp."


Okay, first of all, John Turner is in the Coast Guard. That's it. And Rose cut ties with him because she despised him entering the employ of the government. There's no second boy in The Service. Second of all, Rexh Meta--the Albanian boy she sometimes sent money to (and, in doing so, endangered him)--is not... she doesn't... she's just lost touch with him. That's it! Which is admittedly scary; Albania is not doing well right now. But she's just fucking appropriating concentration camps and military mothers and akslalkdjklajd. This is the actual worst human being? maybe?

*quiet hyperventilating*

I have to go for a little walk. I... y'all I don't know what I expected when I started this book, but I did not expect this. This has been a wild train ride. And we've still got 1.5 chapters to finish. I can only assume this culminates in, like, Rose Wilder Lane insisting she's a direct descendant of Jesus Christ.


*throws down book, goes for a walk*


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