At the beginning of this story, Pa Ingalls decides to sell the house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, and move to the Indian Territory near Independence, Kansas, as there were widely circulating stories that the land would be opened to settlement by homesteaders imminently. So Laura, along with Pa and Ma, and Mary and baby Carrie, move to Kansas. Along the way, Pa trades his two horses for two Western mustangs, which Laura and Mary name Pet and Patty. When the family reaches Indian Territory, they meet Mr. Edwards, who is extremely polite to Ma, but tells Laura and Mary that he is "a wildcat from Tennessee." Mr. Edwards is an excellent neighbor, and helps the Ingalls in every way he can, beginning with helping Pa erect their house. Then, Pa builds a roof and a floor for their house, digs a well, and the family is finally settled. During the book, the Ingalls family becomes terribly ill from a disease which was later identified to be malaria. Mrs. Scott, another neighbor, takes care of the family while they are sick. Mr. Edwards brings Laura and Mary their Christmas presents from Independence, and in the spring, the Ingalls plant the beginnings of a small farm. At the end of this book, the family is told that the land must be vacated by settlers as it is not legally open to settlement yet, and Pa elects to leave the land and move before the Army forcibly requires him to abandon the land.

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