After the Prairie: A sequel to Michael Landon's Little House TV series
For episode summaries and a list of characters, please visit the homepage listed in my profile.
Episode Eight: "Thanksgiving Turkeys"
At Thanksgiving time, a sad event brings changes for Grace and the Olesons.
Featured Characters: Grace, Caroline, and two other characters
Warning: There's some politically incorrect stuff in this episode, but remember these were the attitudes in the 1800's.
"Matt," said Grace Ingalls to her friend Matthew Simms, "do you know what this is about?"
"Nope," he replied.
"But you're a teacher's son. You're s'posed to know these things!" she yelled at him in a loud whisper.
"Well I don't!" he shot back.
"Grace, Matthew, quiet please," said their teacher Miss Christian.
Grace and Matthew's third grade class had left their classroom and walked to the school auditorium. Once there, they walked to the front of the auditorium where the students from the other third grade class already sat.
"Hey Matt!" a boy from the other class called. It was Jess Miles, whose brother Elmer went to high school with Grace's siblings.
"Hey Jess," said Matthew, but Matthew and Grace had to sit with their own class.
Once Miss Christian's class was seated, she walked up to the stage along with the other third grade teacher, a woman in her fifties named Mrs. Barrington. They clapped their hands and called for the students to be quiet.
"Attention boys and girls," Mrs. Barrington began. "It's the beginning of November and as some of you may know, each year the two third grade classes come together to perform the First Thanksgiving pageant."
The students looked at each other and muttered in wonder.
"We will perform the pageant once for the school, and once for your family and friends to come see," said Miss Christian.
"Of course you all have been learning about the First Thanksgiving in class," Mrs. Barrington continued. "Now we are going to read a list of the parts available in the pageant."
"Here are the boys' parts," said Miss Christian. "The pilgrims are: William Bradford, the Governor of the colony; Myles Standish, a heroic pilgrim .." Miss Christian continued to read the parts of the male pilgrims and then moved on to the Indians. "Chief Massasoit the leader, Squanto who helped the Pilgrims; Samoset, the first Indian to greet the Pilgrims… " Jess Miles perked up his ears at the mention of the Indian Chief.
"Now for the girls' parts…" Mrs. Barrington began. Grace didn't pay much attention while the teacher read the parts of the pilgrim women, but her ears perked up when Miss Barrington said "The Indian Princess, who is the daughter of Chief Massasoit." Grace imagined herself dressed as an Indian princess with a feather in her hair and moccasins on her feet.
"Grace!" Matthew nudged his friend. "Pay attention!"
"If you are interested in trying out for a particular part," Mrs. Barrington said, "please come up to the stage when I call the part's name. First up are auditions for Governor William Bradford, John Alden, and Myles Standish."
Matthew walked up to the stage, and when it was his turn, he read for the part of Myles Standish. When he finished Mrs. Barrington wrote some notes down and he returned to his seat. "You did a good job, Matt," said Grace grinning at him.
"Next we'll be trying out the parts of Chief Massasoit and his daughter," said Mrs. Barrington.
Eagerly Grace stood up and had to control herself from running up onstage. She managed to walk calmly up to the stage and stood in line behind two other girls. She looked out in the audience and noticed the looks on several girls' faces. I guess they don't think it's proper to play an Indian, she thought. Well they can be pilgrim women if they want but I want to be the Indian princess!
When it was Grace's turn to read, Mrs. Barrington handed her a script, Miss Christian handed Jess a script.
"Whenever you two are ready," said Mrs. Barrington.
Jess cleared his throat. "Daughter," he said in a clear authoritative voice. "You must come with me to welcome the travelers to this land."
"Oh yes father," said Grace happily. "Those pilgrims are so brave to cross the great water. I wonder if their women would like some of my beads?"
"That is very generous of you to think of that, bring them." Jess continued.
When they finished their short scene Grace handed her script to Mrs. Barrington. "Thank you," said the older teacher smiling.
Grace turned to go back to her seat. She just knew that she had done better than the other two girls!
The door to the auditorium opened then, and Miss Scott, the front-desk secretary, burst in. "Children," she said in a voice that was too cheerful. "You get to have an extra-long recess starting now. Don't come in until we ring the bell!"
The children filed out of the auditorium cheering and with Grace near the front of the group.
"Come on guys!" said Jess to the other third grade boys. "Let's go play ball! You too, Grace."
Grace shrugged and followed the boys out to the playground.
After recess, both third grade classes were told that the rest of the auditions for the pageant would be postponed until next week. Grace didn't let this stop her from thinking about the pageant.
After school. Grace waited under an oak tree for Caroline. Sometimes one of Grace's siblings picked her up from school, and other times it was her mother.
"Hi Ma," said Grace when Caroline arrived. Caroline took Grace's hand.
"How was school today Grace?"
"It was good, Ma" said Grace. "We're going to put on a Thanksgiving pageant."
"That sounds like fun!" said Caroline. "What is it going to be about?"
"The first Thanksgiving," said Grace as they walked. "I hope I get the part of the Indian princess so I can wear moccasins!"
"Now, Grace," said Caroline gently, "There is nothing wrong with the shoes we wear."
"But they're boring Ma. Indian shoes are much prettier."
"Grace," reprimanded Caroline, "they wear what they wear, and we wear what we wear, and that is that." She shook her head amused by her youngest child's outcries.
They arrived at the Olesons' restaurant where Caroline worked. Every weekday the restaurant closed for a few hours after lunch, and re-opened again for supper. On the days that Caroline picked up Grace, Grace worked on homework at the restaurant until it was time to go home. Caroline ended her day before the Olesons re-opened for supper.
"Hi Willie, hi Rachel" said Grace and she and Caroline entered the restaurant. Willie and Rachel had just moved recently from Montana.
"Hi Grace," they said in unison as they continued wiping down tables. "Hi Mrs. Ingalls."
"Willie, Rachel," Caroline smiled at the young couple.
Caroline and Grace went into the kitchen. "Ah Caroline, Grace." said Harriet distractedly. Harriet frowned suspiciously at an egg before cracking it against a bowl and letting the contents drop inside.
"Hello, Mrs. Oleson" said Grace amused by Harriet's apparent distrust of eggs.
"You can go right in the back Grace," said Harriet waving her on. Grace went into the private dining room behind the kitchen to study.
"I'm glad you're back Caroline," said Harriet. "Nels went on an errand and I need help finishing up this bread for tonight." Harriet made a face as she cracked another egg against the bowl impatiently.
There was a reason that Harriet's normal duties were hosting, waiting tables, cleaning dishes, ordering food and supplies, and bookkeeping all instead of cooking.
"Certainly," said Caroline putting an apron on. Behind Harriet's back, Caroline smiled and shook her head.
A while later, Nels returned from his errand.
"Hi Pa," said Willie as he came in.
"Hello you two," said Nels. "How are you feeling Rachel?"
"I'm better," said Rachel. "Now that I've started eating more, I don't get the dizzy spells. You're grandchild's hungry," she smiled.
Nels put a hand on Rachel's shoulder. "You just take care of yourself and that baby," he said.
Nels walked into the kitchen. "Harriet," he said.
"Hello Nels," said Harriet. Harriet was stirring some soup which apparently was less terrifying than cracking eggs.
"How are things Caroline?" he asked turning to her. Harriet may have been in charge of the restaurant, but it was Caroline who ran the kitchen.
"Everything is in order," she replied. The Olesons now owned a restaurant which had two sinks and two stoves in the kitchen to accommodate the larger crowds of the city.
"So what kind of mail did we get today Nels?" said Harriet.
"Mostly bills," said Nels who was carrying a stack of envelopes. He smiled. "Expect for this letter from my sister Annabelle."
"Oh yes," Harriet muttered to herself unenthusiastically. She was still embarrassed to be related to the "fat lady" of the circus. "What did she say?" Harriet asked turning back to the soup.
"Well, you could read it yourself; she always addresses them to all of us," Nels reproached her. Harriet looked at him and scoffed. He sighed. "The circus is in El Paso," he said.
"They're in Mexico!" Harriet exclaimed. "You mean were they have those people who wear those huge ridiculous hats called somburros or something."
"El Paso is in Texas dear," said Nels. "And I seem to recall you owning some 'huge ridiculous' hats yourself."
"Hummph!" said Harriet. "I'm going to help Willie and Rachel," she said exiting the kitchen. Nels took over watching the soup, but not before he and Caroline exchanged a glance.
"Mrs. Ingalls," said Willie coming into the kitchen a few seconds after Harriet went out. "Mrs. Simms wants to see you and Grace."
"Eva's here?" said Caroline. "I wonder why she would come here? Grace!" Caroline called to her daughter.
"Yes Ma," said Grace coming in from the back room.
"Mrs. Simms is here to see us," Caroline replied.
"Both of us?" said Grace.
"Yes," said Caroline. "I'll be as quick as I can," she said to Nels.
"Take your time," he said. "Willie, take over for her in the meantime."
"Sure, Pa" he said going to the sink to wash his hands.
Grace and Caroline left the kitchen.
Out in the dining area Eva and Matthew stood. Matthew's eyes were puffy and his face was red, and Eva didn't look much better. Rachel watched disapprovingly as Harriet snuck curious glances at them.
"Eva?" said Caroline noticing their faces. "What's wrong?"
"Uh, Harriet," said Rachel taking Harriet by the arm. "I'm feeling dizzy, could you take me upstairs to lie down in the guest room?"
"Huh? Oh," she said looking disappointed in missing out on whatever Eva had to say. As they headed for the upstairs, Rachel turned to look at Caroline who mouthed a "thank you" to the expectant mother.
Once they were out of earshot Eva turned back around. "Grace," she said gently looking at the young girl. "Do you remember how you had the extra-long morning recess today?"
"Yes," said Grace slowly.
"You'll find this out tomorrow, but I thought I should tell you ahead of time. The reason you had a longer recess is because we were having a meeting. The principal had a mild stroke this morning."
Grace grabbed her mother's skirts. "Oh no!" said Caroline. "Eva is-?"
"He is alive, thank goodness" said Eva. "He had planned to retire at the end of the school year. But because of the stroke, he's decided to retire immediately."
"You mean he's not coming back?" said Grace.
"I'm afraid not," said Eva. "I'm sorry honey."
"Ma no!" Grace cried.
"I'm sorry," said Eva putting her hand on her forehead. "I should have let you tell her, Caroline. I'm not thinking straight right now."
"It wouldn't have made it any easier," said Caroline. Grace was crying now and Matthew was crying again.
"We'll go now," said Eva. "Take care you two."
"Goodbye," said Caroline.
Caroline walked into the kitchen and Nels and Willie looked at her in alarm.
"What's wrong?" said Nels.
"We just found out that Grace's principal had a stroke, and he's just retired because of it," said Caroline.
"Oh no," said Willie.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," said Nels.
Caroline collected her and Grace's things. "If you don't mind, Grace and I will be leaving now," said Caroline.
"Of course not," said Nels. "And don't worry. I'll tell Harriet."
Caroline smiled at that.
That evening Charles played a quiet tune on the fiddle in the Ingalls' parlor while James read, Caroline, Carrie, and Cassandra knitted, and Grace tried to work on her sampler.
Grace plopped down her sampler and look at her parents. "May I be excused?" she asked.
Charles and Carline exchanged a look. "All right," said Caroline, "just put away your sampler first." It was a half-hour before Grace's bedtime and usually Grace wanted to stay up as late as possible.
After Grace kissed her parent good night, she trudged up the stairs. Caroline looked at Charles. "I should talk to her," she said.
"I'll go," he replied.
In her room Grace took off her pinafore and hung it up in the whatnot when she heard a knock on the door.
"Come in," she said glumly.
"Hey," said Charles. "How's my girl?" He sat on the bed.
"Not good Pa," said Grace joining him. "I can't believe our principal's not coming back. I really liked him."
"I know," said Charles. "You're always telling us about how he came to visit each class once a week."
"He's so nice," said Grace. "But now I won't see him anymore and it's not fair," she said quietly.
"I agree it's unfair," said Charles. "But it's unfair to him, not you.'
Grace looked at him confused.
"Grace," said Charles. "He's the one who had to retire earlier than planned. I know that man loves his job and he thought he'd be able to stay all the way until the end of the school year. I know when the day comes that I'll have to stop working, it'll be a hard one. Imagine if you suddenly had to stop doing something you loved."
"I guess you have a point," said Grace.
"Glad you got it," said Charles smiling. "I think the best thing you can do is make your principal a card wishing him well. He needs your support, not you feeling sorry for yourself."
"I understand, Pa," said Grace.
"I knew you would," said Charles giving her a hug.
The atmosphere at the school for the rest of that week was a somber one. Instead of postponing auditions for the Thanksgiving pageant, it had now been cancelled. The vice-principal, Mr. Larson, had taken over as acting principal and asked each class to send the former principal a card. Quite a few people, including Grace, also sent individual cards.
Caroline came to pick up Grace that Friday and they walked slowly to the restaurant. Grace was still sad about her principal, but Charles had helped to lighten her mood a bit, and she was starting to feel better.
Rachel let Caroline and Grace into the restaurant and shut the door. Outside, this got the attention a man and a young girl passing by. They stopped and stared at the name of the restaurant.
"It can't be," said the man. He tried to open the door and then knocked.
Rachel came to the door, pulled back the curtain covering the top half, and pointed at the "closed" sign. When the man persisted, she pointed again to the sign that indicated the restaurant would reopen at five. Suddenly the man noticed someone behind Rachel.
"Willie!" the man cried then, quite loudly, knocking insistently on the door. In the background, Willie was sweeping and turned around when Rachel called for him. He came to the door, intending to give the disruptive man a piece of his mind and stared, recognition slowly coming across his face. "Uncle Tobias?" he mouthed through the window.
"Yes!" the man cried.
"Oh my gosh!" he cried letting the man and little girl in.
"Mother! Pa! Come here!"
Harriet and Nels came out the kitchen then.
"Willie, for heaven sakes what are you yelling about? Oh!" said Harriet spotting the man.
"I don't believe it," said Nels. "Is it really you Tobias?"
"It's me!" Tobias replied.
The two men hugged and Rachel smiled realizing that they all knew this man. She shut and locked the front door.
"It's so good to see you again, cousin" said Nels warmly.
Tobias Oleson, who was in his late thirties, looked very much like a younger version of his cousin Nels, expect taller and a bit leaner. Both had the same receding hairline, but Tobias wore glasses.
"And oh my goodness," said Harriet. "This must be Megan!" she said looking down at the little girl and smiling cloyingly.
Megan, her shoulder-length brown hair held back by a fabric headband, smiled politely at the strange woman.
"Oh of course," said Harriet apologetically. "You wouldn't remember me. I'm your Auntie Harriet," she said.
"Hello, Auntie Harriet," said the girl doing a curtsey.
"Willie!" Tobias cried. "I can't believe how much you've grown! You were just a little troublemaker the last time I saw you."
"Our Willie has grown up," said Harriet smiling and squeezing her son's shoulders.
"Uncle Tobias," said Willie taking Rachel's arm. "This is my wife Rachel."
"You're married," said Tobias in disbelief. "Who would have thought? You have grown up. She's lovely, Willie."
"Thank you," said Rachel. "It's nice to meet you," she said shyly.
"And there's more," said Willie. "In six months, we're going to have our first child."
"Willie, married and starting a family," said Tobias to himself. "I can't believe it. Nels, you're going to be a grandfather!"
"Don't you remember?" said Harriet. "Our Nellie has two beautiful children of her own, Jenny and Benny."
"Benjamin," Nels corrected.
"Of course," said Tobias apologetically. "It must have slipped my mind. I can't believe how much has changed since I last saw you all."
"Well," said Nels. "Maybe if you had written more often-"
Grace came out of the kitchen then followed by Caroline.
"I'm so sorry," said Caroline. "I told Grace to mind her manners."
"It's all right," said Nels. "Caroline I'd like you to meet my cousin Tobias. He's the youngest son of my father's brother. And this his daughter Megan." He looked back at Tobias. "Caroline Ingalls is a longtime friend of ours and she works here at the restaurant."
"Mr. Oleson," said Caroline nodding.
"Please call me Tobias," said Tobias. "As a friend of my cousin's you may have that privilege, Mrs. Ingalls"
"Very well," she nodded, "you may call me Caroline," she said returning the courtesy.
"It's nice to meet you Caroline," said Tobias. "And who is this young lady?" he said.
"This is my daughter Grace," said Caroline smiling.
"Grace, I'd like you to meet my daughter Megan," said Tobias.
"Pleased to meet you," said Grace. Megan curtseyed. Grace glanced at Caroline who quirked an eyebrow. Grace attempted to curtsey but stumbled.
Tobias chuckled. "That's all right Grace. If you don't mind my asking," said Tobias. "How old are you ?"
"Eight years old, sir" she replied.
"Just my daughter's age," said Tobias. "Would you mind keeping her company while I talk to my cousin?"
"No sir," said Grace smiling. "Come on Megan," she said and Megan was about to follow her when there was knock on the door.
"That must be Nancy," said Rachel who went to let Nancy in.
Nancy stared at the gathering. "What's going on?" she said.
"Oh Nancy," said Harriet rushing to her side as Rachel closed and locked the door again. "There are two people here I'd like you to meet. This is your father's cousin Tobias and his daughter Megan. Tobias, this is Nancy, the daughter that we adopted."
Nancy stared at Tobias for a moment. "Hello," she said.
"It's remarkable," said Tobias staring back. "Nellie looks a lot like you, at least the last time I saw her."
It was Nancy's turn to quirk an eyebrow. It is the first time Nellie had been compared to her and not the other way around.
"It's nice to meet you Uncle Tobias," she said.
"Megan," said Tobias. "Come meet your cousin"
Megan walked up to Nancy and nodded. "Hello Cousin Nancy," she said curtseying.
"Hi," said Nancy tightly. The last thing Nancy wanted was another young relative for Harriet to fuss over. "May I be excused? I have a lot of homework," she said.
"All right, said Nels. "We'll see you later to help serve supper." Nancy scowled at that.
Megan's eyes followed Nancy to the staircase before she turned to Harriet.
"Auntie Harriet, can you tell me where the water closet is?"
"Oh yes," said Harriet. "It's upstairs the first door on the right," she said.
"Thank you," said Megan walking to the back of the dining room, around the corner, and up the stairs. Instead of turning into the water closet, she walked to the end of the hall and peered in the door on the left, which was cracked a little. Nancy was taking her schoolbooks out of her satchel. Megan entered.
"What do you want?" said Nancy surprised to see the little girl there.
"You don't like me do you?" said Megan cutting to the point.
Nancy raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Why of course I like you," she lied. "I'm just tired. I had a long day at school."
"You don't have to pretend with me," said Megan. "I just thought you should know."
With that Megan left the room.
"And Pa, you won't believe it!" said Grace. "Megan even knows French!"
Charles exchanged a glance with Caroline. "Are you sure they're from Nels' side of the family?"
The Ingalls were having supper that night.
"I'm sure," said Caroline. "They lived in Canada for a time, so at least it has some practical use up there."
"Megan says she can speak French as good as someone from France!" Grace boasted.
Carrie wrinkled her nose. Perhaps Grace was fascinated with French, because she never had to deal with Mrs. Oleson trying to teach it.
"Well it sounds like you and Megan got along pretty well," said Charles before returning to work on his supper plate.
"That's unusual for an Ingalls and a Oleson," James quipped. Everyone laughed.
"Yeah but I don't know when I'll see her again," aid Grace. "I wonder if they'll go to our church?"
On Monday Grace and Matthew walked into their class and Grace stopped short when she saw Miss Christian talking to another girl.
"Megan!" she cried running up to her. "I can't believe you go to my school!"
Megan looked at Grace in surprise as the bell rang. Miss Christian cleared her throat.
"Class settle down," she said. Everyone took his or her seat except for Miss Christian and Megan.
"Class," she said. "This is our new student. Megan Oleson. I hope you will help her to feel welcome."
"Hello," said Tobias walking in then. Grace wondered what the new Mr. Oleson was doing at her school.
"Mr. Oleson," Miss Christian said. "It's a good to see you"
"Likewise Miss Christian," he replied. He turned to face the class.
"Children," he said. "I'd like to introduce myself. I am your new principal, Mr. Oleson."
The student muttered amongst themselves and Grace's eyes widened.
"First," said Tobias. "I want to say that I am sorry for what happened to your former principal. My wishes are with him and his family. Secondly, it is come to my attention that the Thanksgiving pageant was cancelled due to what happened last week. I have asked Miss Christian and Mrs. Barrington to continue with the pageant. I feel that we cannot dwell in sadness and life must go on. I know you have one less week to rehearse, but I have faith that you can do it. Thirdly I would like to say that my daughter Megan and I are happy to be here."
Everyone turned to Megan then. "I would appreciate it if you make her feel welcome," Tobias finished.
Grace raised her hand. "I can make her feel welcome Mr. Oleson," she said grinning.
Tobias's eyes lit up in recognition. "Grace Ingalls," he said. "Yes, I would appreciate that. I must take my leave now," he said. "But I hope to get to know all of you soon."
"Well class," said Miss Christian, "let's continue with our spelling words from yesterday…"
When it was time for recess, Megan followed Grace and Matthew out the classroom.
"What do you do at recess?" Megan asked.
"I play ball," said Grace. "Oh, but we can play jump rope instead," she suggested.
"No," said Megan. "Let's play ball."
They walked out to the field where the third grade boys from both classes gathered. Jess Miles was the pitcher for the other team, and he approached Grace, Matthew, and Megan.
"Who are you?" he said to Megan.
"This is my friend Megan," said Grace.
"Oleson," he said pointedly recognizing the first name. "You're the new principal's kid. Listen don't tattle to your Pa, but baseball's a boys' game."
"Grace is a girl," Megan pointed out.
"But she hits like a boy!" blurted Jess.
"I hit better than you," said Grace smiling at Jess who scowled.
Jess sighed. "I'll tell you what. You can play on Matt's team." It was Matthew Simms' turn to be team captain and Jess was captain for the other team.
"But that gives them an extra man!" a boy protested.
"An extra girl," said Jess pointedly, "the principal's daughter."
Grace, Matthew, and Megan lined up with their team. As they played, Grace hit a double, Mathew had a strike but then hit a single. Megan was the last one on the team up at bat.
"Just keep your eye on the ball!" said Grace supportively.
"You better," Jess laughed. "Because it's going to be a fast one!" Jess was the best pitcher in the third grade.
Jess threw a swift curveball and Megan connected with the ball. She dropped the bat and ran towards first base.
"Go Megan! Go!" Grace cried.
Megan checked the location of the ball and ran to second. A boy had finally picked it up and ran to throw it to the third baseman. But Megan made it to another base.
"Yeah!" said Matthew. "Three bases!" The rest of the boys on the team cheered. Grace looked a little surprised.
At the end of recess, Jess came up to Megan sheepishly. "I guess I was wrong about you, Oleson. How'd you like to play on our team to even out the sides?"
"Sure!" said Megan.
"I guess you're not the only girl who can play ball, anymore," said Jess to Grace, who smiled a little less brightly than before.
That afternoon, auditions for the Thanksgiving pageant continued.
"In the interest of fairness," said Mrs. Barrington "We are going to start auditions from the beginning as we do have a new student, and we would like the auditions to be fresh our minds," she said turning to Miss Christian who nodded.
"That said," said Mrs. Christian. "First up today I will hear the girls who want to play the Indian Princess and the boys who wish to play the Chief."
Grace, Megan, and one of the other girls who had tried out before walked up to the stage along with Jess Miles and several other boys.
"Sabrina, you don't want to try out again?" Miss Christian asked. Sabrina had been almost as vocal as Grace about playing the Indian Princess.
"No ma'am," she said. A few girls gave each other knowing looks. Obviously the girls had convinced Sabrina playing an Indian wasn't "proper".
Grace fumed. There was nothing wrong with a girl playing an Indian! At least Megan agreed with her.
"Okay," said Miss Barrington handing Megan a script. "Please read these lines Megan." Miss Christian handed a boy a script.
Megan read the same scene Grace had read with Jess the previous week.
"Oh yes father," said Megan solemnly. "Those men and women are so brave to cross the great water," she said with admiration. "I wonder if their women would like some of my beads?" she added as an afterthought.
Grace had to admit that she had never thought of reading the lines quite that way before.
"Thank you Megan," said Miss Barrington. "Grace?" she asked handing Grace the script.
"Ma please!" Grace cried as she and Caroline set the Ingalls' table for breakfast the next morning.
"No,Grace," said Caroline firmly while she moved around Grace to put a plate of biscuits on the table. "The food I make is perfectly good and there are better things this family can do with our money."
Grace wanted a hot lunch at school. Yesterday Megan had eaten one and Grace thought it smelled delicious. She loved the food she took to school, but it would be nice to have something different. "But Ma, it looks so good," Grace said laying out the forks.
Caroline sighed. "I'll tell you what," she said while arranging the plates, "We'll talk to your Pa about it. Maybe you can have a school lunch once in a while."
Grace sighed, but she supposed that was fair. Suddenly an idea occurred to her. "That sounds good, Ma, but could I get one today if I pay for it out of my own allowance?"
Caroline considered for a moment. On one hand, her daughter needed to learn patience and should wait until they talked to Charles, on the other Grace could learn a valuable lesson about managing money. "I suppose," she said. "It's your money and you may do with it as you wish. Just understand that once you spend it, it's gone."
"Yes ma'am," said Grace. Later she would get three pennies to take with her.
Grace stood in line with Megan at lunchtime. They were the last ones in line with Tobias came up behind them.
"Hello girls," he said.
"Hi Mr. Oleson," said Grace brightly.
"Hi Mr. Oleson," said Megan.
"Why do you call him Mr. Oleson?" Grace asked.
"Well," said Tobias. "It wouldn't be proper for her to call me Papa during school hours."
"I guess not," said Grace remembering that her siblings called Laura "Mrs. Wilder" when Laura taught them.
They went through the line and Grace got to the woman who was serving the main course, which was roast beef. Grace stared behind the woman at a bag underneath a table in the kitchen.
"Miss?" the woman asked.
"Oh I'm sorry," said Grace apologizing for staring. "I just think that bag is so pretty."
The woman glanced at the bag quickly and nodded. "Oh yes, thank you," she said, in a way which made it clear that the bag was hers.
Tobias started at the bag, too. "That is a beautiful bag," he commented. "In fact those designs look like the designs of one of the Cree tribes of Québec," he said giving the Providence its proper French pronunciation. He got out of the line and walked into the kitchen. "You don't mind if I take a look, do you?"
"Actually I would Mr. Oleson-" the woman began apologetically.
But Tobias paid no attention and walked over and picked the bag up. He studied it. "Yes, it's beautiful." He sniffed. "My goodness what do you have in here?" He opened the bag and lifted out some meat wrapped in paper. "This smells like baked chicken," he said. "That was on the school menu yesterday," he eyes widened.
By now there was a backup of staff and students waiting to get their lunch.
"Yes, it was" said the woman evenly.
"Why is it in your bag?" Tobias asked.
"It was from yesterday and it wasn't going to be eaten by anyone here. I saw no need to waste it," the woman replied.
"You know school policy forbids taking school food without permission," said Tobias.
"Yes, but I didn't see the need to ask-"
"Have you done this before?" asked Tobias.
"Yes I have," said the woman admitted.
"Did anyone else know about this?" he said looking at the rest of the kitchen staff.
"No they didn't," said the woman quickly. "I am the head cook and I did this on my own."
"I am aware that you're the head cook Mrs. Novitch," said Tobias. "And since you accept the entire responsibility for this, you alone shall receive the repercussions."
"Honestly Mr. Oleson," said Mrs. Novitch in a firmer voice. "I saw no harm in taking food home that would not have been eaten by the students."
"Not without permission," said Tobias. "The school board hired me because they wanted someone who would enforce the rules that are written. I cannot allow you to get away with breaking them. Mrs. Novitch, you are no longer needed here."
Mrs. Novitch stared at him in shock, as well as the onlookers. "Mr. Oleson, surely you would reconsider-"
"My decision is final. You can appeal to the school board if you wish, but I think they will agree with me." With that Tobias turned on his heel and exited the dining hall without taking a lunch.
Grace stared at Megan as they went through the life. "I can't believe your Pa fired her!" said Grace angrily.
"Papa is right," said Megan. "She was stealing."
"It's not stealing when nobody's going to use it!" Grace fired back.
"I'm sorry you feel that way," said Megan turning on her heel in a manner not unlike her father's.
That afternoon in the auditorium the third grade classes met again. Grace sat a little distance from Megan.
"Why aren't we sitting with Megan?" said Matthew who had gotten used to Megan being a part of their group.
"Because," said Grace crossing her arms.
"All right children," said Miss Christian from the stage. "I will call you name and tell you what part you will play in the pageant."
Grace's ears perked up eagerly. The names and parts where called out in alphabetical order by last name.
"Grace Ingalls," said Miss Christian when she got to Grace's name. "You will be playing the part of," Grace's heart pounded, "Elizabeth Tilley."
Grace's heart sank.
Soon, Jess's name was called and he got the part of Chief Massasoit. He raised his hands in triumph.
"Megan Oleson," said Miss Christian. "You will be playing the part of the Indian Princess."
Grace stared at Megan in disbelief. As if this day wasn't bad enough already!
"Well, well," Nels cried. "Congratulations!"
Tobias and Megan were at the restaurant in the dining room during the afternoon closed hours and had just told Nels and his family about Megan winning the part of the Indian princess. Jennifer and Benjamin Dalton were also there.
"Acting talent runs in the Oleson family," said Harriet proudly as Jennifer sat on her lap. Benjamin sat next to her at a table. "It's only natural that you got the best part for a girl in the pageant, even if it is an Indian." she added darkly.
Nels stared at his wife. "Harriet," he admonished her, especially for saying such a thing in front of children.
"At any rate," said Harriet. "I will make your costume, Megan," she giggled smugly.
"Thank you, Auntie," Megan replied.
Nancy didn't like the sound of this.
"Nels is right," said Tobias, "the Indians simply live differently than we do, Harriet, and without them we wouldn't have Thanksgiving." Harriet glowered. Why did he have to take Nels' side on this?
"Speaking of Thanksgiving," said Nels changing the subject. "Of course, you and Megan are invited to the family dinner."
"I guess you beat me," said Tobias. "I was going to invite all of you to Thanksgiving to partake of my prize-wining turkey."
Nels smiled at his cousin. "Well you don't have to worry about the turkey," he said good-naturedly. "I'll take care of that. I'm sure you two are still settling in."
"No," said Tobias. "If you are going to do everything else and have Thanksgiving here, the least I can do is prepare the turkey."
At this point, Jennifer and Benjamin exchanged looks.
Nels shook his head. "It's not necessary."
Tobias laughed. "Oh come now, Nels," said he began. "I've always received such nice compliments on my turkey."
Nels smiled. "I think you forget about our family dinners from years ago. You were still young. Uncle always had such nice things to say about my turkey."
Tobias smirked. "Oh, now you're bringing my father into this-"
"Well I didn't mean-" Nels began somewhat apologetically.
"Once I got old enough to cook the turkey, he had some pretty nice things to say about mine as well. You had left for Minnesota by then." Tobias pointed out.
There was an awkward silence, during which Jennifer looked at Benjamin again.
Harriet saw this as her chance to pit the cousins against one another. "Why don't you both make a turkey?" she suggested. "Then we'll see which one tastes the best."
Nels and Tobias looked at Harriet. "Why not?" said Nels shrugging. "Between Harriet and Willie, they could probably eat their own turkey anyway."
"Hey," said Willie from the other end of the dining room.
There was a knock on the door then and Rachel let in Caroline.
"Caroline," said Harriet quizzically. "You're not working today."
"I know that," she said, politely. She smiled tersely at Tobias. "Tobias," she said. "May I speak with you alone for a moment?"
"Oh Caroline, of course!" he said.
Harriet and Nels exchanged shrugs as Caroline and Tobias went into the kitchen.
In the kitchen Caroline turned to face Tobias. "Tobias I-" she began.
"If this is about the Thanksgiving pageant," Tobias began. "Rest assured that my daughter did not get the part Grace also wanted because of me-"
"No," said Caroline firmly, annoyed that he would think such a thing. "It's about your firing of Mrs. Novitch this afternoon."
He sighed. "I don't know what Grace may have told you," he said. "But Mrs. Novitch broke the rules by stealing food from the school."
"I agree that she should have asked," said Caroline trying a different approach. "But let's face it, the food wasn't going to been eaten by anyone at the school. I'm allowed to take leftovers home from the restaurant."
"But you have permission," said Tobias.
"True," she said. "But then I've known Nels and Harriet for years. Maybe Mrs. Novitch didn't feel comfortable enough to come to you. I don't think she should be so severely punished for making an error in judgment."
"Caroline," said Tobias, himself trying a different approach. "I know you're from a small town, where crimes were easily forgiven. But this is the big city. We have to live by a different set of standards."
"I'm aware of the standards of the 'big city' Tobias," she said pointedly.
"Good," he said. "Then you understand where I'm coming from."
"No," she said shaking her head. "I'm sorry but I don't."
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that," said Tobias who did his patented heel turn as he left the kitchen.
Caroline was starting to think that Nellie and Willie's former nastiness could not be blamed entirely on Harriet's side of the family.
Caroline took a brisk walk home. When she entered, she smelled the supper that Carrie and Cassandra had started. After greeting them, she walked upstairs.
Caroline knocked on Grace's door. Grace let her mother in and Caroline sat on the bed.
"Did you talk to Mr. Oleson?" Grace asked.
"Yes," said Caroline quietly. "He didn't change his mind."
Grace's face fell. "Oh no," she said. "If only I hadn't said something about that bag! If only I had listened to you and brought a lunch from home!"
"This is not your fault," said Caroline. To herself she thought It's Tobias Olesons'.
"My old principal wouldn't have done this," said Grace sadly. "He would have understood. I thought Mr. Oleson was nice, like the other Mr. Oleson."
Caroline sighed. "Well, I guess sometimes people aren't what they seem at first," she said to herself more than Grace.
"That's how I feel about Megan," said Grace. "I thought she would become my best friend, but she doesn't even seem to care that someone lost their job because of her Pa!" Caroline firmly pressed her lips together in frustration at the whole situation. Grace looked up at her mother. "I guess it's other things, too. I liked being the only girl in third grade good at ball, and I really wanted to be the Indian princess," she admitted. "It just seems like Megan is good at everything," she paused. "And she doesn't brag about it, but she isn't…humble either,' she said searching for the right word.
"Well now," said Caroline. "I wouldn't say that Megan is good at everything. It sees like she could learn a thing or two about being humble and realizing that her father isn't always right," said Caroline. "You know that your Pa and I make mistakes don't you?" Grace nodded. Caroline continued. "And in my experience, those who seem to be good at everything on the outside, don't always feel so good on the inside."
"I guess I should be her friend then," said Grace, "to help her feel better on the inside."
"You can try," said Caroline stroking one of Grace's braids. "But realize that if you two don't became friends, then that's okay. Just be polite to her as you would be to anyone else." Caroline had learned over the years that it was not always possible to make friends with everyone. Although she had achieved a certain level of cordiality with Harriet Oleson over the years, the two were far from true friends.
"Well," said Grace, "I think we'll get along okay, but she won't be a friend the way Matt Simms is."
"It was silly Mama," said Jennifer "they kept fighting over the turkey."
The Daltons were having their supper together that evening.
"The Oleson men are very passionate about cooking," said Nellie. "That includes the Olesons men by marriage," she said looking at Percival.
Percival smiled as her and spoke. "Well I think it's normal for family members to be a little competitive. I certainly was with my sister."
"But you were children. Uncle Tobias and my father are clearly not," said Nellie.
"Oh please," said Edna. "You should have seen the way my husband was whenever his brothers and cousins came for a visit."
"Yeah, remember that time when he tried to memorize Exodusbackwardsbecause his brother could quote more bible verses than him?" said Percival.
"Ay, yes!" Edna exclaimed throwing her hands up in the air.
"And at any rate, Nellie, it should be fun to see who cooks the better bird," said Percival.
"I just don't understand," said Caroline. "It's such silly rule, and for a woman to lose her job because she was trying to keep food from going to waste."
Charles and Caroline were in their bed that night discussing recent events.
"Well, like you said," said Charles, "apparently both sides of the Oleson family have some…difficult people. After all remember Nels' other cousin who's son came to stay with us for while? He ignored his son until I had a talk with him."
"Yes, and I still remember that day when we found out Nels had a sister he never told anyone about," said Caroline. "That was so unlike him."
"I know," said Charles, "I'd like to think there was more to it than Annabelle's size, but I guess we'll never know."
"Perhaps," said Caroline. "Nels says that Tobias hasn't written anyone in the family at all in over two years. Can you imagine?"
"No I can't," said Charles.
"Well at any rate," said Caroline. "I'm going to do something about that food situation, whether Tobias Oleson likes it or not."
The time came for the Thanksgiving pageant and it went off every well. Grace had to admit that Megan made a good Indian Princess. Matthew got the part of Myles Standish and enjoyed himself. Jess stole the show as Chief Massasoit, and Grace had fun playing Elizabeth Tilley, even if she was a Pilgrim.
After the pageant as parents were congratulating their children, Caroline and a man approached Tobias.
"Mrs. Ingalls," said Tobias becoming more formal in principal mode. "Your daughter did very well tonight!" Apparently, their last conversation had been forgotten.
"Thank you," she said sincerely a little taken aback. She bit her lip. She couldn't forget why she was here. "Tobias," she said after a moment, "I would like to introduce you to someone." Tobias looked interested. "This is Mr. Stroman, he runs a shelter for those without homes. Mr. Stroman, this is the principal, Tobias Oleson." The two men shook hands. "I told him about your little problem, Tobias."
"Problem?" said Tobias tilting his head to one side.
"Yes," Caroline continued. "All that food that's left over after lunch every day," she said.
"Mr. Oleson," said Mr. Stroman. "We are so grateful that you will allow us to take that food and use it as part of supper for those who eat at the shelter. I assure you, the food would no longer go to waste."
Tobias did his best to control his look of shock at Caroline's one-upmanship. "I uh-well, that's very true, but I do need to check with my superiors first," he said grinning tightly.
"I'm sure it won't be a problem," said Caroline with more confidence this time. "In fact I think they will agree with you. After all it is for charity. You can tell your superiors that it would be…an excellent way to help the less fortunate."
"Yes, uh you're right," said Tobias quickly shifting his eyes between Caroline and Stroman. "You can leave the information with my secretary, Mr. Stroman," he said pointing. Mr. Stroman thanked Tobias again and headed towards the secretary. Tobias looked at Caroline calculatingly.
"I would have appreciated it, Caroline, if you had come to me with this idea before you talked to Mr. Stroman."
"Well Tobias," she began. "I saw a problem that needed a solution and I found one, much like you found a solution to the problem of Mrs. Novitch taking food without asking." He opened his mouth to protest. "I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from," Caroline continued, "Happy Thanksgiving, Tobias."
Caroline imitated his heel turn as she walked away.
The next day was Thanksgiving and the Olesons and Daltons gathered at the restaurant for their meal. Nels and Tobias were in the main dining room having a discussion. Behind them Jennifer and Benjamin were hidden behind a table.
"I do wish you would reconsider hiring that woman," said Nels. "That food would have gone to waste if she hadn't taken it."
"Nels we've been over this," said Tobias. "I'm only following the rules set out by the district. I don't want to argue about this today."
Nels looked disapprovingly at his cousin. "Sometimes compassion is more important than strictly following the rules," he said.
"Well," said Tobias. "Thanks to your friend Caroline Ingalls, there will be compassion. I'll be on the phone with my superiors on Monday morning talking about donating our extra food to a shelter. I would have appreciated her talking to me about it first, however."
Nels smiled to himself, glad that Caroline had set things straight, and put his cousin in place to boot. Just then, Nellie and Percival came out of the kitchen.
"So how are we going to do this?" said Percival.
"We have a silver platter by one oven and a copper platter by the other," said Tobias eager for a new subject. "You two will put the turkeys on the platters and bring them to the dining table. Only Nels and I know whose turkey is on which platter."
At this point, Jennifer and Benjamin made a beeline for the kitchen unseen.
"Fair enough," said Percival.
"Are you sure you two want to do this?" said Nellie.
"Nellie," said Nels. "I don't want everyone to think my turkey's the best simply because they know it's mine."
"Me neither," said Tobias.
"Competitive cousins indeed," said Nellie to Percival and they went back into the kitchen.
As Nellie and Percival each went to get a turkey from an oven, Jennifer and Benjamin exchanged smiles and went the long way back into the main dining room: through the panty, into the private dining room, and back out the other door into the main dining room.
"Mmmm," said Nels biting into a piece of turkey. "This is delicious!" He took more turkey from the silver platter.
"No this is better" said Tobias taking more turkey from the copper platter.
The Oleson-Daltons sat at the long table in the private dining room enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.
"I can't believe you all couldn't decide whose turkey you liked more," said Nels to the family.
"But of course you two like your own turkeys better," said Nellie knowingly.
"I really do think mine is better," said Tobias defensively from the foot of the table.
"As do I," said Nels from the head of the table.
"Grandpa," said Jennifer. "Are you sure you like the sliver turkey more?"
Nels smiled at her. "Yes."
"And Uncle," said Benjamin calling his cousin by the respectful term. "You like the copper turkey more?"
"I do," he said.
Jennifer and Benjamin smiled impishly at each other.
"What did you two do?" said Percival warily.
"We switched them!" said Jennifer.
"The turkeys?" said Harriet quizzically with her mouth full.
"No the things the turkeys are on!" said Benjamin pointing.
"You switched the platters?" said Nels in astonishment.
Jennifer nodded. "We switched where the platters were before Mama and Papa put the turkeys on them."
"So you mean this isn't my turkey?" said Nels referring to the bird on the silver platter.
"No," said Tobias shaking his head refusing to believe it. "This turkey is mine," he said indicating the turkey on the copper platter.
"Tobias," said Nels shaking his head examining the silver platter for a moment. "They did switch the platters. Look."
Tobias also took a good look at the silver platter. "You're right," he admitted, "my turkey had larger legs," he said looking at the dark meat left on the turkey. He looked at the twins. "You two fooled me!" he exclaimed but he was smiling.
"That means you both have admitted to liking each other's turkeys more than your own," said Nellie.
Nels and Tobias stared at each other across the table.
"I guess we're the turkeys," said Nels.
Later as the family was cleaning up, Jennifer and Benjamin walked up to Nels and Tobias. "We got you!" they giggled.
Nancy, who was grudgingly washing dishes while Megan dried, looked at the twins in disgust. Megan leaned over to her. "Kind of annoying aren't they?" she whispered.
Nancy looked at Megan and smiled. Maybe her cousin wasn't so bad after all.
The Ingalls, Wilders, Kendall's, and Isaiah were getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner. Charles was about to cut into the turkey and stopped. He sighed.
"You know what?" he said. "This isn't right. I know we can't help everyone, but even helping one family makes a difference."
They all nodded. Laura looked at her baby sister. "Grace," she said. "We want you to take this turkey to Mrs. Novitch."
"Really?" said Grace in surprise.
"Yes," said Laura.
"We talked to some people," said Mary. "We found out that Mrs. Novitch has a large family to feed and money is tight for them right now. She could use the turkey more than we can."
"Really?" said Grace again.
"Really," said Charles. "Now you and your Ma better get this turkey to them before it gets cold!"
Grace and Caroline knocked on the door to the Novitch home and a child of about ten answered.
"Is your mother home?" said Caroline.
The child stared but went to get Mrs. Novitch. "Mrs. Ingalls! Grace come on in!" she cried.
Grace and Caroline came into the sitting room carrying the turkey. Several of the younger children came in and stared. Mr. Novitch told them to mind their manners.
"We brought you a turkey for Thanksgiving," said Grace.
"Oh! Thank you so much!" Mrs. Novitch cried. "This is wonderful."
Caroline wanted to talk to Mrs. Novitch for a bit. "Grace, why don't you help Mr. Novitch take the turkey into the kitchen. Mr. Novitch caught the hint and ushered Grace and the other children into the kitchen. After they left, Mrs. Novitch tuned to Caroline. "I didn't think we'd have turkey this year. Money has been tight since we lost the farm. We still have so much debt to pay."
"We heard," said Caroline. "My husband and I almost lost our farm once. Fortunately, our neighbors helped us out." She thought of the time where the entire town thought the Ingalls were going to inherit a large sum of money, and how when that had proven to be false, the townspeople found a way for the Ingalls to buy back their farm. "We brought this turkey because you deserve to have a good Thanksgiving," said Caroline. "Mr. Oleson was too harsh in firing you."
"I agree," said Mrs. Novitch. "I wasn't taking anything from the children. I was taking food they wouldn't have eaten. Mrs. Ingalls, we couldn't let that food be wasted. The old principal knew that we cooks took the food home; he just never saw the need make anything official about it."
"So," said Caroline softly "you weren't the only one. You took the entire blame for taking the leftovers."
"I couldn't let anyone else get in trouble," said Mrs. Novitch. "From the moment Mr. Oleson spotted my bag, I knew there'd be trouble."
"I know," said Caroline. "But you can appeal to the superintendent. Mr. Oleson doesn't have the final say-"
"No," said Mrs. Novitch. "I've got a job working at my children's school. It pays a little bit less, but I'm closer to home, and we'll manage. I'd prefer not to deal with Mr. Oleson again. And this time, I asked if I could take food home first."
"Well the good news is that the food will go to those who need it most," said Caroline.
"I heard," Mrs. Novitch giggled. "I'm sure Mr. Oleson wasn't too happy about having to donate the lunch food to a shelter."
Caroline smiled. "I don't think he would have minded…had he come up with the idea himself."
"He likes making decisions doesn't he?" said Mrs. Novitch.
"It does seem that way," Caroline admitted.
Mrs. Novitch drew in a breath. "I have something for you, Mrs. Ingalls. I was going to came by after we ate dinner, but sine you're here…"
She went into the kitchen and returned with a cake. Grace and the rest of the Novitches came with her. "I know it's not the same as a turkey, but it's our way of saying thank you."
"Oh," said Caroline taking the cake. "Mrs. Novitch for you to make this for us-"
"It's the least I can do," said Mrs. Novitch. "Grace I know you tried to change Megan's mind, hoping that it would change her father's, and Mrs. Ingalls I know how you talked to him. I thank you both."
"We all do," said Mr. Novitch. "Happy Thanksgiving."
"Happy Thanksgiving to you," said Caroline.
Caroline and Grace visited for a few minutes more before heading outside to go home. In the wagon on the way home, as Grace held the cake, they exchanged smiles, happy to be reminded of what Thanksgiving was really about.
Stay tuned for episode nine.