Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I've got my sunbonnet hanging down my back...

And if you recognize that allusion, you too read the Little House books!

Why do I mention a sunbonnet, which in my not-so-girly fashion sense, I would never wear?

When planning our summer vacation this summer to the Black Hills, my husband made sure we go to the Little House sites in Walnut Grove/Plum Creek and De Smet on our way. MAJOR bonus points for him.

Our first stop was Walnut Grove. Confession: I was never that into the TV show. I had college friends who would expound on various plots, but honestly, the only stories I remember from the TV show were the one where the Olesons got indoor plumbing and where Laura met Almanzo ("Manly!"). Still, I enjoyed the museum, which had photos, period antiques, some belonging to Laura, and a HUGE room dedicated to the TV show, which my boys loved most of all.

I learned a lot here too. For instance, the Ingalls had a son, who died in infancy. The family also lived in Burr Oak, Iowa, in between Walnut Grove and De Smet. That story was a wee bit sordid--they all worked in a hotel, a woman in town volunteered to adopt Laura, and the family snuck out of town in the middle of the night. There's a reason the books are labelled fiction, I guess.

Walnut Grove also had a replica town with period buildings, many of which were built by local students, which I loved. People who say today's students are inferior, one hearty raspberry to you!*

The boys loved the toy room in Grandma's house.

The dugout is not the original one, but it is the original size. It SMELLED. No wonder Ma was so happy to live in a wooden house above ground.

This was a favorite for the boys. There was a sample town where the kids could play storekeeper, postal worker, etc. My boys liked the phone box:

That's phone booth to old folks like me who actually remember them.

We also enjoyed the gift shop. The boys got marbles, and I got a postcard that I don't intend to send and this book:
*image obviously courtesy of Amazon.

The Wilder Life
, which I enjoyed reading the rest of vacation. If you're a Laura fangirl, you should read this.

After the museum, we drove a mile across the railroad tracks that the Ingalls later rode (hee!) to find the original site of the dugout and Plum Creek:


I apologize, but I got seriously verklempt here. Seeing the creek where Laura played, thinking about where the family lived and what they did here...I don't know, it just hit me hard. I'm not sure why.

The original dugout had collapsed, but here's where it was:

It was SMALL. I couldn't fit our couch in it lengthwise. And a family of five lived here. Maybe this is why I love the books so much: they make me appreciate my life today even more.

We drove the Laura Ingalls Wilder Highway (14) west, following the train tracks that Pa was involved in getting built, until we got to De Smet, where we visited Ingalls Homestead.

This site was pricey but worth every penny. My boys LOVED it. So much was hands on. They ground seed wheat into flour, shucked corn, and made jump ropes.

They rode ponies and drove the wagon to school.

Best of all? Dogs could go EVERYWHERE. That includes inside buildings, even the gift shop.

We stayed a few hours, driving through the Big Slough on our way out, which left mud splatters that took a day to wash off. *Sigh!*

That night we got to Pierre to spend the night, where we saw a lot of this:

Sandbags. Severe flooding last month, which had mostly receded, except for the flood plains, which unfortunately included some businesses. The Wide Missouri was wider due to the floods.

More tomorrow about the rest of our trip, which included another life goal for me: the Badlands!

*This phrase I have rampantly stolen from Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, from the forward of one of his books. I use it often.


Brenda Johnston said...

I loved seeing all of these pictures! I am reading this series to my girls right now (currently in the middle of "The Long Winter.") I would love to take my kids here sometime!

Jennifer Larson said...

Oh, Brenda, that book is my favorite! At the homestead, they show you how to twist hay sticks.

DanaMK said...

Oh my goodness! What an awesome stop! I read all the Little House books when I was young but now I have the urge to re-read them. We're planning on going to the Black Hills next summer and this would be very cool to see!

alisonm said...

You are a girl after my own heart! I would have been choked up too, no idea why except I am the most emotional person in the world. What a great experience for the boys!

Gina Lideros said...

looks like you had a great time, good job on getting all those pics!

Keshet said...

LOVE seeing this pics, Jenny!

GLOANN said...

You've made me want to reread those wonderful books and to make this same trip. Loved reading about it. thanks.

malwa said...

Oh, I *so* envy you! I read, and re-read, the books as a girl and that past months I've read them to my ten-years-old. And she'd *love* to go there to, I'm sure. But it's a little long for a weekend trip when you live in northern Europe... ;)

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