7/04/2011

Little Airstream On The Praire

The Ingalls Homestead

I remember as a small child watching the "Little House On the Prairie" TV show. When I realized the TV show was based on books there was no stopping me. I must have read them hundreds of times. I know for an entire school year I had the only library copy of "These Happy Golden Years". I occasionally still read them today.

I knew that a trip to De Smet, SD, where Laura met and married Almanzo Wilder, was a pilgrimage I always wanted to make. It was a bonus to find The Ingalls Homestead, even better to find they had four partial hookup RV spots. The Ingalls Homestead is located on the original plot of land that Charles "Pa" Ingalls filed his claim on.

We arrived from Custer, SD on July 4th. After getting Minerva setup we explored the homestead. The homestead is a collection of things from Laura's life and has buildings that have been recreated to demonstrate the experiences in her life. They have a dugout home, a shanty, a hay roof barn, a replica of the original house Charles "Pa" Ingalls built for his family, a stable, Flint's Garage, and two one room school houses.

The first school house is located right behind the RV sites. It is dedicated to Laura's life. There is a model of a covered wagon inside. It has excerpts from the books on the walls.

The dugout and shanty lay to the side of the RV sites and give you a clue about small spaces and how they lived in such tiny spots. You have to see to believe how tiny these spaces were. The four of us could barely fit inside together. The hay roof barn had a calf, some kitten, chickens and a lot of hay.

The kids and kids at heart can then meander over to an old fashioned water pump. This was popular with the kids because it actually works. We saw several people drinking out of it.

We then walked over to the house on the homestead. This house wasn't any bigger than our former livingroom. I am not kidding. Even in the largest room you wonder how they managed to fit a treadle sewing machine, an organ, a bench, a rocking chair, a whatnot shelf, and 6 people. In the girls bedrooms there was literally only enough room for two people to stand and get dressed. There was a bit more room in the parents bedroom but not much.

Next the covered wagons caught our eyes so we headed over to the stable. They offer the covered wagon ride to the school and a ride in a very small buggy contraption. I don't really know it's name but it's not a big buggy at all. The kids rode in it. and seemed to enjoy it.

Our last stop of the day was to Flint's garage. At Flint's garage you are treated to a Hay Twisting demonstration. Someone will twist the hay into sticks like the ones they used for burning during the Long Hard Winter. I think these are the facts David told us:

a stick only burns for 15
it takes at least 4 or 8 sticks to keep a fire going
it takes about 160 sticks to heat a house thru a day
it's scratchy and itchy work
we didn't ask to try it

Next he showed us how to make rope using a rope machine. Both kids came away with a rope they made to play with. They have a coffee grinder to grind wheat with. Let me tell you you really don't' get much wheat out of the process. I really understand how much work and effort went into making those two loaves of bread a day. Then it was corn cob doll making. The kids got to place their corn in the machine that separates the corn from the cob, wrap their cob in a blanket and magically you have a doll.

The people here really explain things to you. The where it happened, the why it was needed, and how it was done.

Then we went out for dinner and to explore the town after which we returned home (Minerva) to watch the town's fireworks from the homestead hill top. Absolutely the most perfect view for it. unless you factor in the mosquito swarm… but that panoramic window still allowed us a spectacular view so alls well.

Our second day started with a trip into town to do the Historical Homes tour. This is separate from the homestead but contains the Surveyors House (By the Shores of Silver Lake), a recreation of the Brewster School (These Happy Golden Years), the actual one room school that Laura and Carrie attended, and the house that Charles "Pa" Ingalls built in town right before selling the farm. You can play a fiddle and an Organ. The kids played both or tried and I managed a few notes on the organ. The original fiddle and organ from the books are located in Mansfield, MO where Laura died.

We then headed to Loftus Store. Yes, that's the original store from the books. It has a lovely proprietor whom I spent a hour chatting with. They also have a shoe from the period that was found in the upstairs storage. If you google the store you can find the information.

We headed back for lunch and then some more playing on the homestead. Our first stop of the day was the stables for the covered wagon ride to the school. David had moved from the garage to the wagons for the day. He had each child drive a piece of the road to or from the school. As the wagon approaches the teacher rings the bell to call the school into session. Once inside the boy put on some straw hats and the girls aprons with bonnets. There are several teachers and each present the school a bit differently but it was an enjoyable 15 - 20 minutes. Once everyone rings the bell to dismiss school it's back to the wagon.

They have at least 6 teams that drive the wagons ours for the day were the mules. Fred and Barney. They were well behaved but did have some peculiarities. They liked to cut corners and Barney had a fly making him itch so bad he kept dragging fred's head to the severe right side which made all the kids laugh. Oh… if they could turn instead of backing up that was all the better. I love an animal with a "personality". Jus ask my dogs….

At the stables the kids decided to crawl on the buggy and farm wagon. I decided to love on the baby. They had a new baby minature horse or pony.. I can't tell the difference named Flapjack. Adorable. She was taking her nap when we got back from the school house and I got to love on her for about 15 minutes. For the record, she is smaller than Drake as is her mother. My dog is not a horse…he's bigger than one.

I then spent the next 15-25 or maybe even 35 minutes loving on the horses. First there was David & Sam a couple of brown haired, blond maenad, stared forehanded and beautiful boys. Sam has this thing he does with his lips. They don't know why he does it but one person speculated it was so we'd kiss him. Yeah….not happening.

Then there was Barnum and Skip. Barnum and Skip were two of the most gorgeous creatures you've ever seen. Black, shiny, proud and very smart (according to our wagon driver). Yes, I had to take the time to tell them just how beautifully gorgeous, handsome, and … well you get the point. I think I might have told Skip that if I ever won the lottery I'd get a pair just like him, hire someone to take care of him… etc… etc… etc…


Yes, to your unanswered question. I did have an equine phase in my childhood but it was unfulfilled.

The kids were finally able to drag me away to do some washing. Outside the house they had the old washtubs set up for some board and wringer washing. My kids thought this great fun and I suggested I head up to the trailer to get some clothes. I could save myself about $5.00 in quarters.




The Dinosaur is located at the exit for Wall Drug Store. Unfortunately, we didn't get to stop but it's on the list for the next visit.
I started snapping pictures of the scenery as we passed by the signs for the Badlands.
Each formation was just a little bit different.


So golden and so goregeous.
I had to snap a picture of the sign that listed the miles to De Smet.
More grass rippling in the wind.
This was an interesting back in for me. The little corner of dirt and gravel was the edge of our site. What you can't really see is that just beyond the front of the truck there is a steep drop off. From my vantage point at the back of the site, I could never tell if the front of the truck was going over the hill.
Here she is safely in her spot.

A list of things for the wagon:
A shanty that could have housed a family.
The hay roofed barn:
A replica of the house that Charles Ingalls built on the homestead.

Just a windmill shot with some prairie in the background.
Sunset on the Fourth of July
We managed a few pictures of the fireworks before the mozzie swarms came out.

Our trusty steads, the mules Barney (foreground) and Fred (background). A very interesting pair but you'll have to find out about their eccentricities on your on visit. Three trips to the school and out of 6 teams we got the mules every time.
Minerva from the lookout tower. We had new neighbors every single day.
Another prairie sunset
The one room school house was an actual school used until the mid 1960's. Although not the school Laura taught at, one of her pupils did. They have teachers here to guide you through a quick "day" in school. We had three different teachers and they all added something else to the experience.
The school house from the lookout tower.
Upon Laura's death a small area at the northwest corner of the original homestead was donated to the Laura Ingalls Memorial Society. It is open to the public and free. Here is the plaque that lies inside.
More lookout tower shots


In this picture you can see Flint's garage in the background and the stable in front of it.
The replica house from the lookout tower



2 comments:

Oh! I've finally had time to come and check out your link! I'm SOOOOOO jealous! I just loved the books too - I used to envy Nelly's golden curls and wanted to make butter too in a churn and tried to make a button bracelet too like Laura did and got SO nervous in her spelling bee!! And I can't believe you met Barnum & Skip too!! (sigh). I'd love to visit some day...

Hsin-Yi

Hsin-Yi
They didn't have butter or soap making but you could wash clothes, make a button bracelet, play an organ, ride in the covered wagon, and use a hand pump to get water. If you ever make a trip back over you should go check it out. It was great fun!

Nicki

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