Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pa on success

In this excerpt from ``These Happy Golden Years'' (1943), Laura Ingalls Wilder describes leaving home at 15 to teach in a South Dakota one-room schoolhouse. Brewster settlement was still miles ahead. It was twelve miles from town. Laura did not know what it was like. She did not know anyone there. She had seen Mr. Brewster only once, when he came to hire her to teach the school. He was thin and brown, like any homesteader; he did not have much to say for himself.

Pa sat looking ahead into the distance while he held the reins in his mittened hands and now and then chirruped to the horses. But he knew how Laura felt. At last he turned his face toward her and spoke, as if he were answering her dread of tomorrow.

``Well, Laura! You are a schoolteacher now! We knew you would be, didn't we? Though we didn't expect it so soon.''

``Do you think I can, Pa?'' Laura answered. ``Sup-pose . . . just suppose . . . the children won't mind me when they see how little I am.''

``Of course you can,'' Pa assured her. ``You've never failed yet at anything you tried to do, have you?''

``Well, no,'' Laura admitted. ``But I . . . I never tried to teach school.''

``You've tackled every job that ever came your way,'' Pa said. ``You never shirked, and you always stuck to it till you did what you set out to do. Success gets to be a habit, like anything else a fellow keeps on doing.''

Again there was a silence except for the squeaking of the sled runners and the clop-clop-clop of the horses' feet on the hard snow. Laura felt a little better. It was true; she always had kept on trying; she had always had to. Well, now she had to teach school.

``Remember that time on Plum Creek, Half-Pint?'' Pa said. ``Your Ma and I went to town, and a blizzard came up? And you got the whole woodpile into the house.''

Laura laughed out loud, and Pa's laugh rang like great bells in the cold stillness. How little and scared and funny she had been, that day so long ago!

``That's the way to tackle things!'' Pa said. ``Have confidence in yourself, and you can lick anything. You have confidence in yourself, that's the only way to make other folks have confidence in you.'' He paused, and then said, ``One thing you must guard against.''

``What, Pa?'' Laura asked.

``You are so quick, flutterbudget. You are apt to act or speak first, and think afterward. Now you must do your thinking first and speak afterward. If you will remember to do that, you will not have any trouble.''

``I will, Pa,'' Laura said earnestly.

Copyright 1943, as to text, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Copyright renewed 1971 by Roger L. MacBride.

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