Dear Mrs. Wilder,
As I write this letter to you, I am sitting on a comfortable sofa, and I can smell my mom’s delicious pork chops and potatoes cooking on the stove. The temperature in our house is a perfect 72 degrees. I have a lot to be thankful for today. What you and your family endured during the long winter of 1880 was a testament to both your physical and mental strength. When I was in third grade, I read your series of books. The Long Winter was my favorite! This story was so inspirational to me that my parents took me to your museum and home in Missouri. No one can read The Long Winter and not feel grateful for what they have been given.
I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be hungry, cold, and trapped inside a dark, dreary building for months. It made me realize that the “essentials” I often take for granted would have been extravagant luxuries for you. There was no whining or complaining in your home, and life was very tough. Your story has made me very careful not to complain when little things go wrong. The year I read your book, an early ice storm hit Dallas, and our old, 1922 home was without electricity for four days. This was inconvenient for sure. However, my dad had restored the huge gas radiators, so we stayed cozy and warm. We also had a generator to keep food in our packed refrigerator from spoiling, and we could run the microwave, lamp and other “essentials” as needed. This short period of inconvenience was nothing compared to the months of life-threatening weather that you and your family endured. I can only imagine how you must have felt when you ate a bite of the last potato in your family’s cupboard.
Almanzo and Cap were true heroes. People were starving, and they risked their lives to bring back wheat. The odds of getting caught in a blinding blizzard were very high. They knew you could die if you couldn’t find your way home. I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to make that trip so others could eat. Afterall, Almonzo had plenty to eat for himself in storage, but he had great compassion for others. He could not stand to see his neighbors starve to death. Almonzo and Cap have inspired me to have courage and not be so selfish. If I ever find myself in a situation where I need courage, I will think of them. While I hope I never have to risk my life for food, I know people can do it.
The Long Winter is not just an autobiography, it is an extraordinary account of how people can band together and survive under the harshest of conditions. We are so accustomed to modern amenities in America that we take everything for granted. I never want to be known as spoiled. I never want to be described as a whiner, but like a Wilder, tough, thankful, and resourceful.