had not made her scream and it could not make her cry.”nThat fall, the Ingalls experienced their first blizzard on thennorthern plains.nThe theme of By the Shores of Silver Lake is change —nchange in its personal, social, technical, and environmentalndimensions. The book opens in the aftermath of the scarletnfever epidemic, with Mary blind and Aunt Docia driving upnin a buggy with her offer of a railroad job for Pa. Before Panleaves, the bulldog Jack, who has accompanied them undernthe wagon, walking all the way from Wisconsin, dies and isnburied beside Plum Creek. Laura, now almost thirteen yearsnold, knows that with Pa already gone west and Mary blind,nshe has major responsibilities within the family. “Now shenwas alone; she must take care of herself When you must donthat, then you do it and you are grown up.” Silver Lake has andifferent tone, a different feel, a new quality to it, and thisndifference is reflected by the typeface, reduced from thenchildishly large size in which the first three books were set. Itnis overtly an adult book, with adult themes and adultnsubjects, treated in a frankly adult way.nThe Ingalls take the train to the end of the building line atnTracy, Minnesota; together with their first experience inn”riding the cars,” the girls have their first brush with modernnhigh-pressure salesmanship as personified by a boy vendingncandy and chewing gum. At the Tracy depot, Laura musesnas she watches the detached engine being rotated on thenturntable. “She knew now what Pa meant when he spoke ofnthe wonderful times they were living in. There had nevernbeen such wonders in the whole history of the world. Pansaid.” Her reflections are rudely interrupted by a “bignyoung” railroad man singing a crude (but rather hilarious)nparody of Ma’s favorite hymn. At the hotel where Pa is tonmeet them with the wagon, Laura thinks that she “wouldnrather not stop anywhere. She would rather go on and on, tonthe very end of the road, wherever it was.”nThe railroad camp chapters are absolutely splendid work,nfull of a spontaneous poetry applied directly and almostnunthinkingly to the sharpest social and historical awareness.nLaura makes friends at once with her cousin Lena, who isneven more of a tomboy than she and a year older. The twongirls take the buggy, hitched to a pair of black ponies, andndrive to a claim shanty to bring back the laundry to camp.nLena, whooping like an Indian, gives the ponies their heads.n”‘They’re running away!'” Laura cries, but Lena yells,n” ‘Let ’em run!'” The freedom of the West could hardly benbetter rendered; and, for the first time, the fact of sex isnsuggested by Lena’s songs (“I wouldn’t marry a farmer /nHe’s always in the dirt, / I’d rather marry a railroad man /nwho wears a striped shirt”). Lena confides to Laura that shendoesn’t want to marry ever, she wants to keep on movingnwest instead.nVying with the exhilaration is a sadness produced by thengrowing knowledge that Pa’s dream of absolute freedom andnunlimited space will never be realized, though he himselfnappears alternatively philosophical and (perhaps willfully)nobtuse regarding this fact. (‘”By George, our luck’s turnednat last!'” he tells Ma, immediately after being hired to worknfor the railroad corporation.) Already by 1879 there are nonbuffalo left in Dakota Territory, only their grassed-overnwallows, and the machine has arrived in the garden: mennwith teams and plows are breaking the virginal prairie sodnahead of the railroad grade, and more men with teams andnearthmovers are going behind them, building it up. Laura,nbursting with excitement and hoping secretly to hear then”rough language” she is always being warned against, isnescorted to the construction site by Pa, who is full ofnadmiration for the efficiency of the system: ” ‘just like thenworks of a clock. . . . Watch the boss and you’ll see how it’sndone.'” (Even as he spoke, Frederick Winslow Taylor wasndeveloping his theories of “scientific management” andn”stop-watch efficiency.”) Laura too is caught up in hisnvision: “she could almost sing the tune to which theynmoved.”nThe Ingalls spend the winter in the cabin used during thensummer by the surveyors who are laying out De Smet, andnin early spring Pa files on a claim a mile southeast of thentown. Ma and Mary are pleased that they are going to bensettled for good now, but Laura cannot help thinking that, ifnPa for some reason fails to file, all of them can go on tonOregon. On the prairie she had felt alone and happy, butnthe new town makes her “lonely and scared.” “Wild birdsndid not like the town full of people, and neither did Laura.”n'”The buffalo are gone,’ Laura thought, ‘and now we’renhomesteaders.'” Half-lost in the slough grass with Carrie,nshe emerges to see a hay wagon with a young man lying onntop of it, looking at her. She thanks him primly for hisndirection and goes away thinking only of the horses. “Withnall her heart Laura wished for such horses. She supposednshe could never have them.”nIt may be that in Mrs. Wilder’s accountnof the social activities in a small frontierntown in America in the late 19thncentury, even more than in her movingnand brilliantly evocative description of thenrelatively unspoiled nature surroundingnit, a sense of loss shows through.nThe Long Winter begins with a highly skillful anticipationnof the terrible winter that invaded Dakota Territory inn1880-81. Reading the signs, and warned by an ancientnIndian, Pa moves the family from the claim shanty — wherenthey would certainly have perished — to his store building inntown. Here, ironically, trapped by storms in which peoplenliterally could not see their hands in front of them, they arenfar more isolated than they had been the previous winter innthe surveyors’ house. Since there is too little space betweennblizzards to allow the cut at Tracy to be cleared, the railroadnsuspends service to De Smet until spring, an event thatnprompts Pa to observe that, “‘These times are too progressive.nEverything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraphnand kerosene and coal stoves — they’re good things tonhave but the trouble is, folks get to depend on them.'” Innlate winter, Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland, gamblingnon a day of clear weather, drive their sleds 12 miles south ofntown in search of a nameless homesteader rumored to havenput up a harvest of seedwheat the previous fall. They findnnnNOVEMBER 1991/23n