Saturday, May 01, 2010

Little House on the Prairie

Did you love reading about Laura and Mary when you were younger? I did. I hesitated to start reading them to my boys, thinking the main characters being girls might not make it interesting. They loved it! The stories about living in the wilderness and on a farm and such captured their attention. We quickly read Little House in the Big Woods and started Little House on the Prairie. Then Dinoguy decided I was going to slow and read the whole thing himself. It became comical because he started telling us what was going to happen when I started reading. When we finished that one, I asked if they wanted to read more or stop, and they wanted to keep going. So we started on On the Banks of Plum Creek. (Yes, I skipped Farmer Boy b/c it's about a completely different set of characters, I figured we'd come back to it.) Dinoguy again read the whole thing and seemed to not care if I read it out loud after that because he'd read the whole story himself. I guess I'll have to start hiding the books I'm reading out loud if I want it to be any kind of surprise to him. :D (Really, I'm thrilled by his enthusiastic approach to reading. It's so heartwarming to see him engrossed in books.)

So when I looked up Little House on the Prairie on the internet on a whim and realized it was not that far away (in southeastern Kansas), I became excited and started planning a trip. Of course I wanted to visit all of the sites, and it quickly turned into a month long exodus that was exciting to me, but impractical for our family for a number of reasons. But the Little House on the Prairie site was so near... and I had a friend who lived even closer than me that I could visit as well! So after a lovely visit with my dear friend. (Photos eventually I hope!) we headed home with the detour thru Kansas. (I had originally planned to head to the cabin first before going to my friends' but had such a late start that day that it wasn't feasible. It turned out to be a blessing too, since tornados touched down in that area that day and we would have been possibly caught in that weather!)

So apparently you can look up the Ingalls family in the 1870 census in Missouri. I did, because I love love love looking at censuses. Fascinating glimpses into another world. Yes, if you look at the image, you might notice that Laura is only 3. She simplified all the family moves in her book series. Her memories from the first book are actually from when they moved back to Wisconsin after leaving Kansas. (And they actually went to Kansas from Missouri). Baby Carrie was actually born in Kansas, not in Wisconsin. (Which explains why she seems to stay a baby forever!) 

Anyway, some people did some research and located the actual site the cabin had been built on, and built a replica. You can see the hand dug well (though its covered up). The cabin is SMALL and had low hanging cross beams. But they were careful to build the replica pretty close to what is described in the book, down to the rope latch. This delighted both boys to try out. They also felt I should be able to identify all the old farm tools hanging on the walls. When I couldn't, it was more evidence to them that I don't know everything like I should apparently. They announced to the hostess in the gift shop that their Dad knows more than their Mom.

The site owners have added an old one room school house and post office to the site. The wind was blowing and there were prairie grasses across the street that made it easy for me to imagine Laura running around in them. The gift shop in the more modern farm house had a wonderful hostess who was glad to talk to us and provide the boys with their souvenir hand stamps.(And they had candy for 5 cents! How fun!)

It was a fun place to stop and see. We got to discuss outhouses, which are not mentioned in the series, but something that came to mind while visiting and realizing the cabin was missing that important room. We discussed the map of the family travels, and where Kansas is in relation to Texas. The boys were thrilled to pet some goats on the farm next to the site, and Munchkin was happy to run around free after being in the car. All in all, it encouraged my desire for literary travels and we may choose to go to the Fiddle festival near their Wisconsin home one of these years. How fun would that be for the boys to participate in? If Munchkin's hair doesn't stay red, and turns brown, she could enter the Laura look alike contest too!


Chrispy said...

The census form is fascinating! I feel dumb, too... it never occurred to me that Baby Carrie was named after her mother... duh. Would you please email me the address of the Little House site if you have it? I'd love to take the kids there on one of our road trips!

mariann and Tory said...

That is way cool! I loved those books growing up!


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