Monday, August 5, 2013

A visit to Little House on the Prairie

A visit to Little House on the Prairie.

I am a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and have visited many of the homes she has lived in.  I have been to the Pepin, WI house, where Laura was born.  The Spring Valley, MN church were Laura and Almanzo attended church.  The Burr Oak, Iowa home that operated as a hotel for pioneers on their way westward and where Grace was born.  Last year, my kids and I visited De Smet, South Dakota were most of her books take place and the entire Ingalls family is buried there except Laura, Almanzo and Rose.

 Last week I was finally able to visit her dugout home on Plum Creek in Walnut Grove, Minnesota and attend a play based on her life here. A dream come true!  Every Little House fan knows the TV show was based here in Walnut Grove and the stars from the show visit here every few years.

We arrived in Walnut Grove on a Saturday afternoon.  We were camping nearby at Lake Shetek state park.  The weather was cool and cloudy.  In the city park there was a festival going on with a Laura and Nellie look alike contest.  Girls had to be under 12 and answer questions about the books. There were girls who had traveled from all around Wisconsin and Minnesota but also girls who had traveled from NewYork, Louisiana and Taiwan.  Most of them wore braids and carried books and a lunch pail.

We visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in town.  Georgia and I went in and toured a small town that looked similar to how it looked when Laura was alive.  There was a school house, an outhouse, a church, a jail and more as well as memorabilia from Laura, Rose, the Ingalls family as well as memorabilia from the TV show.

Did you know Rose Wilder, Laura's daughter, was a writer too?  She published in lots of publications like Woman's Day and The Saturday Evening Post.  There are picture of magazine covers with her name on it and actual letters written to Laura about her books.

The school house was my favorite for obvious reasons (I'm a teacher)  Posted within the school house was Rules for Teachers in 1915 and 1872 and if you can read them they are kinda funny and really strict.  Glad I wasn't a teacher back then.  Female teachers were forbidden to marry or even loiter in ice cream shops.  Forbidden to wear bright colors and many
other interesting rules.

My daughter Georgia and I, with our dog Titus, enjoying a photo opportunity outside of the museum.  Life was so different back then.  Driving the roads it was interesting to think about walking or riding in a wagon behind horses as a means of travel.  Travel in Laura's day took a long time.  In On the Banks of Plum Creek, Pa walked to Mankato, some 100 miles away.  WOW.

After the museum we drove to the site of the Ingall's dugout  on the banks of Plum Creek about 2 miles down the road.  It costs 5 dollars to enter the farm where the dugout used to stand.  The Ingalls family lived in the dugout for a year or so and then built a small house on the property.  They lived on this site about four years.  Pa sold it for about 400 dollars after  plagues of grasshoppers destroyed his crop and a praire fire almost destroyed his house.  After Pa sold the property they moved to Burr Oak, Iowa for about a year, then they moved back to Walnut Grove for a year and then they left to settle in De Smet, South Dakota where they remained until their deaths.

Here is Plum Creek and you can see the sign where the dugout used to be.  It has caved in but the big sign stands on the actual site and you can see the beautiful prairie grasses and flowers all along the top of the hill.  My daughter and I took the opportunity to wade in Plum Creek, so we took off our socks and shoes and walked in Laura's footsteps so to speak.  There is my foot in Plum Creek!  So cool. ( I know I am totally geeking out right now).

My daughter, Georgia and I also climbed on top of the "Big Rock" which plays a prominent role in her book.  Nellie gets her dress wet and the big crab lived underneath and bit the people who waded there.

The last picture is a photo of the Minnesota prairie by the dugout.  It is so beautiful.

Walnut Grove puts on a outdoor play of Laura's book On The Banks of Plum Creek in July on the weekends.  We were lucky enough to get to see the last play/pageant of the year, called Fragments of a Dream in the 5th row.  It is held outdoors beginning at sunset and it lasts for about 2 hours.  It was pretty amazing.  The have special effects including the actual building of a church, a prairie fire and more.  There is singing and dancing, covered wagons and lots of fights between Willie and Nellie.  My daughter loved it, even though it was super cold outside for July.  The temperature was around 60 degrees.  We snuggled up in our sleeping bags and blankets.

Below are pictures from the set of the outdoor pageant.  One is of the Olson Mercantile and the other of the dugout.  The set of the play was awesome and the acting was great too.

Have you been to any of the Laura Ingall's Wilder houses??
I have two more houses left to visit.  The Independence, Kansas house and the Mansfield, Missouri house.  I would also like to visit the Wilder farm in Malone, New York.  So five houses down and 3 more to go.  I can't wait.  Maybe next year I will get to Kansas and Missouri?  Road trip anyone?