I was introduced to Laura Ingalls Wilder when my third grade teacher read Little House on the Prairie to the class. I was hooked immediately and have been reading the Little House books ever since.
I recently re-read (for the bizillionith time) one of my favorites in the series, Little Town on the Prairie. I like this book because finally we see the Ingalls family prospering. They have chickens and a garden and even though they miss her being gone, they have enough money to send Mary to college. (Although I should confess: I always thought “good riddance” when Mary went to college. Once she became blind she was no fun.)
True to the title, most of the book focuses on the goings on and time the Ingalls family spent living in town. Unlike the previous winter which was spent in isolation and near starvation due to constant blizzards, this year in town is a fun place to live with literaries, parties, exchanging name cards and even a brief ride to the school house in Almanzo Wilder’s buggy.
Laura enjoys going to school and becomes reacquainted with Minnie Johnson and Mary Power who we met the year before in The Long Winter. We also see the reappearance of bratty Nellie Olsen from On the Banks of Plum Creek (she’s still a royal beyotch) and meet a new girl, the minister’s adopted daughter Ida Brown.
Which brings me to my question. Who was Laura’s best friend? Was it Mary Power or Ida Brown?
When I was younger I always assumed that the title should go to Laura’s seat mate in school, Ida Brown. Laura admired Ida because she was so sweet and sincere and never jealous or vengeful of the other girls who had more than her. In fact, we learn in These Happy Golden Years that Ida Brown was Laura’s maid of honor (OK, she and her boyfriend Elmer witnessed at the 15 minute legal ceremony which consisted of Laura, Almanzo and Reverend Brown, but still….) which certainly would give her best friend status right?
However during my most recent reading of Little Town on the Prairie I began to wonder if maybe Mary Power was a better friend to Laura. Mary Power was the one who Laura truly hung out with. They went to parties together and spent Saturday afternoons sewing together. Later on in These Happy Golden Years, Mary Power and Cap went on double buggy dates with Laura and Almanzo.
Not only that but Mary Power was probably a better influence on Laura than Ida. During this most recent read it struck me that Ida was actually not the “sweet dear” the other girls held her out to be. While she was no Nellie Olsen, Ida did have a mischievous streak, stereotypical of the minister’s daughter. Remember, it was Ida Brown who inspired the poem about Lazy Lousy Liza Jane and then got the boys all riled up and singing the song around town.
I’m also pretty sure that the Power family were better friends of the Ingalls than the Reverend and Mrs. Brown. Pa was entrusted to walk Laura and Mary Power home from Ben Woodworth’s party, while Ida had to wait for Reverend Brown. Years later in The First Four Years, it is Mrs. Power (presumably Mary’s mother) who helps Ma deliver Laura’s baby. Also, it’s pretty clear from the books that the Ingalls family never thought much of Reverend Brown as a preacher. They tolerated and respected him as a man of the cloth but really he was too loud and preachy for their taste, unlike their beloved and gentle Reverend Alden from Walnut Grove who they fondly remembered and spoke of throughout the books.
So on this most controversial subject I’m going to take a stand. While I realize friends were few and far between out there on the Dakota Prairies back in the 1880s, I’m going to declare Mary Power as Laura Ingalls best friend.
Are you a Little House fan? If so who do you think Laura’s best friend was?