Monday, June 29, 2009

Pa Ingalls - Pioneer GeekDad?

Book Illustration by Garth Willaims
Somewhere along the line, some folks may have gotten the idea that Little House on the Prairie is “just for girls” and that the plot mostly involves Laura Ingalls running through the tall grass in a calico dress.

But I’m reading the book to my boys right now and there’s a lot more D.I.Y. than dresses.

Much of the book is about Pa building the house. This guy was a serious maker — to the point of being a little crazy: “A man doesn’t need nails to build a house or make a door.” Would it have been that hard to throw a box of nails in the Conestoga before heading West, Pa?

This is life before Home Depot. Basically, he’s got the few hand tools he brought on the wagon. No lumber, just trees. No bricks, just rocks. No cement, just mud. And so on and so on. And if he can’t get the project done before winter, it’s going to be one heck of a cold spell.

But Pa gets down to it. We hear in detail how he split logs into planks using a system of wood blocks, an axe and an iron wedge. We see the house go up log by notched log. And then the chimney stone by stone.

How do you make a door that locks without nails, a lock, a knob, a hinge or any other hardware? “First he hewed a short, thick piece of oak. From one side of this, in the middle, he cut a wide, deep notch. He pegged this stick to the inside of the door….”

I needed two cordless drills, two different power saws, a Workmate and a shopping spree in Lowe’s lumber aisle to build an Adirondack chair this weekend, and this guy is hewing, whittling and pegging a whole house. Then he makes the furniture and digs a well. Luckily, he finally got some nails to put the roof on.

This book is a must read for all kids, especially future Makers of either sex.

Book Illustration by Garth Williams
From here
 

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