Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grandma's Story (plus an "interview" with Charles Ingalls!)

My dad recently found this short story/school assignment in his garage somewhere and passed it on to me. I have absolutely no memory of writing it. I would say that makes it the best kind of story (a hidden treasure!) but unfortunately this one doesn't quite live up to Lisa and the Angels or Fruitville. Grandma's "story" is kind of lame. Still, it was fun to re-read something I'd completely forgotten about!

I so wish I had access to a scanner, because the "artwork" is one of this story's more entertaining qualities. One of these days, I'll have to visit my old college campus and use their scanner to post all my illustrations (or just take pictures of them or something, since I recently joined the millenium and got a digital camera). Until then, you'll just have to imagine the cover...

First, picture two pieces of "vanilla" colored cardstock stapled together. Now focus on the front cover, and imagine the words Grandma's Story written in large, "girlish", faux-calligrary script (with alternating red-and-blue letters!). Underneath those words, you'll see a red line, and underneath that, a smiling pioneer family stands atop another red line. The family consists of a man, woman, three girls, and two small boys.

For the "dad", you can imagine a smiley-face for his head (with three dots for eyes and nose, and a crooked smile) with a patch of black "hair" on top; he also has a very thick neck, huge (mishapen) hands, and L-O-N-G legs. He's wearing brown trousers, a red-and-black plaid shirt, tall black boots, and a cowboy hat. Next to him, the mother is posed in a stunning, ankle-length orange dress, black boots, and a white apron covered with a hot-pink-and-orange ... floral? (or is it butterfly?) print. She also has three dots for her eyes and nose; however, her "mouth" is set in a straight line. Her curly black hair falls to to the top of her (puffed) sleeves, and for some reason her feet aren't touching the ground (she's floating?).

As for the kids -- first, the eldest daughter (who's supposed to be 14, but only reaches her mother's waist) is wearing a simple, ankle-length yellow gown and black boots. She has waist-length black braids, a big black dot for a nose, a big smile, and no arms. Next to her, the second daughter is also missing her right arm and foot, but she's still smiling widely; maybe because her nose isn't as big as her sister's, or perhaps because she's fortunate enough to still have a (deformed) left hand. She's wearing an ankle-length green plaid dress and plaid boots; her waist-length brown hair is also fixed in braids.

Then we have the third sister. Her facial features are kind of squished together, but it doesn't like she's smiling. Also it's hard to tell what's going on with her hair -- whether it's black or brown or fixed in braids or if she even has hair. But she's lucky enough to still have both of her arms (albeit deformed ones) as well as a lovely outfit of a billowy, ankle-length pink plaid dress and those trusty black boots.

Finally, we have the two boys, who look like miniature versions of their father, except for their outfits. The older boy is wearing black trousers, black boots, a black sleeveless vest, and a brown cowboy hat. The younger boy is wearing black trousers, brown boots, a brown sleeveless vest, and a black cowboy hat. Both boys are bare-chested.

Well, now that I've described the pioneer family (and I know that would have been much better if you could actually SEE the illustration! Which, by the way, mntill helped me with. There's another classic illustration inside the story), I totally didn't plan for this introduction to be so long, so I'm going to skimp on the rest of the cover. But let's just say that the whole cover is ... something else. Basically, it's obvious that I took either a BSC or Sweet Valley book and copied all that cover print verbatim. So the "spine" of the front cover includes a faux barcode and a price ($2.95 in the US, $3.50 in Canada!). The inside front cover includes a list of my other stories (I'm going to save that for another post) as well as a copyright date -- 1992 -- and fake publisher info. In case you wondered, this classic you're about to read is recommended for ages 8-12!

I really, really must scan the cover someday. But in the meantime, I've already gone on about it long enough ... so on with the story!

As promised, this story includes a very special insert -- an interview with none other than Pa Ingalls himself. It's credited to my third period Language Arts (or "L.A." class) and dated June 10th, 1992. That was the same year I wrote Tammy the Little Mermaid, and as you can see, my version of Pa acts quite a bit like Mr. DiBiaz...

Charles Ingalls Interview

(This interview comes to you courtesy of something called "The T.C. Tribune." Apparently not only do they possess the amazing ability to travel back and forth in time, they've also passed that trait on to their interview subjects.)

Hello! Today we're going back into the 1800's and interviewing one of the most famous all-time pioneers, Mr. Charles Ingalls!

(Nothing like a nice, cheery introduction to get things off on the right foot.)

T.C. T: Hello, Mr. Ingalls.

Ingalls: (smiling) Hello. I'm flattered that you want to interview me.

T.C. T: Yes, well, let us begin. What is it like being a pioneer?

Ingalls: (frowns a bit) It's very different from pioneer days -- nowadays, that is. (Nice grammar, Pa.) I think I prefer being a pioneer.

T.C. T: Well, why?

Ingalls: (leans forward) We had to survive on our own. We wouldn't waste time interviewing a ... a Revolutionary war hero or something. We worked.

T.C. T: (huffily) Well, so do we.

Ingalls: Not that I see!

(Okay, why are they talking like Pa has traveled to 1992? I thought "we" were going back to the 1800's?)

T.C. T: (cautiously) Can I change the subject?

Ingalls: You better. (Or I'll punch you in the face like I did Almanzo!)

T.C. T: Are you proud of your daughter Laura?

Ingalls: (bellowing angrily) YES! WHY WOULDN'T I BE?! (calms down) Laura is the perfect example of a good pioneer, honest and hardworking.

T.C. T: What about the rest of your family?

Ingalls: Listen, you good-for-nothing! I'm proud of Caroline, Mary, Grace, Carrie, m'son Albert ... all of them! So mind your own business! (storms off)

(What about James and Cassandra? They're about as "real" as your son Albert. By the way, "m'son" was ripped off from the Animal Inn series; fans of those books might remember how the maid was always, "Blah, blah, and m'son Henry." Anyway...)

T.C. T: (scaredly) Stay tuned for next week's chat with George Washington. See ya then!

Whatever. Whatever that even was. For some reason, my teacher gave me an A on it.

Now here's the story itself!

Grandma's Story

"Grandma, I'm bored," 5-year-old Marcus Zuendel complained. (What's with my old writing and that last name? Is he related to Tami Zuendel from Fruitville?) It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, and Marcus, his 4-year-old brother Bryan, and his three sisters, 14-year-old Jennifer, 11-year-old Shawna, and 8-year-old Lisa were spending the weekend over at their grandmother's house in Portland.

"You're bored?" cried Grandma. "Come on! There's a billion things to do over here! You can watch TV, or read, or bake cookies, or play a game."

(Grandma sounds like she's trying to sell them her house.)

"There's nothing on TV -- it's different times than Tacoma," whined Shawna.

"Reading's boring," grumbled Jennifer.

"I can't COOK!" screeched Marcus.

"You don't have Candywand," groaned Bryan.

"And none of our friends are here," added Lisa.

(What brats, the whole lot of them. Also, in case you were wondering, I'm pretty sure that's not 'Candywand' as in 'magic wand', but stupid Bryan pronouncing 'Candyland' with a "cute" speech impediment.)

Grandma sat down on the sofa. "Well, then," she said, looking thoughtful. "Who's in the mood for a story?"

"Me, me, me!" cried Lisa, Marcus, and Bryan, who loved stories.

Shawna shrugged. "Me, I guess."

"Me, too," said Jennifer. "As long as it's not boring."

The boys jumped up on the couch next to Grandma, and the girls sat around it.

"This story," Grandma began, "is about my grandmother, your great-great grandmother. She was Lisa's age when this happened -- about 1860 to 1861. Her name was Anne.

(Hmm, eight years old in 1861, and merely the grandmother of someone young enough to have a 4-year-old grandson in 1992? I guess it's possible, but the women in that family all must have been on the older side when they gave birth. Why I'm bothering to even think about this is beyond me.)

"Anne lived with her ma and pa -- to you, your mom and dad, or mommy and daddy," Grandma continued. (Thanks for clarifying that 'ma and pa' means the same as 'mom and dad.') She also lived with two older sisters, Jenny and Shawna's ages, and two younger brothers, Marcus and Bryan's ages. (How Wakefields of Sweet Valley!) The girls were Grace and Elizabeth, the boys were Matthew and Billy. Anne's family were pioneers. Do you all know what that means?"

"No," said Bryan. "What's a piponeer?"

"Pioneer," Grandma corrected. "Pioneers lived long, long ago. Their life was not easy. Anne's family lived on a farm in Minnesota (why ever did I pick that state?), complete with pigs and farms and cows and chickens."

("Complete with?")

Lisa jumped up and cried, "Cool!"

"It was cool, alright, but it was a lot of work keeping the farm up. Anne's pa had to do the heavy jobs, like plowing. Well, the oxen helped him with that! Anne's ma had to tend a vegetable garden."

"Were there lima beans?" Lisa shuddered, and made a face. (Spare me.)

Grandma smiled. "Yes, I'm sure there was (sic). But corn was the main vegetable for the pioneers. You could make cornmeal, and corn bread. Corn bread was the main bread. It wasn't very tasty, but it was very nutritious." (Watch what you say about cornbread, Grandma!)

"Were there corn dogs?" questioned Marcus.

Grandma shook her head. "No, I'm afraid not. Pioneers had to hunt for their meat, just like they had to grow their own crops."

"Hunt for their meat?!" screeched Shawna. "How rude!" (Ugh, it's Stephanie Tanner.)

Grandma chuckled. "It may seem rude now, but that was how pioneers survived. You couldn't go to Stock Market and pick up a frozen ham."

"They had a Stock Market?" Lisa asked, confused.

(Okay, these are officially the dumbest kids ever...)

Grandma laughed again. "No, no, no! They hardly had any stores! Anne's family -- like most pioneer families -- had to walk to the nearest town. Anne's pa did that job, but it was only occasionally. A trip to town meant buying weapons, supplies, seeds for next year's crops, sugar."

"So -- like -- what did the kids do?" asked Jennifer.

"The kids? Well, they had chores, too -- feeding animals, milking cows, collecting eggs, helping their ma keep the house clean. Grace, Elizabeth, Anne, and Matthew went to school -- they were all in the same house, with the same teacher -- that's how it was back then. (Notice how she doesn't even bother to use the words 'one-room schoolhouse', which would likely confuse her idiotic grandchildren.) Anne's teacher was Miss Carter," continued Grandma. "I remember her telling me how much she loved Miss Carter. Miss Carter was only sixteen.

"The kids basically enjoyed school, even though the walk was about three miles. They were used to hardships. Their subjects were reading, grammar, spelling, religion, math, geography, and history."

"Did Anne's family stay in Minnesota all their lives?" Shawna asked.

Grandma shook her head. "No, they didn't. They moved."

"Did they have a van?" Marcus questioned skeptically.

"Nope. They had a covered wagon, just like in Little House. (Imagine that!) Only theirs wasn't called a covered wagon."

"Was it a Radio Flyer wagon?" asked Bryan. (Now imagine me banging my head against my computer table...)

Grandma grinned. "Nuh-uh. It was a covered wagon, but it was called a prairie schooner, which meant it was built for long journeys. Lots of things were tied to the wagon, or stored inside, but since the oxen got weak, items had to be thrown away a lot. Anne's family didn't travel alone. They traveled with lots of other pioneer families. All those families together were called wagon trains."

"People got sick on these long journeys," Grandma continued. "The diseases were deadly and contagious. People of all ages caught them. Billy's best friend Johnny caught smallpox ... and passed it on to Billy. Johnny lived ... but Billy died."


"Oh, really?" whispered Lisa. Her cat Fluffball had died. It was awful. (I don't even know what to say to that ridiculousness.)

"Despite Billy's tragic death," said Grandma (who just ignores Lisa), "Anne's family made it to California okay, which is where they settled. They passed through the Rocky Mountains before any avalanches hit them, and no Indians did anything to them. (Whew!) They had a big family reuinion with Ma's relatives, who had already settled in California."

"Yuck," muttered Shawna. "Last time I went to a family reunion, a bunch of strange old ladies that I'd never seen before pinched my cheeks and told me I was their favorite." (Brat.)

Grandma laughed. "Watch what you say about my sisters! Anyway, Anne grew up and married a wonderful man named Lawrence, and became a teacher. But she never forgot her journey, or her brother, Billy."

"That was okay!" said Shawna.

"Yeah, it was pretty interesting," agreed Jennifer.

"It was boring," complained Marcus. (Monster.) He squinted at the window. "Hey, look, Granny, the rain's gone! Can we play outside? Can we?"

"You certainly can."

"Come on, Bry." Marcus and Bryan waddled outside. (Maybe they shouldn't bake so many cookies.)

"What do you want to play?" Bryan asked. "Cops and robbers?"

"Nope," was Marcus's reply. "Let's play ... pioneers!"

The End

Marcus needs to make up his mind. He called the story boring, yet two minutes later he's all "Let's play pioneers"?

For reasons FAR beyond me, I got an A+ on the story part of this assignment!


Finally -- back to the cardstock cover -- the inside back cover includes the following gem:

About the Author

Tammy Tillinghast was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1979.

A writer since the age of five, Tammy started because she was jealous of her sister, Heather, who is also a writer. Her first short story was "Penny and ReneƩ"; her first long story was "The Meter Family". She has been to two Young Author's Conferences -- one for "Tammy's Book O' Poems"
(?!?! talk about something I have no memory of writing!) and one for "A Porpoise's Life."

Miss Tillinghast is presently living near Gig Harbor, with her parents; sisters Heather, Angie, and Missy; brother Andy; dogs George, Nicky, Stacy, Courtney, and Howie; and cat Chester.


Needless to say, most of those pets have passed on, although Howie -- the only one who actually WAS "my" pet (as opposed to a family pet) -- is still going strong at 17 1/2!

Last but not least, the back cover features another faux barcode, as well as the Australian and New Zealand prices ($3.95 and $4.95, respectively) and the following preview:

One day, the Zuendel children are bored, so Grandma tells them a story about her grandma, a pioneer named Anne.

"Informative and educational."
- The Tillinghast Times * (a starred review)

"Tells a lot about pioneers."
- Tammy Gazzette

"Good short story for school."
- The T.C. Tribune

How obsessed with my own name was I back then?

Well, I hope everyone really did learn a lot about pioneers. Now I'm in the mood to go play Oregon Trail (and intentionally give my wagonmates smallpox, so they can die like poor Billy did).

Up next ... old-school Lisa and the Angels (before they were rock stars!).


Deathycat said...

Haha! That was great. Can't wait to see the cover. And I totally didn't know anything about prairie schooners so I can say I learned something from it. Man I wish I still had the crap I wrote in elementary school...

Cory said...

You actually included a lot of pioneer information. Was this a school assignment or something?

Also, those kids are dumbasses. That grandma probably drinks a lot.

Deathycat said...

She needs a cane to beat some sense into them. ^_^

Anonymous said...

WEHT Stock Market? How dated... And Billy dying from smallpox totally made me think of The Oregon Trail.

I remember an inside picture with "50 Isn't Old If You're a Tree" being one of granny's wall hangings. It came from some "dorky" grandparent volunteer, whose grandson wore "dorky" things like a white turtleneck to school and sang soprano.

I remember that more than I remember helping out with artwork.

Anyway, what a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed this, re: complaining brats..

"There's nothing on TV -- it's different times than Tacoma," whined Shawna. "

Uh, they were in Portland.. It's the same time zone. The brat probably meant different CHANNELS, but maybe her idiocy was a sign that Grandma needed to "teach" them something..

Sadako said...

Heh. Loved your Pa Ingalls interview!

Go Oregon Trail!