Monday, December 10, 2012

Chapter 14: Indian Camp

"Pa wondered where the Indians had gone. He said they had left their little camp on the prairie. And one day he asked Laura and Mary if they would like to see the camp.

Laura jumped up and down and clapped her hands, but Ma objected.

"It is so far, Charles," she said. "And in this heat."

Pa's blue eyes twinkled. "This heat doesn't hurt the Indians and it won't hurt us," he said. "Come on, girls!"

Summer has come to the prairie. The wind is hot and the prairie grasses turn yellow under the sky. Pa wonders where the Indians have gone. They have left their little camp on the prairie, and one day Pa asks if Mary and Laura would like to go see it.

Laura jumps up and down in excitement, but Ma is worried that the trip is too much for her little girls. Pa says they will be fine, and soon they start out. Jack trots on ahead, for Pa said he could come today, then comes Pa, and after Pa come two very happy girls.

On they walk into the vast prairie. At last they dip down into the little hollow where the Indians had camped. Laura can't see the house anymore, but she knows it's there. Pa and the girls walk around looking at things. Laura sees the ashes from the Indian campfires, the bones scattered around where Indian dogs had chewed on them, and holes in the ground where the tent-poles had been. There are tracks from moccasins criss-crossing the ground.

Pa shows them how the Indians cooked their food over the campfire. And it is by the fire that Laura makes a wonderful discovery. There---right there in the dust----Laura finds a blue bead glittering. Soon Mary finds a red one. Then Laura and Mary hunt and hunt, filling their little hands with beads.

When it is time to go, Pa ties the beads in his handkerchief, Laura's in one corner and Mary's in the other. The sun is low in the sky and Pa sets a quick pace across the prairie. It is a long way home, and Pa carries Laura on his shoulder when she gets tired. But at last they reach home and find supper cooking on the fire and Ma setting the table.

The girls want Ma to look at the pretty beads they found, and she carefully unties the handkerchief. The beads are so pretty shining in the firelight. Laura points to her pile. "These are mine," she says.

"Carrie can have my beads," Mary says sweetly.

Ma waits to hear what Laura will say. Laura doesn't want to say anything. She wants to slap Mary and keep her beads. But at last she hangs her head and says, " Carrie can have mine, too."

"Those are my unselfish good girls," Ma says.

Ma gives Laura and Mary each a string, and they sit side by side and make a pretty necklace for Carrie. Perhaps Mary feels sweet and good inside, but Laura doesn't. But Laura feels a little better when she sees how happy Carrie is with her necklace.

Poor Laura. It is hard to have an older sister, particularly one with an unfortunate habit of perfection. Trust me on this. If only Laura and Mary had known how to make paper beads they wouldn't have had to worry about running out of Indian beads. Then they could have worried about running out of paper!

It's hard to imagine, in this crazy modern age where babies get ipads to play with, and little girls shed glitter wherever they go, what it must have been like back then. Think of a kid----any kid you know---and imagine what would happen if you gave them a handful of beads for Christmas. Think you'd get wonder, delight, and surprise? I doubt it.

But for Laura and Mary, this one little event made a memory they cherished their entire lives. I think that's a better deal than a Baby Ipad.

Id never made paper beads before this, so I looked up a handy instructional on the internet. Not to ruin the surprise, but this is a FUN activity. It's pretty easy if your fingers will cooperate, and you just can't get any cheaper than this for supplies. It would make a great activity for older girls who need something to do with their girly fingers besides texting interminably.

The instructions were posted by a group in Uganda that makes and sells just beautiful paper beads. The instructions are easy to follow and it has pictures to go with it. Very nice, and the projects they make are impressive.

But enough about them....I'm going to give you directions, too, just because I can.

Step 1: Select your paper. You can make very attractive and colorful beads using magazine pages, but I used patterned paper like you'd use for scrapbooking.

Step 2: Mark your paper for cutting. Here is where a visit to the other site might come in handy. It's very simple once you get the hang of it, but they have a nice graphic to illustrate.

Decide on the width of your bead. To make a bead 2 centimeters long, measure in from the edge of the paper 1 centimeter. Then draw a line from that back up to the top corner. This will give you a long, narrow triangle. It's a scrap piece.

Now go to the top of the page and measure 2 centimeters and mark it. Draw a line from the mark at the bottom of the page (the 1 centimeter mark) up to the 2 centimeter mark. Got that? You should have a long, narrow triangle shape. You can measure as many more as you want by measuring 2 centimeters over from the point of each triangle.

You can make beads of any size you want. The trick is to measure half the distance in from the edge the first time and then the full distance from then on.

I also found a pencil works better because the black lines show from a pen.

Step 3: Take a thin object----I used a toothpick, but a large needle or smoothed-out paper clip will also work---and wrap the LARGE end of your long, thin triangle around it. Make it nice, even, and tight. Begin rolling the paper, taking care to keep the paper centered. Don't be alarmed if it unrolls repeatedly. Hopefully you will get better as you go along. Let me know if it happens for you---I'm still waiting for it to happen to me!

Step 4: After your paper is all the way rolled, take a little dab of glue and stick down the end of it so it won't unravel. Now slide your bead off and you are ready to make another one.

"Laura picked it up, and it was a beautiful blue bead. Laura shouted for joy.
Then Mary saw a red bead, and Laura saw a green one, and they forgot everything but beads."

Step 5: After the beads are completed, string all of them on some stout wire or string. Make sure it is as wide as whatever you are planning to string them on so the holes don't close off. Paint them with clear varnish---even clear nail polish will do---and let them dry. It will take several coats to get the varnish thick enough.

Step 6: Get your inner designer on and make something gorgeous with your new beads!

I wanted to do a Christmas tree ornament, and had a rough idea in mind. I was inspired by a peacock feather for my color scheme, and I really like how it turned out. But I still don't think you'd look at my ornament and say, "That reminds me of peacock feathers."

I used a variety of sizes, plus I made two pendants by adding another, thinner triangle to the end of my piece to make a really, really long, thin triangle. I also incorporated some clear beads I had on hand.

I can't say enough nice things about this project. It is so fun to take harmless-looking strips of paper and create real beads out of them. And turning them into completed art is even more fun---though I did have to kick my cat out of the "design studio" (read: kitchen) when he wanted to "help."

"The beads made a beautiful string. Carrie clapped her hands and laughed when she saw it. Then Ma tied it around Carrie's little neck, and it glittered there."

So are you ready to see it? My very first paper bead Christmas tree ornament!

Now go make some of your own! You'll have lots of fun and there's no limit to the cool designs you can create---just change the color of the paper to change the color of your beads.