Descriptive Writing in Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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The Wolves – Pages 3 – 4.

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The House and Yard – page 4

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Frost – page 5

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The Tree Smoker – pages 6 –

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“then he fitted it into place, and that was the little door, with the bark still on it.

“After the deer meat had been salted several days, Pa cut a hole near the end of each piece and put a string through it. Laura watched him do this, and then she watched him hang the meat on the nails in the hollow log.

“He reached up through the little door and hung meat on the nails, as far up as he could reach. Then he put a ladder against the log, climbed up to the top, moved the roof to one side, and reached down inside to hang meat on those nails.

“Then Pa put the roof back again, climbed down the ladder, and said to Laura:

“Fun over to the chopping block and fetch me some of those green hickory chips–new, clean, white ones.

“So Laura ran to the block where Pa chopped wood, and filled her apron with the fresh, sweet-smelling chips.

“Just inside the little door in the hollow log Pa built a fire of tiny bits of bark and moss, and he laid some of the chips on it very carefully.

“Instead of burning quickly, the green chips

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Storing the Fall Harvest – pages 12 – 13

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“heaps in the attic’s corners.

“The barrels of salted fish were in the pantry, and yellow cheeses were stacked on the pantry shelves.”

Butchering the hog – pages 13 –

“Near the pigpen Pa and Uncle Henry built a bonfire, and heated a great kettle of water over it. When the water was boiling they went to kill the hog. Then Laura ran and hid her head on the bed and stopped her ears with her fingers so she could not hear the hog squeal….

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Making Cracklings – page 17

“All that day and the next, Ma was trying out the lard in big iron pots on the cookstove. Laura and Mary carried wood and watched the fire. It must be hot, but not too hot, or the lard would burn. The big pots simmered and boiled, but they must not smoke. From time to time Ma skimmed out the brown cracklings. She put them in a cloth and squeezed out every bit of the lard, and then she put the cracklings away. She would use them to flavor johnny-cake later.”

The House at Harvest Time – page 19

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Mary’s Doll and Laura’s Corncob – pages 20 – 21

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“good doll. It was named Susan. It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob. Mary let Laura hold Nettie, but she did it only when Susan couldn’t see.”

The Snow and Jack Frost – pages 26 – 27

“The snow kept coming till it was drifted and banked against the house. In the mornings the window panes were covered with frost in beautiful pictures of trees and flowers and fairies.

“Ma said that Jack Frost came in the night and made the pictures, while everyone was asleep. Laura thought that Jack Frost was a little man all snowy white, wearing a glittering white pointed cap and soft white knee-boots make of deer-skin. His coat was white and his mittens were white, and he did not carry a gun on his back, but in his hands he had shining sharp tools with which he cared the pictures.

“Laura and Mary were allowed to take Ma’s thimble and amke pretty patterns of circles in the frost on the glass. But they never spoiled the pictures that Jack Frost had made in the night.

“When they put their mouths close to the pane and blew their breath on it, the white frost melted and ran in drops down the glass. Then they could see the drifts of snow outdoors and the great trees standing bare and black, making thin blue shadows on the white snow.”

Churning and Coloring the Butter – pages 29 – 30

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Coziness – pages 38 – 44

“All alone in the wild Big Woods, and the snow, and the cold, the little log house was warm and snug and cosy. Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie were comfortable and happy there, at night.

“Then the fire was shining on the hearth, the cold and the dark and the wild beasts were all shut out, and Jack the brindle bulldog and Black Susan the cat lay blinking at the flames in the fireplace.

“Ma sat in her rocking chair, sewing by the light of the lamp on the table. The lamp was bright and shiny. There was salt in the bottom of its bowl with the kerosene, to keep the kerosene from explodin, and there were bits of red flannel among the salt to make it pretty. It was pretty.

“Laura loved to look at the lamp, with its glass chimney so clean and sparkling, its yellow flame burning so steadily. and its bowl of clear kerosene colored red by the bits of flannel. She loved to look at the fire in the fireplace, flickering and changing all the time, burning yellow and red and sometimes green above the logs, and hovering blue over the golden and ruby coals.

“And then Pa told stories….

“When Pa told this story, Laura and Mary shivered and snuggled closer to him. They were safe and snug on his knees, with the strong arms around them.

“They liked to be there, before the warm fire, with Black Susan purring on the hearth and good dog Jack stretched out beside her. When they heard a wolf howl, Jack’s head lifted and the hairs rose stiff along his back. But Laura and Mary listened to that lonely sound in the dark and the cold of the Big Woods, and they were not afraid.

“They were cosy and comfortable in their litle house made of logs, with the snow drifted around it and the wind crying because it could not get in by the fire.”

Christmas – pages 59 –

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“Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and rye-n-Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and a huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies, and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon.

“One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean,white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams onto the snow.

“They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest as saved for Christmas Day.

“All of this was done because Aunt Eliza and Uncle Peter and the cousins, Peter and Alice and Ella, were coming to spend Christmas.

“The day before Christmas they came. Laura and Mary heard the gay ringing of sleighbells, growing louder every moment, and then the big bobsled came out of the woods and drove up to the gate. Aunt Eliza and Uncle Peter and the cousins were in it, all covered up, under blankets and robes and buffalo skins.

“They were wrapped up in so many coats and mufflers and veils and shawls that they looked like big, shapeless bundles.

“When they all came in, the little house was full and running over. Black Susan ran out and hid in the barn, but Jack leaped in circles through the snow, barking as though he would never stop. Now there were cousins to play with!

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“So Pa got his fiddle.

“The room was still and warm and full of fire-light. Ma’s shadow, and Aunt Eliza’s and Uncle Peter’s were big and quivering on the wall in the flickering fire-light, and Pa’s fiddle sang merrily o itself….

“In the morning they all woke up almost at the same moment. They looked at their stockings, and something was in them. Santa Claus had been there. Alice and Ella and Laura in their red flannel nightgowns, and Peter in his red flannel nightshirt, all ran shouting to see what he had brought.

“In each stocking there was a pair of bright red mittens, and there was a long, flat stick of red-and-white-striped peppermint candy, all beautifully notched along each side.

“They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes at those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll.

“She was a beautiful doll. She had a face of white cloth with black button eyes. A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth were red with the ink made from pokeberries. Her hair was black yarn that had been knit and raveled, so that it was curly.

“She had little red flannel stockings and little black cloth gaiters for shoes, and her dress was pretty pink and blue calico.

“She was so beautiful that Laura could not say a word. She just held her tight and forgot everything else. She did not know that everyone was looking at her, til Aunt Eliza said:

‘Did you ever see such big yes@’

“The other girls were not jealous because Laura had mittens, and candy, and a doll, because Laur was the littlest girl, except Baby Carrie and Aunt Eliza’s little baby, Dolly Varden. The babies were too small for dolls. They were so small they did not even know about Santa Claus. They just put their fingers in their mouths and wriggled because of all the excitement.

Laura sat down on the edge of the bed and held her dollShe loved her red mittens and she loved the candy, but she loved her doll best of all. She named her Charlotte.

“Then they all looked at each other’s mittens, and tried on their own, and Peter bit a large piece out of his stick of candy, but Alice and Ella and Mary and Laura licked theirs, to make it last longer. …

Ma said, ‘Laura, aren’t you going to let the other girls hold your doll?’ She meant, ‘Little girls must not be so selfish.’

“So Laura let Mary take the beautiful doll, and then Alice held her a minute, and then Ella. They smoothed the pretty dress and admired the red flannel stockings and the gaiters, and the curly woolen hair.  But Laura was glad when at last Charlotte was safe in her arms again.

“Pa and Uncle Peter had each a pair of new, warm mittens, knit in little squares of red and white. Ma and Aunt Eliza had made them.

“Aunt Eliza had brought Ma a large red apple stuck full of cloves. How good it smelled! And it would not spoil, for so many cloves would keep it sound and sweet.

“Ma gave Aunt Eliza a little needlebook she had made, with bits of silk for covers and soft white flannel leaves into which to stick the needles. The flannel would keep the needles from rusting.

:They all admired Ma’s beautiful bracelet and Aunt Eliza said that Uncle Peter had made one for her–of course, with different carving.

“Santa Claus had not given them anything at all. Sant Claus did not give grown people presents, but that was not because they had not been good. Pa and Ma were good. It was because they were grown up, and grown people must give each other presents. ….

“For breakfast there were pancakes, and Mad made a pancake man for each one of the children. Ma called each one in turn to bring her plate, and each could stand by the stove and watch, while with the spoonful of batter Mat put on the arms and the legs and the head. It was exciting to watch her turn the whole little man over, quickly and carefully , on a hot griddle. When it was done, she put it smoking not on the plate.

“Peter ate the head off his man, right away. But Alice and Mary and Laura ate theirs slowly in little bits, first the arms and legs and then the middle, saving the head for the last.

“Today the weather was so cold that they could not play outdoors, but there were the new mittens to admire, and the candy to lick. And hey all sat on the floor together and looked at the pictures in the Bible, and the pictures of all kinds of animals and birds in Pa’s big green book. Laura kept Charlotte in her arms the whole time.

“Then there was the Christmas dinner. Alice and Ella and Peter and Mary and Laura did not say a word at table, for they knew that children should be seen and not heard. But they did not need to ask for second helpings. Ma and Aunt Eliza kept their plates full and let them eat all the good things they could hold.

‘Christmas comes but once a year,’ said Aunt Eliza.

“Dinner was early, because Aunt Eliza, Uncle Peter and the cousins had such a long way to go.

‘Best the horses can do,’ Uncle Peter said, ‘we’ll hardly make it home before dark.’

“So as soon as they had eaten dinner, Uncle Peter and Pa went to put the horses to the sled while Ma and Aunt Eliza wrapped up the cousins.

“They pulled heavy woolen stockings over the woolen stockings and the shoes they were already wearing. They put on mittens and coats and warm hoods and shawls, and wrapped mufflers around their necks and thick woolen veils over their faces. Ma slipped piping hot baked potatoes into their pockets to keep their fingers warm, and Aunt Eiliza’s flatirons were hot on the stove, ready to put at their feet at the sled. The blankets and the quilts and the buffalo robes were warmed, too.

“So they all got into the big bobsled, cosy and warm, and P tucked the last robe well in around them.

‘Good-by! Good-by! they called, and off they went, the horses trotting gaily ad the sleigh bell ringing.

“In just a little while the merry sound of the bells was gone, and Christmas was over, but what a happy Christmas it had been!”

The Winter Thaw – page 101

“In the Big Woods the snow was beginning to thaw. Bits of it dropped from the branches of the trees and made little holes in the softening snowbanks below. At noon all the big icicles along the eaves of the little house quivered and sparkled in the sunshine, and drops of water hung trembling at their tips.”

The Sugar Snow – Time to Harvest the Maple Syrup – Pages 117 – 119

“For days the sun shone and the weather was warm. There was no forst on the windows in the mornings. All day the icicles fell one by one from the eaves with soft smashng and crackling sounds in the snow-banks beneath. The trees shook their wet, black branches, and chunks of snow fell down.

“When Mary and Laura pressed their noses against the cold window pane they could see the drip of water from the eaves and the bare btanches of the trees. The snow did not glitter; it looked soft and tired, Under the trees it was pitted where the chunks of snow had fallen, and the banks beside the path were shrinking and settling.

“Then one day Laura saw a patch of bare ground in the yard. All day it grew bigger, and before nigjt the whole yard was bare mud. Only the icy path was left, and the snowbanks along the path and the fence and beside the woodpile….

“In the morning the house was warm from the stove, but when Laura looked out of the window she saw that the ground was covered with soft, thick snow. All along the branches of the trees the snow was piled like feathers, and it lay in mounds along the top of the rail fence, and stood up in great, white balls on top of the gate-posts.

“Pa cam in, shaking the snoft snow from his shoulders and stamping it from his bookts.

‘It’s a sugar snow,’ he said.”

Ma’s Delaine Dress – pages 128 – 129

“Ma’s delaine dress was beautiful. It was a dark green, with a little pattern all over it that looked loke ripe strawberries. A dressmaker had made it, in the East, in the place where Ma came from when she married Pa and moved out west to the Big Woods in Wisconsin. Ma had been very fashionable, before she married Pa, and a dressmaker made her clothes.

“The delaine was kept wrapped in paper and laid away. Laura nd Mary had never seen Ma wear it, but she had shown it to them once. She had let them touch the beautiful dark red buttons that buttoned the basque up the front, and she had shown them how neatly the whalebones were put in the seams, inside, with hundreds of little criss-cross stitches….

The Snowy Ride to Grandpa’s Dance – page 132 – 133

:The air was cold and frosty and the light was gray, when Laura and Mary and Mar with Baby Carrie were tuked in snug and warm under the robes on the straw int the bottom of the sled.

“The horses shook their heads and pranced making the sleigh bells ring merrily, and away they went on the road through the Big Woods to Grandpa’s.

“The snow was damp and smooth in the road, so the sled slipped quickly over it, and the big trees semmed to be hurrying by on either side.

“After a while there was sunshine in the woods and the air sparkled. The long streaks of yellow light lay between the shadows of the tree trunk, and the snow was colored faintly pink. All the shadows were thin and blue, and every little curve of snowdrifts and every little track inthe snow had a shadow.

“Pa showed Laura the tracks of the wild cretures in the snow at the sides of the road. The small, leaping tracks of cottontail rabbits, the tiny tracks of field mice, and the feather-stitching tracks of snowbirds. There were larger tracks,, like dogs’ tracks, where foxes had run, and there were the tracks of a deer that had bounded away into the woods.

“The air was growing warmer already and Pa said that the snow wouldn’t last long.

“It did not seem long until they were sweeping into the clearing at Grandpa’s house, all the sleigh bells jingling. Grandma came to the door and stood there smiling, calling to them to come in.”

Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby Get Read for Grandpa’s Party – pages 138 – 142

“Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby made themselves pretty in their room. Laura sat on the bed and watched them com out their long hair and part it carefully.They parted it from their foreheads to the napes of their necks and then they parted it across from ear to ear. They braided their back hair in long braids and then they did the braids up carefully in big knots. …

“They fussed for a long time with their front hair, holding up the lamp and looking at their hair in the little looking-glass that hung on the log wall. They brushed it so smooth on each side of the straight white part that it shone like silk in the lamplight. The little puff on each side shone, too, and the ends were coiled and twisted neatly under the big knot in the back.

“Then they pulled on their beautiful white stockings, that they had knit of fine cotton thread in lacy, openwork patterns, and the buttoned up their best shoes. They helped each other with their corset. Aunt Docia pulled as hard as she could on Aunt Ruby’s corset strings, and then Aunt Docia hung on to the foot of the bed while Aunt Ruby pulled on hers….

“Then Aunt Ruby and Aunt Docia put on their flannel petticoats and their plain petticoats and their stiff, starched white petticoats with knitted lace all around the flounces. And they put on their beautiful dresses

“Aunt Docia’s dress was a sprigged print, dark blue with springs of red flowers and green leaves thick upon it. The basque was buttoned down the front with black buttons whick looked so exactly like juicy big blackberries that Laura wanted to taste them.

“Aunt Ruby’s dress was wine-colored calico, covered all over with a feathery pattern in lighter wine color. It buttoned with gold-colored buttons, and every button had a little castle and a tree carved on it.

“Aunt Docia’s pretty white collar was fastened in front with a large round cameo pin, which had a lady’s head on it. But Aunt Ruby pinned her collar with a red rose made of sealing wax. She had made it herself, on the head of a darning needle which had a broken eye, so it couldn’t be used as a needle any more.

“They looked lovely, sailing over the floor so smoothly with their large, round skirts. Their little waists rose up tight and slender in the middle, and their cheeks were red and their eyes bright, under the wings of shining, sleek hair.

“Ma was beautiful, too, in her dark green delaine, with the little leaves that looked like strawberries scattered over it. The skirt was ruffled and flounced and draped and trimmed with knots of dark green ribbon, and nestling at her throat was a gold pin. The pin was flat, as long and as wide as Laura’s two biggest fingers, and it was carved all over, and scalloped on the edges. Ma looked so rich and fine that Laura was afraid to touch her.

“People had begun to come. They were  coming on foot throgh the snowy woods, with their lanterns, and they were driving up to the door in sleds and in wagons. Sleigh bells were jingling all the time.

“The big room filled with tall boots and swishing skirts, and ever so many babies were lying in rows on Grandma’s bed.”

The Trip Home in the Muddy Snow – page 155

“The sun was warm, and the trotting horses threw up bits of muddy snow with their hoofs. Behind the sled Laura could see their footprints, and every footprint had gone through the thin snow into the mud.”

Spring Came – page 156

“After the sugar snow had gone, spring came. Birds sang in the leafing hazel bushes along the crooked rail fence. The grass grew green again and the woods were full of wild flowers. Buttercups and violets, thimble flowers and tiny starry grassflowers were everywhere.”

Lake Pepin – pages 163 – 164

“After a long time Laura began to see glimpses of blue water between the trees. The hard road turned to soft sand. The wagon wheels went deep down in it and the horses pulled and sweated…..

“Then all at once the road came out of the woods and Laura saw the lake. It was as blue as the sky, and it went to the edge of the world. As far as she could see, there was nothing but flat, blue water. Very far away, the sky and the water met, and there was a darker blue line.

“The sky was large overhead. Laura had never known that the sky was so big. There was so much empty space all around her that she felt small and frightened, and glad that Pa and Ma were there.

“Suddenly the sunshine was hot. The sun was almost overhead in the large, empty sky, and the cool woods stood back from the edge of the lake. Even the Big Woods seemed smaller under so much sky.”

The Town of Pepin – page 163; pages 165 – 167

“It was seven miles to town. The town was named Pepin, and it was on the shore of Lake Pepin.”

“Right on the edge of the lake, there was one great big building. That was the store, Pa told her. It was not made of logs. It was made of wide, gray boards, running up and down. The sand spread all around it.

“Behind the store there was a clearing, larger than Pa’s clearing in the woods at home. Standing among the stumps, there were more houses than Laura could count. They were not made of logs, either; they were made of boards, like the store.

“Laura had never imagined so many houses, and they were so close together. Of course, they were much smaller than the store. On of them was made of new boards that had not had time to get gray; it was the yellow color of newly-cut wood.

“People were living in all these house. Smoke rose up from their chimneys. Though it was not Monday, some woman had spread out a washing on the bushes and stumps by her house.

“Several girls and boys were playing in the sunshine, in the open space between the store and the houses. They were jumping from one stump to the next stump and shouting.”

The Pepin Store – pages 165 – 166

“Right on the edge of the lake, there was one great big building. That was the store, Pa told her. It was not made of logs. It was made of wide, gray boards, running up and down. The sand spread all around it.”

The Pepin Store continued – pages 166 – 175

“There was a wide platform in front of the store, and at one end of it steps went up to it out of the sand….

“This was the store to which Pa came to trade his furs….

“The store was full of things to look at. All along one side of it were shelves full of colored prints and calicos. There were beautiful pinks and blues and reda and browns and purples. On the floor along the sides of the plank counters there were kegs of nails, and kegs of round, gray shot, and there were big wooden pails full of candy. There were sacks of salt, and sacks of store sugar.

“In the middle of the store was a plow made of shiny wood, with a glittering bright plowshare, and there were steel ax heads, and hammer heads, and saws, and all kinds of knives and skinning knives and butcher knives and jack-knives. There were big boots and little boots, big shoes and little shoes….

“The storekeeper took down bolts and bolts of beautiful calicos and spread them out for Ma to finger and look at and price. Laura and Mary looked, but must not touch. Every new color and pattern was prettier than the last, and there were so many of themQ Laura did not know how Ma could ever chose.

“Ma chose two patterns of calico to make shirts for Pa,and a piece of brown denim to make him a jumper. Then she got some white cloth to make sheets and underwear.

“Pa got enough calico to make Ma a new apron. …she picked out a pattern of rosebuds and leaves on a soft, fawn-colored ground.

“Then Pa got for himself a pair of galluses and some tobacco to smoke in his pipe. And Ma got a pound of tea, and a little paper package of store sugar to have in the house when company came. It was a brown sugar, not dark brown like the maple sugar Ma used for every day.

“When all the tradig was done, the storekeeper gave Mary and Laua each a piece of candy….

“Both pieces of candy were white, and flat and thin and heartpshaped. There was printing on them, in red letters. Ma read it for them. Mary’s said:

Roses are red
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

Laura’s said only:

Sweets to the sweet.

The Trip Back Home – Darkness and the Moon – page 176

“The wagon jolted along on the homeward road through the Big Woods. The sun set, and the woods grew darker, but before the last of the twilight was gone the moon rose. And they were safe, because Pa had his gun.

“The soft moonlight came down through the treetops and made patches of light and shade on the road ahead. The horses’ hoofs made a cheerful clippety-clop.”

 

 

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