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Picture of Dorothy Fry ArbuckleDorothy Fry Arbuckle
1910 - 1982

Hoosier Connection: Dorothy Fry Arbuckle moved to northwestern Indiana as a young woman with her family. She would later become the town librarian in Lake Village, Indiana.

Works Discussed: The After-Harvest Festival: The Story of a Girl of the Old Kankakee and Andy’s Dan’l Boone Rifle

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 Marsh.” The 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, but he sees 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 with 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 Boone Rifle, Andy Ritter, a twelve-year-old boy and his family decide to settle in the swampland of northwestern Indiana in 1833. After a year of living there and watching their crops continually flooded out in the sandy land, they eventually make the move to a prairie with its black loam soil. When Andy’s 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, and mosquitoes big enough to carry you off” (62). None of this dissuaded the family, as they cleared a path and settled there. One passage in particular 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 prairie flowers--bright clumps of phlox and meadow lilies--bloomed colorfully amid the green vegetation (201).

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, bobcats, panthers, beavers, swans, and many types of ducks. Several times when mentioning the animals, Arbuckle makes it a point to refer to their abundance.

Today, the populations of the animals mentioned are dwindling, and a few are extinct. When passenger pigeons are first mentioned in The After Harvest Festival, “the 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 the endangered species list, 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 species list. 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, blackberries, burr oaks, elm 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 time the book began until the very end.



Arbuckle, 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.

Banta, RE. Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816-1916. Crawfordsville, IN: Wabash College UP, 1949.


Passenger Pigeons

Whooping Cranes

Great Marsh

Kankakee Sands