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Buffalo Wallow

My theme for the A to Z Challenge is Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura Ingalls Wilder was the author of the Little House books and there was a television series very loosely based on the books. I began reading the books when I was eleven years old (which even I have a hard time believing is over 40 years ago!). If you would like to read about my feelings about Laura, visit this site. I have also listed helpful sites and blogs in my sidebar if you would like to learn more.

B is for Buffalo Wallow. I chose buffalo wallow because it leads to one of my favorite passages from the Little House books.

During the days that buffalo roamed the prairie, they would stop to roll in the dirt (or water if it was a watering hole). Herds of buffalo always seemed to stop in the same areas so that over time, the earth would wear away and buffalo wallows would form. Buffalo wallows are some of the only evidence left by the once thriving enormous herds of buffalo.

I will probably post passages from the Little House books on most days this month, just because they have stayed with me over the past forty years of reading and re-reading the books. I’m sorry that this one is going to be a long one. Laura’s littlest sister, baby Grace, had wandered off and the family was in a panic trying to find her. I can still feel the sense of guilt and urgency and terror in Laura’s words all those years later when she was writing the book.

From By The Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 30: Where Violets Grow
By Laura Ingalls Wilder —

Laura was running straight toward the south. Grass whipped soft against her bare feet. Butterflies fluttered over the flowers. There wasn’t a bush nor a weed that Grace could be hidden behind. There was nothing, nothing but grass and flowers swaying in the sunshine.

If she were little and playing all by herself, Laura thought, she wouldn’t go into the dark Big Slough, she wouldn’t go into the mud and the tall grass. Oh, Grace, why didn’t I watch you? she thought. Sweet pretty little helpless sister — “Grace! Grace!” she screamed. Her breath caught and hurt in her side.

She ran on and on. Grace must have gone this way. Maybe she chased a butterfly. She didn’t go into the Big Slough! She didn’t climb the hill, she wasn’t there. Oh, baby sister, I couldn’t see you anywhere east or south on this hateful prairie. “Grace!”

The horrible, sunny prairie was so large. No lost baby could ever be found on it. Ma’s calling and Pa’s shouts came from Big Slough. They were thin cries, lost in wind, lost on the enormous bigness of the prairie.

Laura’s breathing hurt her sides under the ribs. Her chest was smothering and her eyes were dizzy. She ran up a low slope. Nothing, nothing, not a spot of shadow was anywhere on the level prairie all around her. She ran on, and suddenly the ground dropped before her. She almost fell down a steep bank.

There was Grace. There, in a great pool of blue, sat Grace. The sun shone on her golden hair blowing in the wind. She looked up at Laura with big eyes as blue as violets. Her hands were full of violets. She held them up to Laura and said, “Sweet! Sweet!”

Laura sank down and took Grace in her arms. She held Grace carefully and panted for breath. Grace leaned over her arm to reach more violets. They were surrounded by masses of violets blossoming above low-spreading leaves. Violets covered the flat bottom of a large, round hollow. All around this lake of violets, grassy banks rose almost straight up to the prairie-level. There in the round, low place the wind hardly disturbed the fragrance of the violets. The sun was warm there, the sky was overhead, the green walls of grass curved all around, and butterflies fluttered over the crowding violet-faces.

Laura then took Grace back to the shanty, gave her to Mary, and went to find Ma and Pa to tell them that she had found Grace. Laura wondered to Pa and Ma about what she thought might be a fairy ring where Grace had been. And Pa explained:

You are right, Laura; human hands didn’t make that place,” Pa said. “But your fairies were big, ugly brutes, with horns on their heads and humps on their backs. That place is an old buffalo wallow. You know buffaloes are wild cattle. They paw up the ground and wallow in the dust, just as cattle do.

Pa explains the buffalo herds had these wallowing places and, for some reason, always wallowed in the same place as other herds had. Maybe because the ground was mellowed there. Now the buffalo were gone and grass grew over their wallows. Grass and violets.

Grace in the Buffalo Wallow
from a Sewell/Boyle illustrated edition of
By The Shores of Silver Lake

 

Have a wonderful B-day!

**Join me and many other Laura fans at LauraPalooza 2012 (the second-ever Laura Ingalls Wilder Conference), which will be held July 12-14, 2012, in Mankato, Minnesota. For more information visit Beyond Little House and look for the heading “LauraPalooza 2012”. The pull down menu will have all of the information that you are looking for!**

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10 thoughts on “Buffalo Wallow

  1. I LOVE the Little House books. I have re-read them so many times I can't count how many. I've always remembered this part and I think it's one of the reasons I love the little wild violets that grow in my yard so much.

  2. I LOVE the Little House books. I have re-read them so many times I can't count how many. I've always remembered this part and I think it's one of the reasons I love the little wild violets that grow in my yard so much.

  3. I love the theme of your posts! I think there are a lot of us who grew up with Laura and her family. I was so thrilled to get my own daughter her first set of the books (and then stole them from her to read myself!)Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts!Lisa, Random Ramblings

  4. I love the theme of your posts! I think there are a lot of us who grew up with Laura and her family. I was so thrilled to get my own daughter her first set of the books (and then stole them from her to read myself!)Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts!Lisa, Random Ramblings

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