Thursday, June 21, 2012

And Finally, The Detour On The Way Home

While we were considering this trip, I realized that we wouldn't be terribly far from the Laura Ingalls Wilder home in Mansfield, MO.

I've always been a big fan of the Little House series, and also have a number of other books written by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Her children's books are classics - and one mark of a children's classic is that it is interesting to adults as well as to children.  I've read her work many, many times - and not only as a child.  I've also read many of her adult essays, written as columns for the local newspaper.

The first possible goal was to go to the site of where her later books were set - De Smet, SD.  (By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Hard Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years.)  But MapQuest showed that it would be an additional four hours north, in addition to the eighteen we had already driven.  And that doesn't count the four to return.  That's when the idea for going to the Missouri site - where she lived her adult years and where she actually wrote the books - percolated and came to pass.

Mike was a trouper.  He was still flying high about going to the CWS, and yet he took his wife out of the way, the next day, to the site where one of her favorite childhood authors lived.  Kind of an unusual combination of destinations for one trip.  We drove hard all day in order to get there in time.  I got there just in time for one of the tours, so our timing was perfect.

Here we are on the front porch of the Wilders' home.

Below is the best picture I got of the house.  Almanzo Wilder built this house room by room.  They lived in the small kitchen as a one-room house until they had the money to start adding rooms.  They had lived such a difficult life as pioneers that this was no hardship for them.

The pictures are only of the exterior as no pictures were allowed on the inside.  Postcards were available.

The house was built throughout the 20th century as they added rooms.  Laura died in 1957, several years after Almanzo, so they have both been gone for 54 years.  The linoleum in the kitchen has been replaced, as have all the curtains in the house.  And the wallpaper in two rooms has been replaced, but has been matched exactly to be what the Wilders had put up originally.  Other than that, everything in the home is original.  It was such a treat to see Laura's dishes, her table linens, bedroom, books, needlework, and the clock Almanzo bought her for their first Christmas (still running).

This is the porch off the kitchen (the first room built).  You can't really see it to the right, but there is a small lean-to built to accommodate the refrigerator.  When they finally purchased one (after their daughter had installed electricity in the house), it turned out to be too big for the place they had planned to put it in the small room.  So, rather than return it, Almanzo just built a little "addition" to the kitchen and put the refrigerator in that little alcove.  He was quite the innovator.

Me outside the side screened-in porch - not the same porch as the one above.  This one is on the left of the picture of the house above.
 The town of Mansfield was a pretty typical southern town.  They have capitalized on the Wilder connection - don't remember exactly the names, but several retail establishments were named after Wilder associations.  (Seems like there was a Ma's Bakery.)  And above is a mural of the town painted on the side of one of the downtown buildings - showcasing the main local attraction.

There was a museum next to the house that included many mementos of the Ingalls and Wilder families, including Pa's fiddle.  About half of it was dedicated to the life of Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter. Her life was not as interesting to me as Laura's, so I skipped over that part fairly quickly.

We left the town and drove to Jonesboro, Arkansas, where we spent the night.  The Ozarks of Arkansas were also what I would describe as "tired-looking," but then we got to the flatlands, and that area was much nicer.  We did not know that Arkansas is the leading rice producer in the United States, but certainly know it now - the route led through the most productive area of the state, and we saw rice field after field.

It was a great trip, and seeing the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home in Mansfield, Missouri, was truly a highlight for me.


Barbara H. said...

How fun! I had just read about this house earlier in the year.

I'm not enough of a fan to plan a trip there, but if I am ever near it, like you were, I'd love to visit it.

Ann said...

Barbara, I knew you would enjoy reading about it. :-)