Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Glittering Cloud

Hearing about the locust plague-to-be in western NSW on the radio this morning made me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder's brilliant description of the grasshopper plague ( actually, Rocky Mountain locusts ) that beset the family in On The Banks Of Plum Creek.

A cloud was over the sun. It was not like any cloud they had ever seen before.  It was a cloud of something like snowflakes, but they were larger than snowflakes, and thin and glittering. Light shone through each glittering particle. 
There was no wind. The grasses were still and the hot air did not stir, but the edge of the cloud came on across the sky faster than wind. The hair stood up on Jack's neck. All at once he made a frightful sound up at that cloud, a growl and a whine.
Plunk! something hit Laura's head and fell to the ground. She looked down and saw the largest grasshopper she had ever seen.  Then huge brown grasshoppers were hitting the ground all around her, hitting her head and her face and her arms. They came thudding down like hail.
The cloud was hailing grasshoppers. The cloud was grasshoppers. Their bodies hid the sun and made darkness.  Their thin, large wings gleamed and glittered. The rasping whirring of their wings filled the whole air and they hit the ground and the house with the noise of a hailstorm.

Say what you like about questions of  authenticity and the  political incorrectness of the Little House books, Laura writes good, clear descriptive prose.

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