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Am I the Asshole?: Prairie Edition

Walnut Grove, Minn.-Harriet Oleson, proprietor of Oleson’s Mercantile, recently wrote to The Prairie Review to defend a recommendation she recently made to a customer that left some in town thinking less than desirably of her actions. Here’s what Harriet had to say:

Several days ago I spotted that big old farmer, Jonathan Garvey, in the Mercantile eyeing up a dress. Well, it’s just one of the most beautiful dresses we have ever carried, fit for only the finest folks to wear. Of course, fine goods come at high cost, and there are two things I refuse to be flexible on: the price of the goods we carry and the extension of credit. Well, when I overheard my husband offer to work something out with that farmer to buy this beautiful dress for his wife for their anniversary, I knew I couldn’t let it happen for so many reasons. There is no way we could depend on a farmer to pay back all that money. Why, they are so unpredictable, what with the crops failing, catastrophic weather events, and fires and so forth–why, there’s always some reason they aren’t able to pay their bills. Not to mention, when would a woman like Alice Garvey ever wear such a fine garment? Certainly not while she does all that manual labor. Anyway, I thought I had the perfect solution. We have just the most wonderful hams–a perfect gift for a farmer’s wife. Of course, the fifteenth wedding anniversary is a big deal, so I reported the anniversary and the proposed gift in my newspaper column, “Harriet’s Happenings.” Well, Mr. Garvey acted like my little announcement was the worst thing in the world, and of course my husband thinks it isn’t tactful. AITA for suggesting that Mr. Garvey buy his wife a ham for their wedding anniversary?

Well, there you have it! Let’s see what the folks of Walnut Grove think of Harriet’s predicament:

Caroline Ingalls: Harriet is certainly TA for printing that gossip in her column. Why, that woman has nothing nice to say about anyone ever. You should have heard what she said about my eggs this week! It’s like she can’t appreciate a good double yolk. Anyway, while I definitely think Harriet is out of line as usual, I also know what it’s like to live with little money. Has Jonathan thought about making something for Alice? Charles carved such a beautiful mantlepiece with our initials on it. Maybe their fireplace could use something like that! It really keeps the fire in the relationship.

Mrs. Foster: Why I should say Harriet is TA! Who does she think she is, printing a gossip column? I remember when the only way people got their gossip was from me. I read all the mail, you know, and I’m not afraid to use what I know! Why, pretty soon I’m going to be obsolete thanks to that woman and her column. She must be stopped!

Laura Ingalls: ESH. Harriet’s column is terrible and someone needs to get back at her for that, but Jonathan sucks for wanting to spend all that money they don’t even have on some fancy dress. It’s like what my Pa always says between requesting lines of credit: cash on the barrel!

Charles Ingalls: As much as I hate to stick up for that woman and I don’t even want to comment on that column of hers, I don’t think she’s totally TA for steering Jonathan away from that dress. If I learned anything from that time I thought I was going to inherit a bunch of money and bought all that stuff on credit before finding out I actually had no money coming in, cash on the barrel is more important than ever. It sure was nice of the town to bail me out that time, but frankly, I don’t think I could extend the same courtesy with how tight things have been lately. What am I supposed to do when he can’t pay for that dress and Harriet puts his farm up at auction? Does he really expect the entire town to band together, block the road to keep outsiders from coming in, and then buy all of this stuff for pennies? That’s the kind of thing that this town can get away with once, and luckily they used that one time on bailing me out. 

Andrew Garvey: Does this mean we’re having ham on Sunday?

Nellie Oleson: NTA. These farmers are so ignorant. They don’t even know what they need until someone tells them.

Judd Larabee: Harriet is NTA! Jonathan Garvey is! Maybe a good fire will teach him a lesson!

Mrs. Whipple: Harriet, you are TA! Instead of suggesting a ham, you should have suggested the more affordable route of buying some material and having me make a dress for Alice. I would even throw some donuts in!