We must build a stable for the horses,” Pa said. “It won’t always be warm enough for them to stay outdoors and a bad storm might come even in sum- mer. They must have shelter.”
“Ellen too, Pa?” Laura asked.
“Cattle are better off outdoors in the summer,” Pa told her. “But I like to have horses in a stable at night.”
Laura held boards for Pa. She handed him tools and brought nails while he built the stable, at the west of the house against the little hill. It would be sheltered there on the west and the north, when the cold winter winds were blowing.
The days were warm. Mosquitoes came out of the Big Slough at sundown and sang their high, keen song all night as they swarmed around Ellen, biting her and sucking the blood until she ran around and around on her picket rope. They went into the stable and bit the horses until they pulled at their halters and stamped. They came into the claim shanty and bit everyone there until great blotches raised on faces and hands.
Their singing and the sting of their bites made night a torment.
“This will never do,” Pa said. “We must have mosquito bar on the windows and door.”
“It’s the Big Slough,” Ma complained. “The mosquitoes come from there. I wish we were farther away from it.”
But Pa liked the Big Slough. “There are acres and acres of hay there, that anyone can have for the cutting,” he told Ma. “No one will ever take up homesteads in the Big Slough. There is only upland hay on our place, but with the Big Slough so near, we can always cut hay there and have all we need.
“Besides, all the prairie grass is full of mosquitoes too. I’ll go to town today and get some mosquito bar.”
Pa brought yards of pink mosquito bar from town and strips of lumber to make a frame for a screen door.
While he made the door, Ma tacked mosquito bar over the windows. Then she tacked it to the door frame and Pa hung the screen door.
That night he built a smudge of old, damp grass, so the smoke would drift before the stable door. Mosquitoes would not go through the smoke.
Pa made another smudge so Ellen could stand in its smoke and she went at once and stayed there.
Pa made sure there was no dry grass near the smudges and built them up so they would last all night.
“There!” he said, “I guess that fixes the mosquitoes.”