Monday, January 4, 2010

Little House in Town, With All the Modern Conveniences, Please

I found myself rereading Little House on the Prairie these holidays, after... some 30 years or so. Two of the actual houses are within an hour's drive of here, and although I have not yet been to see either of them, they are on my resolution list for 2009. I skipped past the first two books in the series to get straight to Kansas.

Apart from the obvious appreciations I have thereby rediscovered (my microwave, dishwasher, and central heating, topping the list this week as we sit under inches of snow) the story is more phenomenal than I remembered. I can't imagine riding over a frozen lake in a covered wagon, and hearing it break up the day after the crossing. I'd never ride over a frozen lake in a snow covered wagon again after that, if it was up to me, let alone ford a swollen river in one, and then spend a summer getting to some predetermined destination in a field of tall grass in "Indian country." The charm of the story barely disguises the constant threat to life and limb from wolves, malaria, prairie fire, chimney fire, and such. Every time Pa goes off to trade furs, I worry he won't return and that his four women on the prairie won't even have the wagon to get to Independence in.

I've gone back to read The House in the Big Woods, in an attempt to discover why on earth they ever left their cozy log cabin beset by bears. But there is so much incident in every chapter, I'm keeping a close eye on craft along the way. I had been wondering if it was time to begin reading them to Daughter, but she is nervous enough about robbers and other picturesque disasters of contemporary life. I don't know how useful it would be to scare her silly with buffalo wolves to boot.


  1. I've been to the house outside Independence but would love to go back, would also love to visit the other close one (where is it? too many years since last reading. I volunteer to go with you and your kids - when the weather is a bit warmer!

  2. I didn't know the houses were still there!

    We read the first four books to our kids, and they loved them. But after the fourth one, they were less interested. Their favorites so far are definitely "Little House on the Prairie" and "On the Banks of Plum Creek." They were perfect for our kids since the Girl likes stories about girls, and the Boy likes stories that are true. They loved all of the wolf parts.

    They weren't as into the Big Woods and the Silver Lake and Farmer Boy. (I guess we've actually read five!). Big Woods had a bit too much technical detail for them (smoking meat, threshing wheat, etc.). Farmer Boy was, well, about a boy, which the Girl wasn't as keen on. And by Silver Lake, they had had enough for a while. But LHOTP and OTBOPC were great!

  3. The house just outside of Indpendence (Little House on the Prairie) is actually a replica. But the second one within covered wagon distance of us is an actual home, also now the official museum and library, which is in Mansfield, Mo (east of Springfield). It is where Laura Ingalls-Wilder lived with Almanzo and her daughter, Rose.

    I think I will risk the read aloud!

  4. I re-read the entire series just after my second daughter was born - I needed something to help me keep awake whilst I fed her in the night and so I turned sleepless nights into rather a delight - it was so much fun to return to these books after (just like you) some 30 odd years. I'd love to visit her houses (but am in the UK so not so easy for me!).

  5. What a great way to while away those nights! Now, I guess that means we have to find time to read everything not once, but twice (at least) in our lives. Where are we going to find that kind of time?!