To Live With Fear: Part One

Night Train to Rochester!; or

The Betrayal of Ebenezer Sprague

(a recap by Will Kaiser)

Title: To Live With Fear, Part One

Airdate: February 14, 1977

Written by B.W. Sandefur

Directed by William F. Claxton

SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: It’s the one where Mary gets kicked by the horse.

RECAP: Mary Stories are always occasions in themselves, so let’s get going! We begin looking up an oaky hill.

At a glance, it appears to be the same spot where Ma and Pa were stared down by the Ghosts of Little House Yet To Come. But of course, that’s hard to say for sure.

Previously on Little House

Over the hill comes a strange sight: Charles riding one of the big chonky horses, whilst the other trots alongside.

Stupid Jack is running around barking, too.

Charles seems to be having some difficulty with the horses.

WILL [as SPOTTED EAGLE]: “He should take them into the water.”

Previously on Little House

Attentive viewers will notice the horse Charles is riding is just a little darker in color than the Chonkies we’re used to seeing on this show.

Meanwhile, in the common room of the Little House, Ma is frosting a cake.

DAGNY: She’s constantly making birthday cakes!

The girls are frisking about, and there’s a funny little moment where Laura worries she’s made the cake fall with her nonsense. Does that really happen with cakes? Soufflés I can see; and we have a hell of a time getting our Yorkshire puddings to pop when we do our Christmas roast. But just a regular cake?

Laura helpfully informs us it’s Pa’s birthday. (Others have pointed out in real life Pa and Mary shared a birthday. In January.)

For those of us keeping track, here are the birthdays we’ve encountered so far:

Caroline – fall (her real birthday was in December, but in TV Little House Universe it’s probably late October)

Nellie – spring

Reverend Alden – spring

John Junior – spring

And as for this birthday party, there isn’t really any clear indicator of the season, but characters wear heavy-ish coats later on, so I think it’s fair to guess Charles’s TV birthday is in the fall.

Everybody looks out the window, where they see Pa and the Chonkies coming home. There’s a third Chonky in the pen, so apparently the darker horse is new and Pa’s been training it in.

The action gets moving immediately as Mary says she’ll go out and stall Pa (if you’ll pardon a barnyard pun) whilst the others get ready to surprise him.

Also, if you look closely out the window, you can see Spot the Killer Cow.

In a bit that seems improvised (it’s charming either way), Ma pretends she’s going to rinse out the frosting bowl, but then gives it to Laura and Carrie to eat the leavings.

Sweet Caroline! (I use that phrase sparingly, but it fits here, doesn’t it?)

Mary greets Pa at the barn, asking how “the new horse” is doing.

Pa explains (to us) that the horse is temporarily replacing Chonky Judy, who is injured.

That one of the Chonkies is named “Judy” was indeed established earlier this season, in “Little Girl Lost.” (I’m a bit surprised the show remembered it, though.)

Previously on Little House

We still don’t know the other Chonky’s name.

ROMAN: I thought that one Chonky looked different. He was darker in color.

OLIVE: You should say he was “a horse of color.”

WILL: A horse of a different color!

Mary says she’ll tend the horses, and that Pa should go wash up so he looks nice, not for any specific reason, though.

Pa is hip to her jive, but plays along.

Haw haw, Paw

As he heads towards the house, Mary says, “Oh, uh, P-pa -”

WILL: Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-papageno!

Papagena Mary

Mary then suggests Pa wash in the creek, not up at the house – again, not for any specific reason.

I will say, Melissa Sue Anderson is great across the many moods of this episode.

Sweet Mary

With his trademark shit-eating grin, Pa acquiesces.

Then Mary takes the new Chonky into the barn. Unfortunately, they are followed by Jack, who makes a barking imbecile of himself.

Mary screams at Jack to shut up.

What happens now happens very quickly. And while it’s hard to really appreciate it on the small screen, remember, those Chonkies are fucking enormous animals, and Mary is thirteen.

Well, what happens is the horse, which Mary addresses as “girl,” freaks out and literally flips her over a gate.

Mary hits the barn floor with her back, then bends in half at the waist. It’s a great stunt. You really can’t tell it isn’t MSA.

Not a special effect.

And I’m pretty sure it isn’t Mustache Man doing her stunts this time.

Pretty sure.

Bending over at the creek (but surprisingly not shirtless), Charles hears Mary yell and comes running.

Michael Landon’s hair is pretty big in this one

He rushes over to where Mary is lying, but she rises, telling him she’s fine.

Mary is FINE

She puts all the blame on Jack, which is quite right. She stops short of calling for his death, though, which is too bad.

Jack-blamin’ Mary

That night, we have the birthday party. Pa has changed into his Christmas shirt for the occasion.

He opens his presents from the girls.

OLIVE: Is it a bathing suit, hopefully?

Nope, it’s a matching nightcap and nightshirt set.

ROMAN: That is a bold pattern. It looks like Christmas wrapping paper.

I favor tasseled caps myself.

The family then moves on to expressing gratitude Mary wasn’t hurt badly.

WILL: She should vomit blood all over his nightgown, like Lord Grantham.

It goes without saying, giggles galore in this scene.

After a cut, we see Pa piloting a wagon driven by old Chonky and new Chonky past the school. So I guess he didn’t give the horse the Harriet Oleson treatment.

Previously on Little House

At recess, the kids, who this week include Willie, a few Nondescript Helens, Alicia, Laura, Nellie, Sweet Colleen, Cloud City Princess Leia, and some others, are skipping rope.

Mary’s turn comes up in whatever game they’re playing.

Up-at-bat Mary

She skips crazily, making maniacal faces.

ROMAN: That’s Emmy-worthy skipping.

OLIVE: Emmys nothing, it’s Olympic-worthy.

WILL: Yeah, if she’d skipped like that on Founder’s Day, she wouldn’t have lost to Willie.

Previously on Little House

You sort of expect her to burst into flame

Then she collapses.

Nellie accuses Mary of pretending to be “hurt by a horse.” That’s rich, isn’t it?

Previously on Little House

It should be noted, from her face it’s clear Cloud City Princess Leia favors Mary’s side in this dispute.

Laura runs to get help.

Cut to Mary in Doc’s office, being examined.

DAGNY: Did he give her a cigarette? That’s a good idea.

WILL: Medical marijuana.

Mary is SMOKIN’

DAGNY: Doc’s hair is long. It’s kind of nineties-looking.

WILL: Yeah, like John Linnell hair.

Doc asks how her stomach feels. It’s not unlike the grilling I underwent before being diagnosed with diverticulitis just recently!

Mary admits she’s been minimizing her symptoms so she doesn’t have to take paregoric.

ROMAN: Granville Whipple should pop in and say “I’ll take it!”

But Doc says she’ll be fine. (This pronouncement isn’t followed by a rumble of thunder and crash of lightning, but it probably should be.)

Stupid Doc

Doc sends them home with some sourballs for the kids.

DAGNY: I think it’s weird he has candy.

WILL: Why? Didn’t your doctor or dentist give you some when you were little?

DAGNY: What? No, of course not! The dentist? He’s there to take CARE of your teeth!

WILL: Well, that’s the Canadian difference.

That night, Mary wakes up in pain.

Poor Mary

Quite funnily, Laura responds by stealing the covers from her and grinning.


Holding her stomach, Mary staggers outside.

OLIVE: Is that their diarrhea barrel?

Ma comes running out, alarmed that Mary’s out of bed. It’s a family of five living in a tiny house with a privy – would she really wake up from this?

I dunno – maybe my mom would, actually.

Mary isn’t just in pain, she’s feverish also.

ROMAN: Somebody gets a fever every other episode on this show.

Ma says, “Oh, Mary, you’re burning up with fever!” Then Pa comes out, and she says, “Charles, this child is burning up with fever!” Which I like, because of the repetition. People repeat themselves all the time like that in life, but you don’t often see it in screenwriting.

Very nice, B.W. Sandefur!

Anyways, Mary continues to minimize her symptoms.

WILL: Is there a medical term for somebody who lies about her condition as much as Mary does? In literature, she’d be “an unreliable narrator.”

DAGNY: Yes, we’d say she’s “not an accurate historian.”

Previously on Little House

Symptom-minimizin’ Mary

Pa goes to wake Doc Baker, whilst Ma puts Mary into their own bed. (Which is nice of her. I suppose she didn’t want Mary to have to climb the ladder again.)

By dawn, Doc is with them. He reexamines Mary.

WILL: Check her for diverticulitis, Doc!!!

Ma comes in for an update, and Doc goes into his whole stupid “she’ll be just dandy after A CUP OF YOUR SOUP, CAROLINE!” routine. No one is amused.

Then Doc jokes Mary shouldn’t eat too much and risk her “girlish figure.” (Fat Joke #13.)

OLIVE: Don’t comment on women’s bodies like that, Doc.

Doc gives Charles a meaningful look. No, I don’t think they’re having an affair.

WILL: I’m looking more like Doc than ever these days, with my dark circles.

Taking his cue, Charles says he and the Doc should share a cup of coffee.

Carrie slurps, “Is Mary gonna be alright?”

ROMAN: That was the most normal she’s sounded on the show so far.

Pa sends the girls off to Sunday school. Well, not Mary, obviously.

Doc tells Charles he’s afraid Mary has a serious internal injury, one he can’t handle by himself. He says he wants to err on the side of caution.

WILL: Well, we had to reach a point where Doc would start overcompensating for all his bad diagnoses.

“To be safe,” Doc says, “you should take her to Rochester.”

Okay, so now I suppose we can really look at Rochester, Minnesota, for the first time.

Despite only having a population of around 120,000, Rochester is world-renowned as the home of the Mayo Clinic.

The original Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

Mayo Clinic opened its doors in 1889, though it was called St. Mary’s Hospital at the time.

It was founded by two brothers, William James and Charles Horace Mayo, with their father, William Worrall Mayo, and was created in response to a disastrous tornado that struck the area in 1883.

The Brothers Mayo today. Upon their deaths, their bodies were encased in bronze to warn others who would launch rival health care systems.

Though this story is set in 1876, according to our timeline, it’s not out of the question Doc could have sent them to Rochester even before St. Mary’s opened – William Worrall Mayo, the father, had been practicing medicine there since 1864.

We have actually met W.W. Mayo before on this show. You will recall, the doctor who tried and failed to save Charles Frederick “Freddie” Ingalls’s life in “The Lord is My Shepherd” (set in 1878, but in a different timeline) was identified in the credits as “Dr. Mayo.”

Previously on Little House: Dr. William Worrall Mayo

When we did that episode, however, we noted it was wrong to locate Dr. Mayo in Mankato, since he never practiced there. Perhaps this story will rectify that error.

Anyways, Kevin Hagen nails it as usual in this scene.

Charles tells Doc they’ll take “the night train to Rochester.” (Night train? Really? We’re supposed to believe there’s a midnight express option to get from Springfield, Minnesota, to Rochester, Minnesota?)

Predictably, once Doc is gone Charles starts blaming himself for the accident. (He is like his father in some ways, isn’t he?)

Previously on Little House: Self-punishin’ Lansford

But, equally predictably, Caroline smacks him down for it.

Charles is fine with that, though, saying he’s going to go take out a loan from the bank in anticipation of Mary’s medical costs.

ROMAN: Yeah, Mr. Sprague will save the day!

DAGNY: Pa’s pants are not leaving much to the imagination this time.

But at the bank, Ebenezer Sprague is nowhere to be found. Others have rightly pointed out it’s Sunday, so the bank would be closed no matter what.

WILL: You fool, Chuck, he’s down at Willow Lake!

From the bank, Charles hears the church parishioners singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” I’m not sure he really would be able to – the bank is pretty far south of the church, actually.

WILL: You know, everyone always associates this show with “Bringing in the Sheaves,” but “Onward, Christian Soldiers” is giving it a run for its money.

DAGNY: Well, YOU associate it with “Bringing in the Sheaves.”

WILL: What?

DAGNY: Nobody else cares.

WILL: WHAT? Ask any Little House fan which hymn they’re always singing and you see what they answer! WE ALL CARE!

Previously on Little House
Previously on Little House

Well, church today is packed with people. Many of them are new to us, I think. Among those who aren’t, we see the Olesons, Mr. Hanson and Doc (sitting separately), the Sanderson-Edwardses, Laura and Carrie, Mustache Man, Mrs. Foster, Carl the Flunky, Cloud City Princess Leia, the Midsommar Kid, an Ambiguously Ethnic Kid, the Mona Lisa Helen, the Non-Binary Kid, Not-Albert (back after some hiatus), Not-Carl Sanderson, and the Penguin Guy from last week.

There’s also (I think) the guy who last week I thought looked like Richard Libertini. But if so he’s shaved his beard, which makes him look less like Richard Libertini.

Previously on Little House

Richard Libertini

(Interestingly, Not-Richard Libertini’s right arm appears to be impervious to heat.)

There’s also a different bearded chap who looks like one of the guys from ZZ Top.

Plus, not to sound ageist, but there’s a lady in the front row who looks simply ancient, at least compared to the other old ladies we’ve seen so far on this show.

Can this be Amy Hearn, now as old as 97 according to our timeline??? Surely not. She is Catholic, after all, and so would be an unlikely guest at a Congregationalist service.

Previously on Little House

Then again, she and Aldi are old friends. (Perhaps with benefits?)

Previously on Little House

Actually, so are she and Charles. (Probably not with benefits, though.)

Previously on Little House

Thus, it’s not inconceivable she might turn up just to help to her old party-plannin’ pal‘s cause. (I’m getting a little ahead of the story, though.)


Anyways, Charles joins the congregation as they’re taking collection. But when he pulls out his own wallet, Reverend Alden stops him and says it’s a special collection to pay for Mary’s medical bills.

Charles stares at his friends with misty eyes.

DAGNY: Oh, the Bead is there too!

I also notice sitting next to Carl the Flunky is Pigtail Helen, which is nice because I think in a previous episode it’s established she’s his granddaughter.

Previously on Little House

What isn’t nice is that her hair is out of pigtails again!

DAGNY: Why isn’t Doc turning around, for Heaven’s sake?

WILL: I bet he didn’t give any money for the offering and hopes Charles doesn’t notice.

DAGNY: Oh my God, that makes total sense.

WILL: Yes. Remember, he does get paid in live chickens, though.

ROMAN: Well, he could at least have put an egg in.

WILL: You know, this is just like the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life.

DAGNY: Jimmy Stewart doesn’t cry this much, though.

I really encourage everybody out there to watch this scene from about 16:00 on and pay attention to the timing of the music. When Charles’s teardrop first appears, David really reaches for the moon.

Well, I think both believers and nonbelievers will join me in saying thank GOD Charles has sense enough to accept the gift this time and not make a big stupid scene like he has in the past.

Previously on Little House

Realizing he’s got everybody’s full attention for once, Aldi whisks through the prayers.

Then we cut to a shot of the Old Sanderson Place. It’s windy, which is usually very bad; but David Rose’s music is mild.

Everybody’s packing up a wagon to take Mary to Springfield. I don’t know why they’re doing this at Mr. Ed’s and Grace’s house.

But maybe it’s just so Mary and Mr. Ed can have a nice little scene where he tries to cheer her up. There’s a new chemistry between them since they had their heart-to-heart in “‘I’ll Ride the Wind.’”

Previously on Little House

We get a shot then of the others reacting, and some jokester (Haskell B. Boggs?) has set up the shot to make Carrie look like she has bunny ears.

Haw haw, Haskell

Laura bends down and has her own heart-to-heart with Mary now.

OLIVE [as LAURA]: “Now, I know you think I hate you, but I want you to know, that’s just in real life.”

But seriously, both the Melissas are great in this scene.

It’s maybe a little bit over the top, but whatever.

Meanwhile, Grace is in the other room helping Caroline pack.

DAGNY: Whoa, who directed this one, look at the mirror!

(It was Clax this time.)

Grace says they’re thrilled to be babysitting Laura and Carrie. Why is their house so much nicer than the Ingallses’? I suppose maybe John Sanderson, Sr., was wealthy (he was eccentric enough).

Plus Grace would have her widow’s legacy on top of that. Not to mention her government salary, as well as whatever she charges for delivering babies.

Previously on Little House

But speaking of John Sanderson, are they going to send John Junior a telegram? Do you think he’ll come rushing back? Rochester is closer to Chicago anyways. It’s funny he hasn’t been mentioned. I guess we’ll see.

Previously on Little House

Well, Grace here is very sensible, as you’d expect from one of Walnut Grove’s two medical practitioners. She says Mary’s going to have the best care possible so they needn’t have undue worry.

OLIVE: They just take turns, don’t they? One week, Grace is getting hysterical and Ma is calming her down, and the next it’s the opposite.

Previously on Little House
Previously on Little House

Grace and Caroline then have a tragic little conversation where they agree a woman’s proper role is to be a sort of emotional support animal for others at the cost of her own feelings.

OLIVE: Wow, that’s nice!

The two actresses are good, though.

Outside, Pa is tucking Mary into the back of the wagon.

WILL: He isn’t even gonna put the fucking COVER up?

Enjoy your death from exposure, Mary

Pa tells Mary he’s going to try to minimize the bumpiness of the road.

WILL: It’s just like my diverticulitis! It really hurts when I go over a pothole.

Everybody says goodbye, then Pa makes kissy noise and they’re off.

DAGNY: They should be playing “Erlkönig”!

WILL: Yes, that would be perfect.

Commercial break!

When we return, the Number Three is a-chuggin’ away.

And onboard, Pa is a-worryin’ whilst he fondles a curtain.

WILL: The train’s pretty fancy.

ROMAN: No kidding. It’s like the Chez Amis on Deadwood.

Mary wakes up shivering, and Pa wraps his coat around her.

OLIVE [as PASSENGER]: “Pervert!”

Ma appears, having gone to get Mary some cider from “the butcher boy.” (These days, it’s not a well known term, but apparently a “butcher boy” or “butcher’s boy” was a vendor who sold snacks on a train in the old days. Hilariously, I found a discussion of the term from 2006 that was possibly inspired by this episode.)

Pa approaches a cheerful conductor to ask if he can put some more wood in the stove.

The conductor is played by Ralph Smiley, who was in Rear Window, Dragnet, Rawhide, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Singing Nun, and Ironside.

Charles asks how long till they get to Rochester, and the conductor says it’ll be “another eight hours.”

WILL: That’s actually faster than Amtrak would cover the same distance.

Then we cut to the hospital in Rochester, where a pair of rather attractive nurses is wheeling in a patient.

DAGNY: God, Mary looks terrible.

Terrible-lookin’ Mary

But no, of course that’s not Mary. She’s already been admitted. In the examining room, a doctor is looking in her eyes.

ROMAN [as DOCTOR]: “Now, you know you’re going blind, right?”

But no, instead he (of course) compliments her on how gorgeous her eyes are. I wonder if there’s anything in the peer-reviewed literature on doctors who can’t conduct eye exams properly when the patient’s eyes are too beautiful.

Previously on Little House

The doctor then calls Mary out for pretending she feels better than she does. When I was examined for diverticulitis, the doctor practically punched me in the abdomen to get an accurate measure of my pain, I suppose because of fakers like Mary Ingalls who go in trying to prove how tough they are!

Thanks for nothing, Mary!

The doctor and one of the rather attractive nurses put Mary in a wheelchair.

This nurse is identified by the doctor as “Nurse Johnson.” Unclear if she’s any relation to Johnny, Hector, Mrs., “Tater,” Seth, or Omaha.

Johnny Johnson
Hector Johnson
Mrs. Johnson
“Tater” Johnson (not depicted onscreen)
Seth Johnson
Omaha Johnson

WILL: Is she the same nurse from Halloween II?


Mary asks the doctor, who’s nice, some good questions about her condition. He answers her frankly.

WILL: I totally recognize that guy. It’s not Soupy Sales, is it?

DAGNY: No, it isn’t Soupy Sales. His lips are even worse than Doc’s, though, whoever it is.

Soupy Sales
Not-Soupy Sales

I looked him up. The actor’s name is Ivan Bonar.

WILL: Do you think he’s actually Bon Iver, and he’s using an anagram of his name because acting is his side hustle?


(Apparently Bon Iver is the name of the band, not the singer. News to me, even though he’s from Wisconsin.)

I like their version of this song

Ivan Bonar was in a million things, including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons, Family Affair, Lou Grant, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, Silver Spoons, and The Colbys. He played at least four judges on Days of Our Lives. (Impressive.)

He was also on Bonanza a couple times. They should have given him a spinoff and called it Bonar-nanza! Then again, maybe not.

Finally, he was on a failed sitcom called A New Kind of Family that also starred Eileen Brennan and Rob Lowe.

It looks fantastic . . . though Bonar’s shorts also don’t leave much to the imagination

Mary is actually relieved to be told she’s going to have an operation, saying she’s tired of her family’s dithering around the question.

Mary gets wheeled out to the lobby, where she tells her parents, “Dr. Mayes just examined me.”

DAGNY: “Mayes”? Seriously? MAYES, not Mayo?

Yes, seriously.

This mystified us.

ROMAN: Maybe they wrote the part to be Dr. Mayo, but then they remembered Ma and Pa already knew Dr. Mayo from when Freddie died?

OLIVE: Why wouldn’t they use a totally different name, then?

WILL: Yeah, they should have called him Dr. Naise. Then they’d be Mayo and Naise!

Ma and Pa then have a private consultation with Mayes himself.

Dr. Mayes tells them Mary is suffering from “a perityphlitic abscess” that needs to be drained. (According to this journal article from 1888, such an abscess usually resulted from appendicitis, though Mary’s appendix is not mentioned in this story.)

Doc Mayes praises Doc Baker’s analysis, and says while surgery carries risks, Mary’s overall strength and health suggest a favorable outcome.

Mayes directs them to a Mr. Benson in the billing office, and nicely closes by saying he’s been impressed by Mary’s intelligence and bravery.

WILL [as PA]: “Thank you, Doctor. She is the second-smartest kid in the whole state of Minnesota.”

Previously on Little House

Then they leave her to get some rest. As Mary, Melissa Sue Anderson mainly looks pale and flares her nostrils weirdly in this one. It works, though.

Pallid, nose-flarin’ Mary

In the financial office, Mr. Benson (Comptroller, or VP of Finance, or something) gives them a receipt – presumably in exchange for the Walnut Grove congregation’s entire offering.

Pa winces at the prices, so Benson goes into a song and dance about the hospital’s deluxe amenities.

He says it’s only natural to pass costs down to patients, and then rather nastily adds, “You wouldn’t want anything less than the very best for your daughter, would you?”

ALEXANDER: Is this Landon’s plea for universal healthcare?

Benson is played by Darrell Zwerling, who was in Chinatown, Columbo, Kojak, Sanford and Son, High Anxiety, Grease, Starsky and Hutch, Simon & Simon, The Young and the Restless, and Wild at Heart.

Darrell Zwerling (at right), with Sid Caesar in Grease

Ma and Pa then head to their hotel. Caroline stares out the window, whilst Charles looks unhappy, and possibly horny.

But seriously, neither of them is in a very sexy mood. All they can talk about is Mary this, Mary that, blah blah Mary Mary Mary.

OLIVE: How come Pa isn’t wearing his new sleepytime outfit?

Then we cut to another complicated mirror shot, this time depicting Mary’s surgery.

In addition to Dr. Mayes and Nurse Johnson, there’s a curly-haired anesthesiologist administering ether.

WILL: Ether! It’s Dr. Larch!

ALEXANDER [as MICHAEL CAINE]: “Goodnight, you Prince of Maine, you Prince of New Jersey!”

That’s pretty close to the actual line

The anesthesiologist appears as “Dr. Washburn” in the credits, and the actor who played him is named Sheldon Coburn. Besides Little House, his only credit is Medical Centerand he also played an anesthesiologist on that!

Finally, there’s an effete-looking little fellow down at the bottom of the operating table, but his role is unclear. A medical student? He doesn’t get a credit, so your guess is as good as mine.

Anyways, Little House now fails to live up to its reputation as a Grindhouse of Shock for the 7+ Set. Even though Dr. Mayes takes a scalpel from Nurse Johnson, we leave the operation before it’s even begun, with not a drop of blood to be seen.

The effete-looking little doctor or whatever looks dubious. But who the hell is he to have an opinion in the first place?

Later, Dr. Mayes comes out and tells Ma and Pa the operation was a success. Again with the air of a nice authority figure breaking his own rules, he tells them to go say hello to their daughter.

Oddly, he’s put his white coat on, though he wasn’t actually wearing it during the procedure.

At Mary’s bedside, Nurse Johnson gives her two cents.

WILL: Are you sure she isn’t the nurse from Halloween II?


Mary opens her eyes.

ALL [as MARY, screaming]: “I’m blind! Help, I can’t see!”, etc.

No, she doesn’t say anything like that. She feels like shit and doesn’t say much at all, actually.

Back at the hotel room, I notice they have the same chicken-feather rug from Mr. Stokes’s last week.

Previously on Little House

You’ll see I wasn’t wrong about Pa’s appetites, either, since he now proposes he and Ma go out for dinner to be followed by a “celebration” back in the room afterwards.

DAGNY: They should go see that play again. What was the title?

WILL: Abandoned Daughters. That was in Mankato.

DAGNY: It was probably on a North American tour. I bet it was the Hamilton of its day.

Meanwhile, in Walnut Grove, Laura tells Grace she’s homesick. She says she even walked out of her way past the Little House coming home from school (which tracks with our map).

OLIVE: Who’s feeding their animals?

WILL: Hans Dorfler probably went and took care of them for free. I bet there was a lot of pro bono horse care in those days.

Good ol’ Rubberface

This scene is mostly filler until Mr. Edwards comes in, bearing a telegram he’s unable to read.

Grace gives the happy report that Mary’s surgery turned out well and they’ll be home soon.

Mr. Ed sings a little song, and the three dance.

ROMAN: That doesn’t sound like “Old Dan Tucker.”

WILL: It certainly doesn’t.

DAGNY: The real Old Dan Tucker finally sued for royalties.

ROMAN: I bet that’s why Mary has a complication. HE SANG SOMETHING ELSE.

Danse Macabre!

Back to the streets of Rochester at night, under a heavy downpour.

But Charles and Caroline come laughing out of the rain, and while it’s out of character, I think it’s fair to say both of them sound like they’ve been drinking!

“I hope this lets up before we have to take Mary home!” Charles slurs. “Stop worrying! We have two days for it to clear!” Caroline laughs back.

But then they go back up to Mary’s hospital room. Huh? I thought they just had dinner and were going back to the hotel for the “celebration”? Or has time passed?

But whatever, the nurses are rolling up Mary’s bed. Nurse Johnson is annoyed to learn the Ingallses haven’t been informed of developments. (I hope they didn’t waste too much time searching for them. They should have known country hicks in the big city would go carousing.)

In Dr. Mayes’s surgery, or the ICU, or someplace, Mary has been packed in ice – never a good sign on this show. (Or in real life, I suppose.)

WILL: Is that how the ICU got its name? Because in the old days, all they could do was ice you?

Icy Mary

Our daughter Amelia, who was home only briefly this time, came into the room at this point.

AMELIA: Who’s dying?

ROMAN: Mary.

AMELIA: Oh, good.

The doctor tells Ma and Pa Mary had an attack, so clearly what they did was not enough. He says she needs another operation, but it can’t take place until she’s recovered physically from her first one. He says that probably will take a month.

Then the doctor says he knows about the family’s financial standing and is waiving his fee. But he says Horace Benson is being a complete asshole about the billing, as usual.

AMELIA: This is just like Scrubs. Dr. Cox versus Dr. Kelso.

Charles says he’ll go see Benson at once. (At night?)

As predicted, Benson is not the friendliest.


Charles begins writing a “personal note” indicating he’s putting his farm up for sale and the proceeds will become property of the Mayes Clinic. Benson says they can’t enter into such an agreement, but he can’t be all bad, because Charles somehow forces him to sign off on it.

Benson huffily points out Charles will have to pay within 30 days, or it’ll be beyond his power to stop it going to collections.

Back in the ICU, Mary’s still packed in ice, and Clax ’n’ Hask are still fooling around with reflective surfaces.

Nurse Johnson wordlessly assures Ma Mary’s in good hands.

WILL: Are you SURE she isn’t in Halloween II? Isn’t she the nurse who says, “Bud, how come every word out of your mouth is either hell or shit or damn?”

ROMAN: No! She’s a totally different person!

Well, I should have trusted Roman and his pre-21st-Century pop culture knowledge, which is advanced for a sixteen-year-old. Nurse Johnson is a totally different person.

Nurse Janet from Halloween II (immortalized in that movie’s catchphrase, “Janet, Get Me Some More Coffee!”) was played by Ana Alicia.

Ana Alicia would go on to success as a regular on Falcon Crest

Here she is (at left), with Lorenzo Lamas

She was also on Love Boat.

To be clear, however, she does not play Nurse Johnson in “To Live With Fear.”

Nurse Johnson is played by Naomi Ross, whose only other screen credit is playing “Paralyzed Woman” on three episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. (Seems like a long arc for an unnamed disabled character in those days. Maybe it was a really probing look into Paralyzed Woman’s life experience, or something.)

Naomi Ross on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Doris Roberts)

Then suddenly, Ma and Pa are back on the dark rainy street again. Pa says goodbye, so clearly he has some plan.

We cut to the Rochester train station, where, strangely, Walnut Grove’s own Generic-Looking Bald Man is waiting for the train.

Charles enters, noticing the Generic-Looking Bald Man at once.

He and the Generic-Looking Bald Man stare at each other for a second without saying anything.

Charles moves to the desk, and the Generic-Looking Bald Man whispers something to his companion.

WILL [as GENERIC-LOOKING BALD MAN, whispering]: “Did you see, that’s Charles Ingalls! Thank God he didn’t recognize me, that guy’s such a pain in the balls.”

Stranger still, we see Herbert Diamond is now working the desk at the Rochester train station, even though last week we saw him loafing on the steps of the Post Office back in Walnut Grove.

Previously on Little House

Maybe he’s decided to try to get back in the good graces of his father, railroad tycoon J.W. Diamond, and is working his way up in the train company from the bottom.

Previously on Little House

Charles then sits down next to the Generic-Looking Bald Man, who now pretends to be asleep rather than talk to him.

Charles notices a, well, notice indicating the Chicago & North Western railroad is looking for workers in its “mountain division.”

Chicago & North Western was a real company operating at the time. There’s also an ad on the board for the Overland Trail stagecoach, though as we noted last week, it had already gone out of business by the 1870s.

Well, Charles makes it back to Walnut Grove. How much time has passed is not exactly clear, but we do know a) the Ingallses arrived in Rochester Monday morning; b) Mary had her surgery on Tuesday morning (the outcome of which was reported to the Grovesters by telegram the same day); c) Mary began experiencing complications from her procedure either Tuesday night or sometime on Wednesday; and d) Pa’s return trip would take at least two hours longer than the journey there, as Herbert Diamond points out he’ll have a two-hour layover in Mankato. (Layover in this sense was already in use by this time.)

When one considers Charles would also have an additional half-day’s travel once the train arrives in Springfield, it’s either quite late in the day on Thursday, or more likely is Friday.

A strange thing, though – we saw Charles and Caroline drive out of town under their own steam, but this time Charles is being dropped off by some guy who looks like David Byrne. So what happened to their wagon?

Oh, and one other thing:

AMELIA: Who is that? He’s really got his ass sticking out there.

DAGNY: Gigolos.

Charles stops in the Post Office to bring Mr. Edwards and Grace up to speed.

Then he says he’s going to try the bank again for a loan, but Mr. Ed delivers the shocking news that Sprague pulled out of town without warning after “two years of bad crops.”

DAGNY: WHAT??? Mr. Sprague would NEVER do that.

WILL: Yeah. What did he do, simply tell the depositors to go hang?

ROMAN: Yeah. What did he tell his best friend Laura?

WILL: I have no idea. Plus, Grandpa Stokes said just last week the corn was coming up better than last year!

Previously on Little House

All these objections notwithstanding, Ebenezer Sprague is gone, from this story and from our saga.

WILL: He should chase down Sprague and rob him and kill him on the road.

ALEXANDER: Yeah, Red Dead Redemptionstyle!

Edwards also says Mr. Hanson has had so little business, the mill is mostly closed. (Charles has only been gone a few days, right? But I suppose if things are that dire, it does explain the gigolos.)

Then we cut to Charles asking Hanson to buy the Little House back. But Hanson says business is so bad, he simply can’t afford to.

He does give Charles a wad of bills from his own pocket to help him find work out of town, though.

Good old Hanson

Charles tells Mr. Edwards he’s going to grab some things from the Little House and stop by their place before heading west – presumably to look into that “mountain division” railroad job he saw advertised.

He walks off, leaving Mr. Ed to update Grace.

OLIVE: Grace should just steam open all the mail and give Pa whatever money she finds.

“I better close up early – we oughta be at the house to say goodbye!” says Grace. So much for “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night,” I guess.

Postmistress of the Year no more.

Cut to the Old Sanderson Place, where the scary wind is augmented by a shot of some equally scary farm machinery.

AMELIA: What is that, a torture device?

ROMAN: Yeah, it’s what they’re going to put to Sprague when they catch him.

Torture devices of farm and prairie

Charles says goodbye to the girls, promising Carrie they’ll invite everybody to a big picnic when the family is reunited. “Even Jack?” she slurps.

DAGNY: JACK! He’s the one who started this whole thing. Put him down.

Laura hits Pa with the schmoopiest Little House-ism we’ve had in at least two episodes.

Schmoopy Laura

The Sanderson-Edwardses come out then, and Mr. Ed and Grace announce he’ll be joining Charles on his money-making (ad)venture.

David gives us some freaky deceptive cadences in the orchestra, and that’s it till Part Two! (We’ll save the verdict till next time as well, though I will say, this part was great.)

WILL: No mention of John – did they even tell him?

DAGNY: Who knows?

Not me. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!


We get to see Ma full-length in her nightie, which doesn’t happen every week.

Charles appears to go commando again. (Which does.)

UP NEXT: To Live With Fear, Part Two

Published by willkaiser

I live in the Upper Midwest. My name's not really Will Kaiser, but he and I have essentially the same personality.

6 thoughts on “To Live With Fear: Part One

  1. Great recap. This is a really good episode. (Thanks to Alexander for the New Jersey shout out). And yes, even this non-believer says thank Goodness Charles accepted that money! Very fine acting. I’m trying to remember did Melissa Sue Anderson ever win an Emmy for LHOTP? I can’t remember if anyone ever did win an Emmy for the show. 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. MAS was nominated in 1978 (Season Four – when the “Mary Goes Blind” storyline really gets cookin’). But no, she didn’t win. It was the only-ever acting nomination for the show, too, though David Rose and Ted Voigtlander both won for music and cinematography (respectively).


  2. I thought Mr. Edwards was learning how to read in order to be closer to John? I guess since he’s gone, he forgot again……

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are my people! I don’t know what black magic that you possess in that your recaps oft include thoughts I’ve had watching LHOTP. I’m a CA girl and a bit older than Will, but I grew up with the show. I recently started watching again from the beginning (Husband: “I never knew this show was so…dark?). I found you by frantically searching (show on pause) the puppies in the bag to see if they lived. I have to skip the Raccoon and the Jack death episode. Anyway, thank you for your service. I am back in season 2 still, and started from the beginning of your blog. You guys are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

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