laughter in a hardscrabble world
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cooking stove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar – except a small hole, dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap-door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.
When Aunt Em came there to live she was a pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her checks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled, now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child’s laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.
About the author
Born Lyman Frank Baum in 1856, just east of Syracuse in Chittenango, NY. He never used his first name since he preferred Frank. A rather sickly child who was both timid and shy, he kept to himself and made up imaginary places and playmates since he had to refrain from any kind of strenuous exercise due to his faulty, weak heart. Throughout Frank’s life, his health was a constant impediment, which became a looming presence and a major controlling factor. Although, it never impeded his creativity, drive and talent.
Throughout his lifetime, Baum genuinely loved children and they adored him. He never stopped believing in the creative powers of the imagination. While working at the paper, he would see his truly faithful story listeners, “Often, as Baum would walk down the streets of Aberdeen on his rounds for news and advertising, he would be stopped by children demanding a story. He would sit down on the edge of the dusty wooden sidewalk and spin one of his yarns of magic countries.” These children forecast his future; they saw the genius of a storyteller he would become.
Source: Literary Traveler