Man of the Family is the next book in the Little Britches series, covering a year or two in the life of the Moody family trying to make it on their own in Denver, Colorado around the year 1910 AD.
Ralph is twelve years old and knows how to do just about anything: herding and milking cows, building stilts to pick cherries, blacksmithing, jockeying race horses–he’s amazing. He had to be resourceful: his family depended on him bringing in most of the income to live on.
Ralph goes from being a boy to a man in this book. When I think about the twelve year-old boys I know–and recall myself at age twelve–I’m flabbergasted by what Ralph can do. I can only hope that I can help my son to learn half of what he did out in the West one hundred years ago.
The family goes through tough times, pretty much living week-to-week, almost out of money, facing the common catastrophes that most people experienced during those times, from measles to dangerous accidents.
Life back then wasn’t as safe as it is today. They didn’t live in padded rooms, with modern medicine, OSHA guidelines, and government welfare programs. If you didn’t make it in a place, you didn’t make it. And you moved back to what extended family you could find who would help you. If your crops withered due to drought or your neighbors taking your water, that was that. Game over.
I realized that, while our modern times have their benefits–we are “safer” in many ways than they were–we also pay a price for it. A safe life is a costly one: we have to pay for the infrastructure and fancy machines and safety mechanisms and five kinds of insurance and everything else. Life was simpler then. They could move out to a place, plant some crops, get some animals, and make a go of it. Nowadays doing that is almost impossible, unless you choose to deliberately forego these modern conveniences and protections.
Man of the Family is a good book. I love reading about how they lived back then. The Moody family shows great fortitude, and Ralph especially comes through time and time again to provide for the family.
The third book focuses on one episode in Ralph’s life during the time period of the second book. So we are going to skip that one for now and go on to the fourth book, where the family is again forced to make a big move due to tragic circumstances.