Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Laura's Footsteps

Some of you may know that Laura Ingalls Wilder's series of books about her life growing up in the Midwest was my favorite back in my childhood. So I was pretty stoked when my mother-in-law suggested a trip to see the Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, the site of the book On the Banks of Plum Creek.

See, I grew up out West, and didn't really have access to the sites of Laura's story. Her family moved all around the Midwest during her early years before settling in De Smet, South Dakota.

So we took off bright and early Saturday with an eclectic mix of people in the back (a grandmother who was super excited, a daughter-in-law even more excited than the grandma, a 12-year-old boy who was strangely okay with the trip, a 9-year-old girl who was strangely angry about the trip, and an almost-5-year-old girl who is excited about everything that happens in her life). Our first stop was the museum and museum store, where they sell a darling selection of bonnets for all sizes of children and adults.

I proudly bought one, and am in fact wearing it as I compose this.B wishes I were lying, but I'm not. It's fantastic and I'm not taking it off for the rest of the night.

They had a little fair in the park with lots of crafts vendors and demonstrations of things like spinning yarn. They also had a ton of crafts for the kids to do, and even the adults joined in some of the fun. I tried my hand at making a seed art bird.

Yeah, it really didn't turn out too well.

The best part of the day was surely when we went to the site of Laura's dugout home. See, for the first half of her time in Walnut Grove they lived in a sod house dug into the hill right on the Creek. Later they built a house of wood and lived there, but the sod house is probably the most memorable part of that particular book.

Unfortunately, it doesn't exist anymore. It was made of dirt, after all, and the roof caved in quite a while ago. There is still a little depression in the hill where it was, and the new owners of the property have placed a sign to let visitors know exactly where the house was.
Luckily, Plum Creek is still there, and still in about the same condition as it was during Laura's time. I was so thrilled to be there finally! I took off my sandals and waded in and thought about all the times that I read about Laura doing the same thing, with her bonnet hanging loose off her shoulders so that Ma would have to scold her. Of course, I had pictured the creek a bit differently when I was reading, so I'll probably have to change up my perception of things the next time I read it (which may be soon). I also enjoyed the beautiful prairie grass and the wide open sky. It was really fun to stand in Laura's footsteps and wonder what this place looked like to her.

Isn't it beautiful? What a great place to have a childhood.


  1. That bonnet better make a showing at the wedding.

  2. Dude. We used to go there all the time when we were kids (its kind of on the way home from my dad's hometown) and it is really neat to hang out there.

  3. I always envisioned Plum Creek as wider, with sparkling blue sun dappled water. This looks a bit... overgrown. And shallow. So in retrospect, I guess I didn't visualize a creek so much as a river.

  4. Matt - I'm sure it will make an appearance... possibly late in the night.
    Amanda - I'm so jealous! You should've seen how freakin' excited I was on this trip! And you've done this multiple times, you whore?
    Kate - Ha ha, you were thinking river. Actually, I got the depth and width right when I was picturing it but I didn't know there were so many trees around. Now we know, eh?