Tuesday, April 17, 2007


My Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour (Part 1)

Recently my friend Paddy mentioned that he had read "The Long Winter". He has three kids so I thought perhaps they might have something to do with it. Not at all. In fact, he found the book in the coolest way: He was reading the book "Fifty Degrees Below" by Kim Stanley Robinson
and one of the main characters refers to The Long Winter as they are stuck in some serious winter. So Paddy picked up TLW book and enjoyed it. (Which in turn makes me want to buy 50 Degrees Below book and read it. Books are cool.)

I mentioned to Paddy that I am a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books and that I had even gone on a road trip through Minnesota and South Dakota in 1998 along Highway 14:

(You know I love a good road trip and have been DWP for a many years.)

I threatened him with a blog post about it and so here we are.

We interrupt this blog for a very important announcement.

Let's get one thing clear before I begin this post (or series of posts).

You know how there are "Trekkies" and "Trekkers"? Maybe that's a bad example. Okay, with Laura Ingalls Wilder, there is her series of books based on her life and then there is the tv show. One has almost nothing to do with the other. You might already know that I'm a stickler for the difference and that when I talk about "Little House" I am NEVER talking about the tv show.
(I know--so cranky!)

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I started just south of Minneapolis, visiting a friend in Northfield. I took the I-35 south to Highway 14 and headed west. I drove through Mankato, stopping for breakfast, and then Sleepy Eye, stopping for a diet coke. Between Sleepy Eye and Walnut Grove there was a farm advertising their homestead and sod house re-creations and restored acre of prairie with native prairie grasses. (True prairies are a rare thing these days.) I stopped in and am so glad I did.

The people on the farm had built three buildings representing houses built on the prairies in the latter half of the 1800s. One was a traditional sod house seen here:

The great plains and prairies were grasslands -- no trees. There was very little wood to build with and you had to be rich to buy and haul boards to build a house. So sod it was. And sod was not bad as it kept you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. But a sod house also means a sod floor (click to make bigger):

And have I mentioned yet how small this house is? It's about the size of a bedroom in your house. And generally sheltered large families.

The other houses on the site were a much larger sod house (about 2 times the size as this one) with a wood roof and glass windows -- a very rich person's house. And a tiny shanty. TINY. Like the size of your bathroom.

While there I met a family from Maryland, mom and dad and two girls. Mom was a teacher and they took pictures of me for me at the sod houses. We chatted a little bit then ended up sitting and talking together more at Walnut Grove an hour or so later. My historicial geek factor shines at times like these since I was a woman traveling alone to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder historical sites. "Do you have kids? Are you a teacher?" Ah, no. Just love this stuff.

To be continued...

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