'What is this titular "award"?' is a question I'm sure anyone reading this will be asking herself. Lemme fill you in, Miss-Beadle-Brings-Da-Damn-Drama style:
And it's not even abridged! Q: So, how does one get in on possibly winning this award? A: A very comprehensive test will take place in three weeks. The student with the best grade will be awarded this very fine dictionary.
Mary starts studying like a child obsessed. She even borrows a classy-looking American history textbook from Miss Beadle's personal collection. Day and night, Mary studies. One Friday evening, Mary's lamplight annoys Laura late into the night. Mary pretends to go to bed, only to sneak out to the barn to keep reading after Laura falls back to sleep.
What's Rule #1 of being an Ingalls kid? Come on, guys, chime in. No, not "cash on the barrel", but that's a good one. No matches. That's right!
Mary falls asleep, slumping sideways over Miss Beadle's fancy book. She stretches her legs and - oh no! She's kicked over the lantern! Fire everywhere!
Ma runs outside to get the animals out of the barn, while Mary and Laura bring buckets of water. Once the crisis is handled, Mary confesses that it's her fault that the barn caught fire.
Ma's heard enough. Mary can forget that examination! She is to tell Miss Beadle that she won't be participating tomorrow at school. I don't remember Laura ever being so lippy - maybe it's because Pa's in Mankato on official Hansen mill business and she thinks she can get away with it - but she starts heckling Ma because "tomorrow is Saturday".
In the morning, Mary rakes up the burnt hay - and finds Miss Beadle's history book, burnt to death, under the rubble! OH NO!
After church on Sunday, Ma stays to talk to the Rev. She lost her temper with Mary. And she NEVER loses her temper. She regrets saying that Mary can't take the examination. Rev Alden uses his manipulative authority to convince Ma that, yeah, Mary coulda died. But she didn't. By being alive, she can still be punished! Punish-ment! Punish-ment! Alden's kinda psycho. He's sure that if Ma took back the punishment, then she would be a joke to her children for the rest of forever and they'd never take her seriously again. Cuzz Alden watches a lot of Supernanny.
Monday morning Mary is still depressed about the test. Laura takes her into the mercantile to split a penny's worth of licorice. Laura still owes Mary half a penny from when Mary bought the slate pencil on the first day of school. Continuity!
Nels Oleson has a HELP WANTED sign up. Nellie can't help out in the store until after the test. I thought Nellie just heckled poor customers and ate jawbreakers whenever she was in the shop. I don't call that working. Oh well. Mary wants the job, and Nels agrees as long as Ma says it's all right.
It's OK by Ma, so Mary starts work the next day after school. Miss Beadle comes in for a pound of white sugar, and starts harassing Mary. Like threateningly: "When do you study? When do you find time to study? You haven't answered my question yet." Mary starts using her work time to read the schoolbooks for sale in the mercantile.
Mary plans to disobey Ma and take the test, so she can avoid telling the Bead that her history book got cremated. By the time the test is over, Mary will have her mercantile money and be able to buy a new copy.
Now it's montage time! Mary works, and does chores, and studies in an endless cycle of time. Mary gets paid the day before the test and buys the history book to replace Miss Beadle's. Ma finds Mary's leftover 50¢ piece from the mercantile, and, unaware that Mary had already spent $1 on the textbook, thinks that Nels Oleson is running some kind of rip-off operation.
It's also test day. Mary is at rest, like a test-taking machine, while Laura badgers her: "Aren't you coming?" as the non-test-taking students leave the classroom.
Ma decides to take the eggs into town to sell at the mercantile, and slip some derogatory remarks about Nels's cheapskate character in at the same time. Nels doesn't take the bait, which he easily could have. If I were him, I would called for Harriet and had her lay Ma out with a hard right hand, but whatev.
After leaving the mercantile, Ma notices Laura sitting on the school steps while the other kids enjoy recess. She asks where Mary is, and Laura tells her. Ma storms up the stairs. Ma, no. This will embarrass Mary in front of all the smart, promising kids in the class! It's gonna be hard enough on her when she needs to get glasses soon! Don't make it worse!
Ma looks into the classroom, unnoticed, and sees Mary writing on her test paper. She quietly leaves, saying nothing to Laura as she passes her on the way out.
So, the test has been graded, and Miss Beadle is about to announce the winner. Here's the deal: like 20 girls took the test. And one guy. Who won the very fine dictionary, pictured at the top of this post? Arnold whoever. Niiiice. Mary runs from the classroom.
Miss Beadle tells Laura to stay after class. She drives Laura home in her buggy. Ma comes out to meet them. Miss Beadle shows Ma Mary's test, which is a note to Miss Beadle saying that she can't take the test. Aw, Ma is so proud. But - where is Mary?
Laura watches Carrie at home, while Ma looks for Mary. She finds her in a field, and they run toward each other and hug.
That's kinda cheesy, even for Little House on the Prairie.
And, to make up for no Pa in this one, here's a delicious picture:Yeeeah.