Long Winter

By Mary Slattery

Spring brings blossoms into the world. Summer sends forth a rhythm of busyness and purpose, Fall is full of blazing glory and winter is loooooooonng.


Laura Ingles Wilder is my hero these days. Come to think of it, she always has been. Her books were read over and over in my family growing up. Now as an adult I still use them as a mental reference to measure the grit and common sense that it takes to life a life of sustenance and innovation.

cold and long

Winter is unfailingly a  most difficult and dark time for me year after year. I hate the cold, I hate the snow, I hate how I can’t enjoy what I love to do most outside in the sun. I don’t have much to complain about though when measuring my trials next to those who lived through the Long Winter which spanned from October to May in the  winter of 1880 and 1881.

During the long winter, about 36 blizzards hit down upon what was then Dakota Teritory making each month incredibly difficult. Survival was no easy challenge as wood and coal ran out and food became more and more scarce due to the inability to get a train shipment of commodities to the people of the prairie.


As much as I hate winter my life is not difficult. Winter will not last 7 months, and I don’t have to worry about much. Life is not hard. I don’t have to make firewood by twisting hay for hours each day with numb hands as they did in the long winter. Nor do I have to eat the same rationed meal of potatoes and coarse brown bread made from wheat ground by hand in a coffee grinder.

loong winter

Nope, I’ve got it good.

blog post

Wait, not good. Great.

clare and i

And as Pa tells Laura in this much loved novel:

“It can’t beat us!” Pa said. “Can’t it, Pa?” Laura asked stupidly.”No,” said Pa. “It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick us. We won’t give up.”Then Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”

― Laura Ingalls WilderThe Long Winte

Well said, Pa. Well said.

3 thoughts on “Long Winter

  1. Gretchen O'Donnell

    What a great quote! I’ve been thinking about The Long Winter book lately, too – and yes, so thankful that I’m living now and not then! We’re about 1.5 hours form Walnut Grove here, which makes her life even more real. I need to go to DeSmet, SD, the site of her awful winter experiences. But I’m not going in the winter!!

  2. Minnesota Prairie Roots

    Thanks for putting this long winter into perspective. I, too, love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, especially since I grew up only 20 miles from Walnut Grove. I really need to dig out The Long Winter so I, like you, realize that I really do not have it so bad.


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