I am obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. My obsession started in second grade “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” That was the first of the Little House books that I read. The first time through I did not read the Little House books in the order they were written. Instead, I read them in the order I could get them from the Our Lady of Peace Catholic School library. The books were popular and the school probably had only one or two sets, so a chronological reading was not an option.
When I was in high school I read them again, this time, in order. My younger sister had received the books as a Christmas gift, so I took advantage of their availability. I finally got my own set for my 27th birthday — a gift from my mother, who took the bait that year when I whined that she’d bought a set for my sister but not for me. So I read the books again. Later I acquired “A Little House Sampler” and “Little House in the Ozarks,” featuring Laura’s newspaper and magazine writing from the early 1900s.
In the mid-1990s I started reading the Little House books to my son and daughter, indoctrinating the next generation with the stories of a Wisconsin farm girl nicknamed Half-Pint. We shared the stories before bedtime and during our own travels to Wisconsin to visit my family on the farm. The kids must not have minded the indoctrination, because for Christmas 2014 they gave me “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.” It’s a well researched examination of Laura’s original and previously unpublished life story.
The pilgrimages started in 1998, when we all went to Mansfield, Missouri, to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum on her own Rocky Ridge Farm. In 2004 we found our way to Pepin, Wisconsin, and the reconstructed cabin at the site of the original Little House in the Big Woods. (Here I am in the Pepin Little House doorway.) In 2006 we made it to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and De Smet, South Dakota, additional Little House sites. We even attended the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in De Smet, a re-enactment of the book “These Happy Golden Years.” (Lon, you’ve been a good sport through it all.)
I’m not sure why I am so enamored with Laura Ingalls Wilder, both the fictional young heroine and the real-life elderly author. I simply enjoy reading the Little House stories and learning more about the woman who created them. After all, we share a name, a farming background, and a pioneer spirit. I, too, left the farm in Wisconsin, crossed a big river, and headed west. Life is good in my own little house in a little town on the Iowa prairie.
P.S. Laura Ingalls Wilder was born Feb. 7, 1867, in Pepin, Wisconsin, and died Feb. 10, 1957, in Mansfield, Missouri. Learn more about her at http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/.