Prairie Fires: Chapter 14 (Part 3)

[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 14) I read somewhere once that astronauts sometimes struggle with depression when they return to earth. They've achieved something amazing, visited somewhere wondrous, and now that's over and they can never return. As we near the end of this final chapter of Prairie Fires, I feel like an astronaut, my friends. This has been the most amazing, most surreal, most unexpectedly wild ride. Where will we go after this? I don't know. I can't say. But we're here together now.

When we last left off this chapter, Rose had died and been buried with a quote selected by her libertarian grandson that was the first argument for social security. We have to ask ourselves, did he really not know that? Was this his final, fitting revenge? We also have to ask: why does autocorrect want to replace "libertarian" with "librarian"? Could it be that even machines know libertarians are bad, and they try to replace them with good librarians?

What a delightfully ominous line: "Wilder’s will seemed straightforward: after Lane’s death, the copyrights to Wilder’s books were to pass to the Mansfield branch library, which bore Wilder’s name. But despite the clarity of those instructions, they would not be carried out." I do like that apparently Laura's estate will be consumed with legal troubles. Like, I thought Libertarians cared about DEATH TAXES because it was unfair to keep a person from dispensing their property upon death.

Oh dear. Okay, so back in the day, you had to manually renew copyright. Rose renewed copyright on the first six Little House books, but she renewed the copyright in her name. Then Roger, acting as executor, put the copyrights in his name. He probably should not have done that, but as much as I despise Roger he may not have known Laura willed the books to revert to the library. He never met Laura and had no reason to read her will. Rose didn't tell him and left no mention of her mother's wishes in her will. Room for threats involving homeless dogs, tho!

Roger quickly transfers the copyrights for all of Laura's and Rose's books into his name. Then he finds Laura's manuscript "The First Three Years". Oh boy. Here is an excited letter from Laura's publisher: "casually mentioned that there is, among Mrs. Lane’s papers, THE MANUSCRIPT OF A NINTH WILDER BOOK IN LAURA’S OWN HANDWRITING!!!!!! At first I thought wildly Oh he is playing an April Fool joke on me. But no, it IS TRUE!!!!!"

Isn't that charming? I love that.

"When Nordstrom read the manuscript, however, she was taken aback by its unfinished nature and somber subject matter. She was determined to publish, but agonized over the question of editing, revising, or adding to it. She noted that the only manuscripts in her entire career that had required no editing, “no repeat absolutely no editorial suggestions from me or anyone else,” were Wilder’s and E. B. White’s." (Maybe if you'd edited closer, you would've caught the bit where Laura contrasts indigenous people with "people".)

"Among substantive cuts was MacBride’s deletion of Wilder’s account of the pain she suffered in childbirth, deemed too graphic for children. Removed as well was highly suggestive question Wilder had posed to herself: “How much could she depend on Manly’s judgment, she wondered.” YES WHY WOULD WE TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT CHILDBIRTH OR SAVING MONEY.

"the book inspired in its audience a reaction similar to Nordstrom’s own. Initially there was excitement and anticipation, then confusion and in some cases dismay. Readers were struck by both its similarity to the previous novels and its divergence." HAHAHA OMG THIS IS SO PERFECT. YES, AMERICA. THE PATRIOTIC SACCHARINE YOU CONSUMED WAS FAKE.

"Astute readers immediately noticed the gulf between the polished series and the harsher adult perspective of the new volume. This Laura was initially joyful in her marriage, then fearful, doubtful, haunted, on occasion even petulant." LIKE A REAL PERSON. OH NO.

"During her pregnancies and the couple’s disastrous bout with diphtheria she endured terrible suffering without the cheerful moral uplift reliably provided in the prose of previous volumes." It's almost like Homesteading was bad! "The once stalwart and reassuring Almanzo appeared reticent to a fault, his wife stung into mistrust upon learning of his undisclosed debts." *laughs like an anime villain*

OH. A TV SHOW EMERGES. Okay so they're looking for wholesome family shows that aren't violent and approach Roger and he's like "where do I sign for suitcases of cash pls." They do a movie first and the Nielsen ratings are all "yes daddy" so it's series time. Landon, the actor playing Charles, somehow is also a writer? Idk, guys, it's the 70s.

Season 1 "ended with a log-splitting competition, showing off Landon’s pectoral muscles to advantage. His chest would become a primary visual motif, as the television Charles Ingalls frequently found cause to remove his shirt, baring a clean-shaven and well-oiled expanse."

Some daddy for the ladies. He also won't wear a beard. OH MY GOD. "When Landon had starred as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza, his hindquarters had been a staple of the teen fan magazine Tiger Beat, so he wore no underwear under Pa’s tight trousers."

WAIT HANG ON. That is twice, twice, in this live read that Charles Ingalls BUTT CHEEKS have become relevant. THAT IS TWO MORE TIMES THAN I EXPECTED.

Somewhere at Google, a light flashes as the search history for "Michael Landon butt" skyrockets. I HAVE RETURNED FROM A GOOGLE SEARCH. I could not find a decent butt shot but here is a boobs-and-butt twist attempt.

Here is maybe a Tiger Beat photo of Landon but I have facial recognition problems and Google has lied to me before.


I'm informed Landon was Jewish, which means Rose is still turning in her grave. Haha, fuck you, Rose!

Arthur Chu  Verified account @arthur_affect  I’m gonna say it right now if they ever make a movie of my life I want them to cast someone with a gold-standard butt, historical accuracy be damned


Sales of the books go up even as people fuss about the show making the family affluent. Except that's the next logical step, right? Laura tidied up their poverty and Hollywood continued the trend as standards changed.

BACK TO ROGER, in 1972 he's a member of the electoral college because of course this fucker is. "True to his treatise, he acted as a “faithless elector,” casting his vote not for Nixon but for the nominee of the Libertarians, John Hospers. He earned the wrath of the Republicans but did not care. His defiance secured his position within the Libertarian party, granting them their first—and to this date only—electoral vote in history." A reminder that the electoral college is bad and the only people who like it should feel bad.

"In 1975, he won a three-way contest at the Libertarian convention and became a presidential candidate himself, running against Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. He embarked on the race with fifty thousand dollars of his own and a quarter million raised by the party."




"MacBride was endorsed by Charles Koch, heir to Koch Industries and a multibillion-dollar fortune built on oil refineries, who called him “far better fitted to be President than any candidate of any party has been in my lifetime.”"


This is so surreal, it's like if I live tweeted a book about, idk, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and the Trumps kept showing up. Or, like, Touched by an Angel and whoop there's Nazis just all over it and also in the background Paul Ryan reading Ayn Rand.

"Long before the Koch brothers became nationally known for trying to sway elections, the endorsement of MacBride marked the beginning of their deep investment, first in Libertarian politics and ultimately in attacking all government regulation of big business."

h e l p

Hey actual journalism! "The Atlantic Monthly sent a freelancer to profile the long-shot campaign. Witheringly, the article outlined everything that the Libertarians wanted to do away with, a list taking up many inches and including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, OSHA, the FBI, the CIA, the EPA, the Federal Reserve, farm subsidies, anti-gun laws, child labor laws, safety belts, public schools, overseas military bases, and federal control of the Post Office. Startlingly, given his preferred mode of travel, MacBride also wanted to dispense with the Federal Aviation Administration."

He loses, badly. He decides to cash in with a fictional biography of Rose. "He called it a “perfectly genuine fictional autobiography.” It begins with the assertion that “Rose Wilder Lane was a great person.”" I love Fraser's subtle 'fuck yous'.

Nobody reads it, so Roger helps William Holtz with a biography which is composed of lies fed to him by one of Rose's pupils. "Over the years, Browning regaled Holtz with fond aggrandizements, claiming in a memoir of her Danbury days that Lane was the “highest paid woman writer in America,” and more valued by editors for her short fiction than any writer since Somerset Maugham."


Holtz makes the case that Laura didn't write her own books. "Holtz uncritically adopted Lane’s harsh view of her mother, treating Wilder with contempt throughout The Ghost in the Little House. He referred to her by Lane’s own nickname, “Mama Bess,” in belittling references that grew more and more cutting. She was portrayed as shrill, grasping, and talentless, a “pedestrian” parasite on her daughter’s far superior talents."

Roger is appalled at the final product and denounces it. That's...interesting. He never met Laura. Had he soured on Rose? I still believe she hurt him. Roger decides he's gonna write his own little house sequels. Cue Bender stalking off going "and blackjack!" HIS books are going to have LIBERTARIANISM in them. He writes Little House on Rocky Ridge.

"When Rose traps a rabbit during their first year in Missouri, Almanzo says: “That rabbit you caught is helping to keep us free and independent, Rose. So long as we can live off our land, we will never be beholden to others.”"

h e l p o h p l e a s e


"Other sequels, such as Little Farm in the Ozarks and In the Land of the Big Red Apple, would quickly follow." HOW DID THAT LAST ONE NOT SOUND LIKE NEW YORK?

"But before he could complete his Rose saga, MacBride died suddenly, of a heart attack,"



when suddenly the animator suffered a fatal heart attack!

HE WAS 65.






"His death would reopen questions about Wilder’s will, exposing the machinations he had engaged in to secure Little House copyrights in his own name. Within a few years, a lawsuit would be filed." The MacBride estate settled the lawsuit for $875,000 and kept the copyright.

Back to the show! "Whether Landon admitted it or not, his show was indeed political. Its audiences were led to believe, among other things, that small-scale farming had reliably and sustainably fed American families on the Great Plains."

The final episode blows up the town. "Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura, later said that Landon wanted to destroy the sets so that no future productions could poach them." I mean, otherwise Star Trek would've used them. We know this. (Shut up, I know the dates don't fit, the joke was funny.)

Oh no there's an epilogue. I was led to believe I could go to bed soon.

"But nostrums have a way of papering over contradictions. The New York Times asked recently,“Why Do People Who Need Help from the Government Hate It So Much?” It was no mystery to Wilder. As she knew too well, people who are poor are ashamed. It’s easier to blame the government" I mean, there's that but. Have you heard about.

*Will Smith hands*

Will Smith presenting something beautiful


Like. It's probably both/and, but it's worth noting Laura and her family were happy to accept help from the government. They just didn't want to pay back in to help others, and also they were massively racist. I'm...just kinda tired of looking for reasons other than "this Known To Be Racist person might be motivated by racism". Like. We know they were racist.

When you believe, or claim to believe, that Jewish Bankers Are Running The Government, then yeah you're not gonna want to pay money for social services. That's not, like, a weird psychological quirk about being ashamed to get help! THAT IS BEING A RACIST WITH RACIST BELIEFS.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, everywhere Laura lived is still dirt poor. She told their stories, but Rose and a libertarian politician ate all the profits. And that is one of the reasons why Book Twitter talks so much about whether a story is "yours" to tell. Because an author absolutely can soak up everything valuable in an area like a sponge, then leave the place drier and emptier, no richer for the theft.

Laura and Rose--especially Rose--pulled in a gazillion dollars for those books. They could've put back into those communities. They didn't. They died as they lived: terrible, uncharitable people. Laura was a better writer and a slightly better person, but only because Rose was an actual garbage fire come to life. The books are still well written and enjoyable to read! Just teach your kids about the stories NOT told on those pages. Be the terrifying pinko commie that Rose Wilder Lane desperately believed you to be.

I have no idea what I'll read next, but a bunch of you had book recs for each other, so leave them in response to this tweet so people can see them? I usually have to decompress for a couple weeks after a live read and also I'm trying to finish a book (BUY MY BOOKS) but I'll see you around and thanks for following. This has been amazing, truly. Top ten life experiences. Remember to review the book on Amazon and GoodReads and so forth! Fraser deserves love and word of mouth sales.

((I just want you to know, I went to wikipedia to edit her page to say “At Least She Didn’t Adopt Him”, but our IP address is blocked from editing Wikipedia.   Sister’s bf got in an edit war years ago changing the page on turtles to say “turtles go moop” at the bottom.   I tried

Somehow the surrealism of this tweet perfectly captures this live-read journey for me. Turtles go moop.


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