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Pa and Pioneer Girl


HerNameIsBuffy
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I'll kick this off...Did anyone find their opinion of Charles change significantly after reading Pioneer Girl?  

Mine did.  All people are multifaceted and of course she idealized him in her children's series, but I came away thinking if we were around with FJ back then we'd be calling Pa on his grifting - even for the time.

As a daddy's girl myself I get idealizing your father and glossing over the flaws...but I think he was selfish and reckless ...and his morals seemed to shift with his ulterior motives.  Not an evil man just super flawed.

Doesn't help that Michael Landon made him into the most perfect Mary Sue who ever Mary Sued on the small screen.

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It hadn't struck me until reading this (and the associated thread here) that the man was antsy pantsy and forced his whole family to move repeatedly across the country to fulfill his whims.  

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2 minutes ago, clueliss said:

It hadn't struck me until reading this (and the associated thread here) that the man was antsy pantsy and forced his whole family to move repeatedly across the country to fulfill his whims.  

And more than once moved them out of town to escape debts he'd run up.  

I want to apologize for the redundancy.  I had been gone for a while and just realized the thread that kicked this off was so long and talked about this very thing.

TWOP rule of reading back the last 15 pages before commenting was a good one!  Sorry guys!

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I wonder whether Pa felt pressured to conform by settling down and marrying when he did.  His inclination to wander around the country makes me wonder if he would have been happier staying single and following his pursuits on his own terms. 

I recall reading that he had wanted to keep going west and see the Pacific Ocean.  I don't know whether he ever took a trip to the coast, but Ma had finally put her foot down and insisted that DeSmet was their final home; she was not moving anymore.

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IIRC, Charles and Caroline were one of two or three pairs of married siblings from their two families. Their ages at marriage (Caroline at 20-21 & Charles at 24) don't seem out of line though I do not know what average ages at marriage were for 1860. It is interesting to me that Charles somehow evaded fighting on the Union side for the Civil War. He was certainly of age to enlist or be conscripted, and not ill or otherwise physically unable to serve. OTOH, Caroline had a brother who died in the Civil War. 

I will say that I was absolutely delighted with Caroline Fraser's open disgust for Michael Landon (and his bare chest & abs) as Pa. My sentiments exactly. 

Oh, and thank you @HerNameIsBuffy for starting this club!

 

Edited by hoipolloi
Clarity
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  • 2 years later...
On 12/17/2019 at 6:48 AM, HerNameIsBuffy said:

I'll kick this off...Did anyone find their opinion of Charles change significantly after reading Pioneer Girl?  

Mine did.  All people are multifaceted and of course she idealized him in her children's series, but I came away thinking if we were around with FJ back then we'd be calling Pa on his grifting - even for the time.

As a daddy's girl myself I get idealizing your father and glossing over the flaws...but I think he was selfish and reckless ...and his morals seemed to shift with his ulterior motives.  Not an evil man just super flawed.

Doesn't help that Michael Landon made him into the most perfect Mary Sue who ever Mary Sued on the small screen.

Absolutely. Although I think it'd be more accurate to say it really changed the way I thought about Ma. I was a young tomboy when I read the books and absolutely sided with Laura, including the way she loved her Pa and portrayed him as fun, understanding, brave, adventurous and overall amazing. With Ma it was always her nagging, or trying to make Laura be a little lady with her inside work and comments about changing her behavior and attitude and being the Debbie downer who made them stay because she wanted to live in a town with a church and a school for the girls. 8 year old me in all my wisdom was like why did she marry Pa then when its clear he wants adventure, she should have married a man who liked town. That she was the racist one for not liking Natives while Pa said respectful things about them (which is also really sad that as a half indigenous little girl in the mid 90s I considered Pa Ingalls opinion of my own family and community as "positive" but another issue entirely) 

I had absolutely 0 clue at that age about the disenfranchisement of women throughout history, the position women were in when it came to marriage and their role within one, and all the indirect secism that occurs because of gender roles especially in relationships even today let alone in the mid 19th century. To me sexism was how they were only now making women's hockey an Olympic sport in the future 1998 Olympics and how I was the only girl on my ice hockey team and the boys and anyone else who had a problem with that were stupid. Ah to be young again.

But even once I comprehended the position Caroline Ingalls was in, Pioneer Girl really put together primary source after primary source that showed Charles in an increasingly worse light. He wasn't just a irresponsible but good intentioned, hard working man who probably shouldn't have married and had a wife and young children if he truly was only happy traveling into the frontier and new places and experiences. He took his young family and pregnant wife away from family, support and a home where he could provide on risky gambles only to consciously and time and time again made shitty financial decisions, lived beyond his means and cheated others resulting in complete destitution, then move his growing family of a wife and young girls to an even riskier and more dangerous situation to save his own ass from his own poor decisions, not only negatively impacting his wife and children but oftlivelihoods criminally on his "creditors" who weren't even big city Guilded Age fat cats or corporations but small frontier businessmen and or landowners he cheated out of their own meager liveliehoods. The rare few times some form of security was found he insisted on yet another idiotic gamble that put them in harms way. There was nothing noble in riding out of town in the middle of the night to escape debts. It seems like everytime in reality that happened Charles had some noble excuse his daughter understandably believed. When his misdeads, scams and financial fraud and failures are all stacked up together its a case of fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, thrice etc. shame on you. The only consistent in all his problems outside his own tall tales was himself and while noble proclamations of the  American farmer against the mightbof the corrupt railroad or the independent homesteader whose honest hard work was taken away instanteously by an uncaring federal bureaucracy of educated elites who made a paperwork error and didn't understand the destruction this wreaked on the honest blood sweat and backbreaking hard work of the common man and didn't care, etc.  I know Rose was responsible for the libertarian rhetoric infused into the books and if anything politically the evidence paints Charles as a Populist, but its clear the adoration Laura had for her father was not created in editing and she must have heard and believed all his excuses throughout their hardships to paint him in such an adoring light awhile characterizing her mother as just one more of the agents that kept her noble father caged from his true capabilities which is what caused their hardships. It was never a Pa's fault, his actions and motivations were always for the best of the family, even Ma.

Poor Caroline. She kept the family together, gave the girls a semblance Of normalcy and after decades of checking her countenance and saying calmly "Yes Charles dear" she finally refused for Charles to pick up stake with a critically ill and disabled girl and 3 more daughters, the youngest of middling strength, while he was nearing middle age himself and further travel west that he desired, such as going to Montana, would have required far far more than he was able to give, probably more than he could have at his physical peak, he had no strong healthy sons to assist and his peitite and other than Laura seemingly ill, young daughters were not that. 

I'm sure if Mary had been the one to write her memoirs we might have had a different set up altogether. I've always been curious how the stories would have been told from her perspective or that of Carrie or Grace. Laura loved her father and there was no shame in that. But when compared to the reality of Charles' travels and financial gambles and failures and insistence on taking his young family of all women and girls on to new gambles the rare few times they'd found a semblance of security and consistent means of survival is bad enough before knowing poor Caroline was memorialized in history as the problem when she was the only reason the family survived.

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