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Little House on the Prairie Unit Study
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Chapter 3 : The Long Rifle

Every night Laura and Mary helped Pa make bullets for the next day's hunting. The bullets were made from melted lead, which was then poured into a bullet mold.  The bullets were then put in Pa's buckskin pouch. 
 
Pa cleaned his gun and re-loaded it. First he greased the inside of it. He had to use a ramrod to help clean out the inside of the gun barrel with a clean cloth.  Then he used hot boiling water to rinse it out. Pa measured the gun powder, put it in the barrel and then he shook it (to make it settle). Then Pa used a little piece of greased cloth from his patch box to put on top of the barrel. After that he put a bullet on top of the cloth. Then he had to pound it down and put a fresh cap (from his box of caps) under the hammer.
 
Pa's gun powder was kept in a  cowhorn, which was shaped kind of like a funnel. 
 
After the gun was  loaded, Pa hung it on two hooks that  were  above the door. And Pa always kept the gun loaded just in case he needed to get it fast and easy.
 
Pa's bullet pouch was always kept full of bullets when he went into the Big Woods.  The tin patch box and the box of caps were also kept in Pa's pockets.  Pa also had a small sharp hatchet and the powder horn hanging from his belt. On Pa's shoulder, loaded and ready, was his gun.
 
Pa said he had to keep his gun loaded because he did not "want  to meet trouble with an empty gun."
 
Whenever Pa killed an animal he had to reload his gun immediately. Also he had to kill an animal on the first shot, otherwise he could get killed himself. The girls didn't worry because they knew he was skilled at killing game on the first shot.
 
Pa told stories  after loading the gun.  He told The Story of Pa and the Voice in the Woods.  Pa's  father  told Pa to round up the  cows from the Big Wood and  bring them home  before dark. He was just a boy but he knew that there were bears, wolves, and panthers in the woods.  Well he left early so he thought he had some time to spare. So he started to imagine he was a mighty hunter and that he was  fighting with Indians. He got  distracted by all the animals: red squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks. The next thing he knew he heard the birds singing a good-night song. It was getting to be dusk and the cows still had to be found. Pa called and listened but didn't hear any cowbells. He  thought the trees and shadows looked strange  and scary.  Finally when he was calling for Sukey he heard a voice screech, "WHO?" and he ran scared all the way home. There were the cows, waiting to be let in. And Pa's father gave him the switch because he  didn't mind him about not playing along the way. Pa learned a good lesson that day - that no harm would come to him if he just minded his father.