Little House on the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder


The Ingalls family goes West

A long time ago, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in Wisconsin. They drove away and left it lonely and empty among the big trees, and they never saw that little house again. They were going to Indian country.

Pa said there were too many people in Wisconsin now. Wild animals did not stay in a country where there were so many people, so Pa didn't want to stay. He liked a country where the animals lived without fear. He liked to see them looking at him in the forest and eating fruit from the trees.

In the long winter evenings Pa talked to Ma about the Western country. 'Let's go see the West,' he said. 'The land is flat and the grass grows thick and high. Animals run freely and there are no settlers. Only Indians live there.'

'Oh, Charles, must we go now?' Ma said. 'The weather's so cold and our warm house is so comfortable.'

'If we are going this year, we must go now,' said Pa. 'We can't cross the Mississippi River after the ice breaks.'

So Pa sold the little house in Wisconsin. With Ma's help, he made a canvas cover for their wagon. They put everything into the wagon except their beds and tables and chairs. Pa could make new ones out West.

The next morning when it was still dark, Ma gently shook Mary and Laura until they got up. By the light of the fire she helped them dress warmly. They put on warm dresses and heavy coats. Grandmother, Grandfather, aunts, and uncles were all there to say good-bye to them.

Pa put his gun inside the wagon where he could reach it quickly. He put his fiddle between two blankets in order to keep it safe. Their dog Jack went under the wagon, and they drove away.

'When we get to the West,' Pa said to Laura, 'you'll see a papoose.'

'What's a papoose?' she asked.

'A papoose is a little brown Indian baby,' Pa explained.

It was a long, long way to Indian country. Almost every day the horses travelled as far as they could; almost every night Pa and Ma stopped in a new place. They rode across the wide Mississippi River before the ice broke, and crossed many other rivers and creeks.