|Fanny washed diapers while Heber held the twins.|
Illustration by Buehner, M.
"Once upon a time, in a wild Wyoming town, there lived a sturdy girl named Fanny Agnes. She worked from sunup to sundown on her Daddy's farm, but she had her dreams. She was going to marry a prince." Well, maybe the mayor's son, she thought, but it would be somebody rich, for sure. And then she would never have to work again, and would sit upon a fine silk pillow, dreaming the day away. If it had happened 'Once upon a time,' the girl figured, then it could happen again. To her! So, when she found out that there was going to be a real, live fancy ball in town, and that the mayor was hosting, she was sure it would be her lucky day. When she told her friends about the ball, and her dream of a rich husband, they said, "You? You're not beautiful, you have nothing to wear, and you're about as graceful as an elephant." But Fanny wasn't daunted. "I read about a girl in a book, and I know just what do do." With that, she stalked home. When no one was watching, she changed into her very best calico dress and went out to sit in the moonlight so she could meet her fairy godmother. She sat there for a long, long time. The night was quiet and she could see all the way across the valley into town, where the bright lights of the ball sparkled. While she waited, she pulled a few weeds from the vegetable patch. That's when she heard a voice! It said, "Hey, Fanny!" She jumped right up, expecting to see a little old woman in a shining cloak. But it was just her neighbor, Heber Jensen. He asked what she was doing out so late. He had always been kind to her, but...well, he was the shortest boy in town, and Fanny dreamed of a tall, handsome stranger. He looked at her so kindly, however, that she went ahead and told him the truth. "I'm waiting for my fairy godmother. I wanted to go to the ball." Heber was quiet for a long time. Then he asked her a few questions. "Can you twirl and waltz and curtsy?" Did Fanny know how to "use twenty forks and spoons, drink from a goblet and eat snails? Could she "flutter her fan"? When Fanny giggled and said no to each question, Heber asked what she COULD do! Plenty, as it turned out. She could "harness a horse, plow a field, shuck corn...kill and dress a chicken, milk ten cows and bake bread...and spread manure!" Now Heber sat down beside her, and together, they looked up at the moon. That's when he said," I'm not a prince, and I don't live in a castle. But I have one hundred and sixty acres, a little log house, and a dream of my own. I need a wife who will work by my side, through thick and thin, sweat and joy, and be glad for good food and great company. Will you, Fanny?" And now it was Fanny's turn to be silent. She was so quiet for so long that Heber fell asleep waiting. It takes awhile for a person to give up a good dream, and Fanny was going to take her sweet time. She thought over everything that Heber had said, and woke him up. "I don't do windows." she said. "Okay." replied Heber. So they got married. Now Fanny worked every day on the farm that she shared with Heber. She "thinned the beets, fed the chickens...held the sheep while Heber sheared them, churned butter" and a hundred other chores, from sunup to sundown. At night they entertained each other with jokes and stories. Fanny mended all of Heber's clothes, and some times, "when she needed a good laugh, Fanny would stitch the flaps shut on Heber's long johns, then wait to hear him hollering from the outhouse." But Heber loved her, and treated her like a princess. He even rubbed her feet and brought her hot water to soak them in. When Fanny found herself expecting, Heber was beside himself with joy. That winter, "the twins were born. Fanny washed diapers and hung them on the stove, washed diapers and hung them across the mantel, washed diapers and hung them from the doorknobs." And Heber rocked the babies, and sang while they hollered at the tops of their lungs. Once, when the boys were five, a terrible thing happened. "Davy stuck his socks in the toaster and burned the house down. " Fanny grabbed the new baby and Heber grabbed the boys and they all got out safe. "Then Fanny and Heber built the house again." Their love was that strong. And late one night, when baby number four was due, and Fanny just could not sleep, she "went out into the garden to pick a melon". She chose one, and sat down on a log, enjoying the dark and the quiet. She could see all the way into town, where the bright light's of the mayor's house sparkled. That's when she heard a voice. It said, "Sorry I'm late!" And "Fanny Agnes jumped up as her fairy godmother twinkled down. 'You poor dear, having to wait all these years!" laughed the little old woman in the glittering yellow dress. "But there's still time!" Now the fairy looked at the big melon beside Fanny, and said, "Just leave it to me! I'll fix everything!" But Fanny did not answer. Now the fairy was impatient. "Do you want to go to the ball or not?" she snapped. Fanny "looked down at her work-roughened hands. She looked at the little house" where Heber was reading to the children, and gave the fairy her answer. "Not." she said, and went inside. When Heber asked who she'd been talking to, she told him the truth. "My fairy godmother." And Heber chuckled and said, "Oh, sure! And I"m the Prince of Sahiba!' 'Close enough,' Fanny winked, 'close enough!"
From Fanny's Dream (1996) Buehner, C. & Buener M. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers
Notes: This is a great story, showing that finding your dreams can sometimes turn out to be a little bit different that what you thought! A prince of a husband is what Fanny finds, and the story evokes simpler times. Here we have no pumpkins, lizards, frogs, or birds...but there is a watermelon that plays a role. Watermelons are botanically in the same family as gourds and pumpkins, so would presumably transform as easily as pumpkins into a coach.
Montessori Connection: US Geography/Wyoming
1. Read this story and notice that it is set in Wyoming.
2. Pay attention to how Heber and Fanny spend their time, and think about what kind of a place Wyoming might be to live in.