Dorothy Fry was born in Eldred, Illinois, in 1910 to William
and Sylvia Fry. She attended Northwestern and Illinois Universities
in hopes of becoming a journalist. Unfortunately, she was unable
to finish her schooling due to the Great Depression and personal
illness. Her family then made the move from Illinois to Indiana;
it was in the latter state that she met her husband, Lloyd Arbuckle.
Dorothy Arbuckle was a librarian, author of two children’s
books, and a composer of church hymns.
Arbuckle wrote books for children about northwestern
Indiana, specifically the area that was known as the “Great
area spanned from South Bend in North Central Indiana,
over to the Illinois
border. The Great Marsh includes the Kankakee River, and
numerous wetlands and prairie ecosystems
were encompassed in the marsh.
Today, most of the ecosystems are lost, leaving behind
only fragments of their existence. Apparently, when Arbuckle
first moved to
Indiana, she began a friendship with an elderly neighbor
who told Arbuckle
about pioneer Indiana.
In Arbuckle’s first book, The After-Harvest
Festival, a 12
year-old girl, Paris LaCroix, lives in the middle of
the Great Marsh in 1863. Her father is a trapper, and the
book tells of the
adventures the family has while living in the pristine
wilderness of Indiana. The text describes the father’s discovery as
he tried to find a place to build a house for his family: “He
found the swampland still full of wild animals and inhabited only
by the remnants of Miamis and Potawatomis and a few traders who
were brave enough to live there” (7). Throughout the story,
Mr. LaCroix speaks about society taking advantage of the abundance
of wild animals: “It was the same story with the deer, which
were gradually disappearing. Pappa was so angry when he saw two
loads of dead deer pass through in one day…” (30).
Later in the story Mr. LaCroix points out to his
family how deer would congregate in herds of four to five hundred,
how their numbers have lessened over time. At one point
in the narrative, he contemplates whether he should remain
a trapper. The animals he hunts are becoming scarcer, and
he is fed up
people taking advantage of the seemingly endless populations
of ducks, deer, and even raccoons. In another passage
he laments the
killing of a “wagonload” of swans. Already
in pioneer Indiana the imprint of humankind was evident.
In Andy’s Dan’l
Andy Ritter, a twelve-year-old boy and his family decide to
settle in the swampland
Indiana in 1833. After a year of living there and
watching their crops continually flooded out in the sandy land,
eventually make the move to a prairie with its black loam soil.
family first arrives, the father describes the land: “the
giant blue stem and bull grass was over our heads. It
swarmed with yellow-headed flies, buffalo gnats,
big enough to
carry you off” (62). None of this dissuaded
the family, as they cleared a path and settled there.
describes the activity of the surrounding land:
The tall waving grasses made Andy slightly
sick. As he watched the giant bluestem sway lazily back and forth,
back and forth,
with the breeze, his stomach felt bottomless.
Pinnated grouse and prairie chickens ran through the
grasses, frightened from their nests
by the intruders. Whooping
cranes, with wide wings seeming too
clumsy for flight, rose into the air. Showy patches of
clumps of phlox and meadow lilies--bloomed
colorfully amid the green vegetation
Many animals native to Indiana are mentioned throughout
both of Arbuckle’s
books: wild hogs, buffalos, bald eagles, herons, whooping
cranes, wolves, possums, wild turkeys,
beavers, swans, and many types of ducks.
Several times when mentioning the animals,
Arbuckle makes it a point
to their abundance.
Today, the populations of the animals mentioned are
dwindling, and a few are extinct. When passenger
pigeons are first mentioned
drone of many wings was so loud now that the very sound seemed
to shake the cabin” (78).
The passenger pigeon was thought of as the most plentiful bird
in the country, blacking out the sky for several days as it
migrated. Today the bird is extinct.
In Andy’s Dan’l Boone Rifle, a cloud of whooping
cranes darkened the sky as they took off. Today,
whooping cranes are on
and at one point only sixteen
were in existence. Later in the
novel, Andy and his Indian friend,
Little Wolf, go
beaver hunting and see the beavers “swarming” in
every direction. That day they
bagged twenty beavers. The ducks seemed
to “carpet” a lake. Other
animals that Arbuckle includes
in her novels, such as the panther and
American Bison (commonly called “buffalo”),
are no longer found in Indiana.
Also, the bobcat is on the endangered
The hand of society has left
an imprint, not only on the land,
but on the animals of Indiana as well.
Throughout both books, Arbuckle mentions many plants that are
native to Indiana such as ginseng, huckleberries, dewberries,
trees, cherry trees, and willows. In each story, the author made
sure to include information
about pioneering the Indiana wilderness, the plants and animals
that were found there, and how the landscape changed from the
Dorothy Fry. The After-Harvest Festival;
the story of a girl of the old Kankakee. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1955.
---. Andy's Dan'l Boone Rifle.
Lake Village, IN: The Villager, 1966.
RE. Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816-1916. Crawfordsville,
IN: Wabash College UP, 1949.