So, we are officially looking for a house. That is, we’ve had an offer and can go look now. I am excited, but since we are down-sizing, it might be difficult. Meanwhile, it’s still that post-holiday window and not much is on the market for now. Well, and hasn’t HGTV ruined this process for us. My next house will likely not look as good as those on TV.
Meanwhile, I was talking to my daughter about something and the “Little House on the Prairie” came up. She remembers it for the television series with Melissa Gilbert and I remember the books. One of the last books I remember my mother reading to me was “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” I loved listening to my Mother read.
A number of books that I cut my teeth on as a child were older. Sadly, some had characters that we would no longer consider appropriate: black maids or (better yet) mammy characters. For example, the Bobbsey Twins and Raggedy Anne. Yeash!!
But, the Little House books are mainly free of questionable images (except Indian portrayals). I don’t think there was much fodder for other racial or cultural prejudice or oppression other than the Indians. The Ingalls family had apparently been in the US since the 1600s, but on the frontier, most everyone seems to have been considered pretty equal. The Indian/European settler conflict is an unavoidable part of past, but is kind of brushed over in this series.
As per usual, my conversation with my daughter led me to the Internet to look at where the various books were set. If you are familiar with the books, you will recall that the Ingalls family lived in different state with nearly every book as Pa fed his need to keep moving to the less crowded spaces of the frontier.
But, I learned two interesting things from my Internet search. First, the little house books are based on Laura Ingalls Wilders’ life, but are not completely factual. Second, that Laura had some experience with writing articles and a column for a regional magazine. But getting back to the first issue, the books apparently represent a somewhat altered version of Laura’s life in order to provide a better story arc.
The best part of this for me is having another look at a memoir and/or real-life based set of stories and how they were written in a way to be interesting to read.
As a simple example, the books portray the sequence of their moves as follows:
Little House in the Big Woods near Pepin, Wisconsin (Laura is 4-5)
Little House on the Prairie near Independence, Kansas (Laura is 6-7)
On the Banks of Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, Minnesota
By the Shores of Silver Lake present day De Smet, South Dakota (Laura is 12)
The Long Winter De Smet (1880-1881)
Little Town on the Prairie De Smet (Laura is 15)
These Happy Golden Years De Smet (1882-1885)
The First Four Years South Dakota (Laura is 18 when married)
Farmer Boy near Malone, NY (Wilder family, not Ingalls)
The TV series is set in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. It ran 9 seasons.
Apparently, the actual timeline for her life is:
2/7/1867 near Pepin, Wisconsin—Laura is born
1868 Chariton County, Missouri (1 years old)
1869 near Independence, Kansas (2 years)
8/3/1870 near Independence, Kansas—Carrie is born (3 years)
1871 back to their house near Pepin, Wisconsin (4 years)
1874 Walnut Grove, Minnesota via Lake City, Minnesota (7 years)
11/1/1875 Walnut Grove, Minnesota—Baby Freddy is born (8 years)
1876 Burr Oak, Iowa via Zumbro River, Minnesota (9 years)
8/27/1876 Minnesota—Baby Freddy dies
1878 Walnut Grove, Minnesota (11 years)
1879 Dakota Territory (through her first years of marriage)
Further, as it relates to my current issue of moving, this is huge. The arc of my life in terms of where I have lived is so minor and simple in comparison. But, my things wouldn’t fit in a covered wagon, I don’t think.
For those that get as caught up as I do in questions like this, I am reading a marvelous little book called “Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life,” by Pamela Smith Hall. And there is also Laura’s memoir, “Pioneer Girl,” which is referenced heavily in other publications. An annotated version appears to be available at Amazon.com, “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hall, but it has been listed as out of stock for at least a month. There is also a website on Laura Ingalls Wilder:
Added 30+ minutes later:
1) Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography was just published and this may account for temporarily out of stock status at Amazon.com
2) I glossed over the Indian/Settlers issue. I did not mean to imply that this was not a problem. It was, of course, a huge problem. But, the books are not really offensive as a truthful account of different characters reactions to the Indians (good or bad, right or wrong). The general subject is more than I want to address in this post.