Prairie Fires: Chapter 14 (Part 2)

[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 14

(Tweet Link: Part 13) #PrairieFires Alright, y'all. Are we prepared? Part 13.

Meanwhile, this is awesome. Y'ALL HELPED DO THIS.

 Metropolitan Books‏ @MetropolitanBks  @AnaMardoll Hopefully this brightens your day: PRAIRIE FIRES is one of the @nytimesbooks 10 Best Books of 2017! Thank you for sharing your reading of it.  @carolinefraser

If you want to pick up this amazing book--and I totally encourage you to, because I've really only skimmed the surface--here's an affiliate link to the kindle and paper versions on Amazon. If you've been meaning to pick up the Little House books themselves, they're also on Amazon. With the pictures in! They look really pretty.

I read Little House in the Big Woods a couple nights ago and marveled at the amazing food porn. I started Little House on the Prairie (skipping Farmer Boy) last night and forgot how GRIM it is. Like, first they leave Wisconsin and all their family and all the food porn and you're just "WHY CHARLES WHY" and "THIS IS A BAD IDEA". Then they drive through the prairie and everything is monotonous and dull until they get to a creek they need to ford. I've played Oregon Trail, I know fording creeks is a bad idea. You need to drive until you find a professional raft, then pay in bullets.

Charles can swim, which will be important later. Does he wade into the creek to check how deep it goes? LOL, no. Maybe I am not a pioneering spirit, but when you have all your worldly belongings in a wagon, and your family (and probably pregnant wife--Carrie will be born later though she's already born in the book), and there's no one around to help for miles, I would wade the creek first.

But Charles does not! He just drives that wagon the fuck in like a boss. Then they hit a point where the water is too deep and the wagon starts floating. This is bad. He flings the reins to Caroline and dives in to swim beside the horses and pull on their halters, which is probably not fun for them. Caroline makes the girls lie flat and be still so they don't capsize this incredibly vulnerable makeshift boat. They get to the other side safely and everything is fine. Good. Yes.

Wait, where's the dog who Charles wouldn't let ride in the wagon and insisted that he swim? Jack is gone. Swept away by the current. Pa is like "oh gosh if I'd known the water would be so deep..." You could've, like, checked first. Waded across and took the dog with you, then go back for the wagon. Just saying. Anyway, they carry on riding for a day, make camp, and Jack stumbles into camp and collapses. Exhausted. So that happened. But wow, what a grim way to start the book! I'd forgotten it was so serious.

Oh, and then the next morning, Charles is like "this is nice country here, I think I'll build a house on it" which is not how this works unless you are a squatter. I guess as a child I just assumed all the land was free and you could just build wherever you wanted and no one would mind? No. No, young Ana. Anyway, absolutely none of that is relevant to Chapter 14 of #PrairieFires.

When we last left off, Laura was dead and Rose was grubbing for every penny from Laura's royalties, even if it meant screwing over ailing widows. She was also writing 13yo fans of Laura's books and berating them. Rose published a book about needlework and put in a lot of Libertarian dogma and Mayflower worship, then was incensed when her readers just wanted to ask how to see the pretty afghans in the Wilder museum. PLEBES, AMIRIGHT?

I haven't really mentioned this as we go, but Rose is supposedly a bestselling author at this point in her own right. Which is just... I'm having a hard time squaring that in my brain. Because her books are just not good by my modern standards. Which, I mean, we have bestselling books NOW that aren't "good", so I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but still.

Anyway, keep in mind that Rose is:
- a bestselling author
- arguably even more of a household name than Laura
- influential on libertarians
- not some rando hack like she sounds like in this live read

God help us all. I mean, I hope--I really do hope--that people are just buying her books for the sexy manbutt on the cover, but. There's a lot in there about how everyone should be self-sufficient or starve to death. As a disabled person who can't be self-sufficient, that is scary.

And, I mean, I caveat that with "as a disabled person" but honestly no one can be self-sufficient. Rose knows her books are fiction, she knows the Wilders didn't have the happy ending she wrote for them, she knows their house burned down. Rose is 100% aware that her libertarian dreams are a mixture of fantasy, arrogance, and the desire to maintain a constant servant class who will wait upon her.

I need to make that clear. She knows. She wants servants. And the thing about servants is that you MUST have massive inequalities in society in order to maintain a servant class because otherwise why would people empty your chamberpot for you? Why would people leave their children to fend for themselves and go care for the children of rich strangers if massive income inequality weren't forcing them to do so?

That's Rose's libertarianism. Fuck Rose. Anyway. So. But. We continue with the book.

In 1962, Roger runs for a seat in the Vermont State House of Representatives and wins. He's 34. I need to remind you that he is a terrible person who wants to fuck with the popular vote so Libertarians can win elections.

Rose is being hailed by conservatives and libertarians as their cinnamon bun. The "Freedom School" in Colorado Springs names a building for her. I'm terribly suspicious of a place called Freedom School. Like, be honest. If you read in the news that a place called Freedom School was 99% white and pro-waterboarding students, would you be even a little surprised?

Roger begins plotting to convince Vermont to ratify the "Liberty Amendment" to the US Constitution. What an interesting name for an amendment. The Liberty Amendment is the brain-darling of the John Birch Society, and aims at repealing income tax, estate tax, and gift tax. LIBERTY. Nine States have endorsed the Liberty Amendment: Wyoming ('59), Nevada ('60), Texas ('60), Louisiana ('60), Georgia ('62), South Carolina ('62), Mississippi ('82), Arizona ('82), Indiana ('82).

Ron Paul loves it. No, really.

"The Liberty Amendment will renew personal freedom – the ability of individuals to exercise their God-given rights with a minimum of dependence on, and interference from, the Federal Government." *facepalm* "It will restore to ourselves and to future generations the advantages which we inherited from our forefathers – advantages which made us the most fortunate people on earth." What is this jingoistic bullshit.

Roger sponsors bills to reduce Vermont's taxes as well and attempts to demolish funding for art, music, recreation, crafts, forestry, and horse farming. Roger excitedly reports to Rose that he's being talked up as a "GOP gubernatorial candidate". Scratch a libertarian, uncover a Republican. Eight days before JFK's assassination, Roger attacks the president's civil rights bill that outlaws race/color/religion/sex/national origin discrimination. Gotta keep those liberties to be racist assholes, eh?

"Ana, while Roger is politically active, does he still find time to be a donkeybutt to publishers?" DOES HE EVER. Roger takes it on himself to write a (false, wrong) letter excoriating the publisher for supposedly not advertising the Little House books during their Christmas book week. He claims this constitutes breach of contract, that all rights revert to Rose, and the publisher can never print the Little House books again.

Rose is in ecstasy. The publisher sends back a telegram pointing out that UM ACTUALLY they did place extensive advertisements for the Little House books during Christmas, and Roger is wrong. Roger blames the "mistake" on Rose being emotional. "But the exchange showcased the kind of bullying invective of which Lane and her attorney were proud. Her mother had never expressed anything but appreciation toward her publisher."

I here break to note, as a Texan, that supposedly frontier Texas had an affirmative defense for murder called the "He needed killing" defense. I find that apocryphal story about frontier Texas amusing. OKAY, we now return to the live-tweet AND MY HATRED OF ROGER. In 1964, Roger decides to run for governor of Vermont. h e l p

Rose edits his pamphlet on ~taxes~ and sorry can we just note how weird it is for libertarians and republicans to fixate on taxes as the only personal freedom worth noting?!? Like, of all the concerns to concern about "oh dear, the government is taking a piece of my lucrative book royalties to pay for roads and schools". Remember Rose dropped, like, $200,000 in today's money on Roger on a whim. These two aren't going hungry.

AnYwAy, Rose edits Roger's pamphlet on taxes and donates money to print the pamphlets. Quality toilet paper right there. Roger's rhetoric, like Rose's, is all about King George III and the Revolution. STOP TRYING TO MAKE GEORGE HAPPEN, ROSE.

oh. my. god. Rose, having happily pushed Roger into this governor run that she loved and wrote and printed pamphlets for now realizes she's going to get less attention from him than before. Rose turns petulant. She complains his campaign schedule is eating into the time that was supposed to be available to her. She says he has no time, as a lawyer, for his legal clients. She ~urgently~ needs advice on the copyright of her Discovery of Freedom.

She asks him to refer her to another lawyer. One that will make time for her. "As Rexh Meta and John Turner had learned, Lane's maternal favor came at a price." (Honestly, I still do not see any of this as maternal so much as abuser who thinks this is a romance.)

Rose now decides that the entire political process is distasteful and a waste of time, since she's no longer the center of Roger's attention. She tells him that even if he wins the governorship, he'll have limited access to real power. Not like her access to real power, which was to... slouch around Europe for awhile on your friends' dimes? Like, where on earth does Rose get off advising Roger at all on this stuff? She doesn't have a political education or political experience! Of course, she wrote a book about economies while perpetually and aggressively wasting all her money.

"She felt that the only way to cripple socialist enemies was to attack them by force, as the American Revolutionists had attacked the British."

Neil Patrick Harris looking disappointed in life

I... no. That's not how... no. I almost want to cry at how very wrong Rose is about the American Revolution and why it is not applicable to armed Libertarian insurrection against a socialist FBI. Is the socialist FBI going to hire Hessian mercenaries and will France help? Rose, I need to know how far this metaphor stretches.

Elsworth Amasa  @wfrolik  Rose considered the *FBI* socialist?

She did! And I think also communist. I'm not sure she recognized a difference?

Rose gushingly urges him to join the John Birch Society. Which...I just. (That's a link to the Southern Poverty Law Center talking about how racist and anti-Semitic and gross the John Birch Society is.)

I am not surprised by Rose's racism and anti-Semitism anymore, I am just appalled that she keeps digging deeper. She sends letters to Roger and his wife. She tells them of her dogs, cupcakes, her new Teflon pans, her continued appropriation of Islam, and her "conviction that powerful Jews had manipulated the world wars."

Helios' Awful Sons  @fabiansociety  Is there much about the civil rights movement in here? That's going on about now, isn't it?

It is! JFK was assassinated a couple pages ago. Roger (and presumably Rose) are vehemently opposed to civil rights.

BlitShen the Weindeer  🦌 (they) | 張軒瑋 Pearl  🥛Royal  ☕  @theshenners  She's still at the corny appropriation? And I thought it was just a phase

These books have taught me that when Rose goes down an awful path, she commits to that awful path. Rose confides in a friend that The Fountainhead had become a bestseller because Ayn Rand was Jewish and "that makes a difference in New York."

"MacBride’s gubernatorial campaign turned into something of a farce as he committed neophyte blunders." *kisses fingers like a chef* "He sent postcards to potential supporters showing disquieting cartoon figures of himself and Susie [his wife] wielding knives in their backyard, pursuing rabbits labeled “Income tax,” “Gas tax,” and the like. He criticized economic excess while offering free liquor and sandwiches at campaign events; newspapers sneered that the new “golden boy” of Vermont politics was “no penny pincher.”"

a blond woman makes a "what? no? what?" face.

help I have fallen and I cannot get up for laughing

He didn't even with the Republican primary, he came dead last.

Oh god. We have come to the bit where Rose goes to Vietnam. @arthur_affect warned me about this. Woman's Day sent her in 1965 as a journalist. She she writes an article promoting domino theory, warning that the evils of Communism will wash up on the shores of Hawaii if America doesn't Do Something.

For those not familiar with it (yanks from Wikipedia): "The domino theory was used by successive United States administrations during the Cold War to justify the need for American intervention around the world." So, like, on the one hand point and laugh at Rose for being THE WORST, but on the other hand Rose and her ilk caused untold damage and cruelty.

The sad/frustrating thing is that Rose is basically the only older woman sent to cover Vietnam by American media and all the men are like "wtf?" and it has been pointed out to me that this should be a COOL STORY but it is NOT because Rose is terrible. And that, too, is why Universal Sisterhood is a myth because Rose may be a woman but she is a white woman who drinks racism for breakfast and butters her scones with HATE. She goes home and writes a "gory little portrait" of what Danbury, Connecticut will look like when the COMMUNISTS RISE UP.

She... okay this makes no sense. *sigh* I mean, racism never does, but. She paints a "gory little picture" of what Danbury will look like when a thousand LOCAL communists she estimates are in residence rise up and murder the mayor, ministers, teachers, and editor of the paper she's writing for. Rose, if the communist call is already coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE, why do we need to worry about Vietnam? She predicts roadblocks and snipers on Route 6. Because... communism? (Why is she worried about teachers, she's against the taxes that pay their salary.)

"She compared Dien Bien Phu to Yorktown, returning to her favorite war, the American Revolution. She saw no contradiction in her call for the elimination of taxation and her support for a tax-funded controversial war half a world away." I just? What the fuck? Does Rose compare EVERYTHING to the Revolutionary War? Does she wake up and, like, expound on how her breakfast danish is like the revolutionary war?

Rose takes a shine to the daughter of her interpreter and sends her money to go to college in Illinois. I don't like Rose's version of charity; it seems to revolve around finding someone needy to lavish money on them BUT they have to then be grateful in a very specifically gratifying way. She continues spending money like water in what may be the world's ONLY example of trickle-down economics actually working. She cannot save a dime.

oh FUCK NO. no no no no no no.

She's adopted another boy. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Why do people let her keep DOING THIS?!? (I know why, I know about rape culture, I know we don't take abuse seriously, this is a rhetorical scream.) She's planning another jaunt around Europe and she needs a driver, you see. So she adopts a 23yo boy from Texas.

"To drive her on the continent she had adopted yet another youth, the twenty-three-year-old son of a neighbor in Harlingen, asking him to pose as her “grandson” in order “to avoid questions as to why an elderly lady would be in the company of a very young man.”"

I mean, I feel like just the fact that she thinks it looks improper for her to be with this boy means she's thinking about him in ways I do not like at all?? When you're crafting an elaborate lie to cover up "he's my driver; I'm old and rich and sleepy and I don't drive" then he's probably more in your head than your driver.

HoosAMerryKitty  @MeAndHoo  Wait, WHAT?   I thought the last boy WAS the last boy! She's adopted so many boys that I lost track!   LIKE CATS

I am pretty sure it is 5 boys at this point. Four or five.

FJ Thomas  @fjthom  That's completely bizarre and a huge red flag- wouldn't most people with that kind of money just hire a driver?


She is 82 and he is 23 and I just no no no no no. (And, look, love blooms in weird places BUT COUNTERPOINT she has a habit here that means she gets no benefit of the doubt whatsoever from me.)

Oh gosh, she hates hospitals and doctors so much that "She ordered MacBride never to let her die in a hospital, asking for a provision in her will that would redirect her wealth to homeless dogs should he dare to allow it." This is hilarious and I'm almost on her side. THE SPECIFICITY, THO. Not just "dogs". "Homeless dogs".

She takes a rest stop in Texas prior to her flight to Europe, bakes some bread, goes to bed, and never wakes up again. I feel bad, but my only thought is RELIEF that she didn't take that boy to Europe.

William Anderson--the former 13yo boy who was yelled at for getting a pamphlet right--somehow acquires an old unpublished story Rose wrote about her childhood. I... I assume daring theft was involved? The story is Rose's last recollections of the Ingalls before Laura moved them to Missouri. It's fictional and not really accurate. Anderson polishes the story up and publishes it as an autobiographical nonfictional account of Rose's childhood, muddying accuracy waters.

oh my god hasdjhaskdljdhakjh

Roger buries her in Mansfield with a Thomas Paine quote on her grave:


but!! "The irony cannot be overstated. MacBride chose a quotation much bandied about by conservatives like himself, who had not read the original. Paine’s “Agrarian Justice,” a pamphlet issued in 1797, argued those who owned private property should be taxed to create “a national fund” benefiting the blind, lame, and elderly, as well as young persons just starting out in life. It was the first argument for Social Security."


Roger--a Harvard graduate--picked out a quote without understanding that the context was the first argument IN FAVOR OF the social security system Rose railed against all her life.

I JUST. *rolls around on the floor, laughing*

There's more, we're not done, but I have to go clean the kitchen. Brb.


Post a Comment