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Farmer Boy – the fictional story

noteFarmer Boy. Eight year old Almanzo Wilder lives on a prosperous farm with his family in northern New York State. The Wilders are busy all year long from sunup to sunset – cutting ice, planting, shearing sheep, harvesting, threshing, and hauling wood. They make time for fun, too: cosy evenings of popcorn and apple cider by the fire, fishing, berrying, Fourth-of-July celebrations, and attending the County Fair.

Almanzo’s relationship with his brother and sisters is often humorously told – there’s big brother Royal, who wants to leave the farm and be a storekeeper, bossy Eliza Jane, who even tries to correct Mother, and sweet yet often tom-boyish Alice, who is Almanzo’s playmate. Mother Wilder is always bustling; even when she sits to rest at the end of the day, her knitting needles are flashing. Father is stern yet quiet; he is a man respected by all, a shrewd businessman in the town of Malone and a successful stock raiser and planter.

Almanzo wants to be a farmer, and what he loves most of all is horses. Almanzo dreams of the day when he will be big enough to help Father train the young colts. In order to hurry his growing up, Almanzo eats. Oh, how Almanzo eats: ham, chicken, spareribs, potatoes and gravy, bread and butter and doughnuts and pie! And as the seasons pass, Almanzo learns that eating isn’t the only way to grow up.

notePublishing History. There is one surviving manuscript of Farmer Boy. It includes stories not found in the published book, including a description of the starch factory in Burke, picking hops for a neighbor, and the Wilder family’s decision to move west to Spring Valley, Minnesota. The manuscript includes Wilder’s own drawings of the layout of the Wilder farm, including house plans of both barns and farmhouse.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote Farmer Boy prior to the release of Little House in the Big Woods. It was the second book in the series to be published, yet today Farmer Boy is sometimes packaged and promoted as the third book in the Little House series.

The text of Farmer Boy was copyrighted November 10, 1933, by Laura Ingalls Wilder for an original term of 28 years. The copyright was renewed by Roger Lea Mac Bride in 1961 for another term of 28 years. Mac Bride renewed the copyright for 19 years in 1989. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total protection of 95 years. Currently, the text of Farmer Boy is protected by copyright until the end of the year 2028.

The first illustrations for Farmer Boy were by Helen Sewell for the 1933 publication. Illustrations for the uniform edition of the Little House books were by Garth Williams and published in 1954. Both are protected for 95 years, or the years 2028 (Sewell) and 2049 (Williams).

Characters in Farmer Boy.
* The Wilder family: Father, Mother, Royal, Eliza Jane, Alice, Almanzo.
* Teachers and Students: Mr. Corse, Jonas Lane; Miles Lewis, Bill Ritchie, John, unnamed girls and boys.
* Relatives: Uncle Wesley (Aunt Lindy, Cousins James, Frank, Fred, Abner, Mary, and the baby), Uncle Andrew (Aunt Delia)
* In Town: Woodhaulers, Mr. Ritchie, French Joe (and son Louis), Lazy John (and son Pierre), the Preacher, Mr. Case (storekeeper), New York potato buyer, Nick Brown (tin-peddler), New York horse-buyer, Congressman, Mr. Paddock (wagon maker), Mr. and Mrs. Webb (and son Aaron), New York butter-buyer, the Indian, the Cobbler, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Weed (hay-baler), liveryman, bank cashier.
* Animals with names: Star and Bright (Almanzo’s calves), Blossom and Bossy (milk cows), Bess and Beauty (work horses), Starlight (Beauty’s colt), Lucy (Almanzo’s pig).
Places Mentioned in Farmer Boy.
* In New York: Malone, St. Lawrence River, Saranac, Trout River, Lake Chateaugay, New York City.

Music from Farmer Boy.
Songs (and the chapter in which they appear) include:
Chapter 16, “Independence Day” — The Star-Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle


Farmer Boy, the fictional story