“Are you sitting down?” my husband asked over the phone a few months ago.
“Is something wrong?” I answered, panicking slightly.
Daniel and I usually communicate via text or google chat during the day, so I was curious to see what kind of news merited a phone call.
“No, it’s good news. Just…you should probably sit down. I found out that the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota is going to be on the way during our road trip. You can stay on the homestead and learn about the Little House family and then spend the night in a covered wagon.”
It’s a good thing I was sitting down.
My husband knows me well and has heard all my confessions about my childhood obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder, my girlhood woe that I wasn’t born in pioneer days, and the era in which I wore black lace-up Laura-esque boots between the ages of 8-10. As my often-embarrassed older brother will attest, they were not the fashion. But I loved them with a burning passion, hot as the prairie sun.
I don’t know what exactly made me fall in love with the Little House books. There was adventure aplenty for the Ingalls, but I think it was a combination of the strong sense of home wherever their family might be and the usefulness and value Laura had, even as a child, in her family. All of her work mattered for the family’s survival and that was incredibly attractive as I read the stories as a little girl. It felt empowering.
As our family just closed a chapter of our lives in Florida to pursue a new adventure in Texas, I’ve drawn inspiration from the Ingalls family leaving their home in the big woods of Wisconsin to start a new life on the prairie.
A couple of weeks into our road trip, we made it to De Smet and visited the homestead. It was all I dreamed it would be. This was the homestead that the Ingalls claimed in On the Shores of Silver Lake where they finally settled.
While I’d read Little House in the Big Woods to my six- and three-year-old a year ago, it didn’t seem to really spark their imagination the way I hoped it would. But visiting the homestead did the trick. They loved making rope and corn cob dolls. Driving a wagon and visiting a school house. Exploring the running around the homestead, riding horses, and learning about the Ingalls.
My girls had beautiful little bonnets made lovingly by my friend Nell to wear around the homestead and they made my heart go pitter patter.
We slept in a covered wagon and out there under the stars, it was like all my prairie girl dreams came true.
The kids hated to leave and have been hooked on the Little House audiobooks ever since. Daniel surprised me with a copy of Wilder’s recently published autobiography, Pioneer Girl, complete with oodles of fascinating annotations. It’s heavenly.
As we begin a new adventure with this move, I’m glad to have this sweet memory and childhood dream fulfilled.
Any other pioneer girl wannabes in the house? Let’s chat about Laura in the comments.