Friday, March 15, 2013

Literary Dream Tour, Pt I

Charles and Caroline Ingalls
So I've booked the dream tour.

Maud Hart and Delos Lovelace
Yep, this spring break, while college students are getting drunk in Mexico's tourist towns and more normal families head for sunshine and Disney theme parks, I'm taking the girls and heading for the slushy cold land of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Maud Hart Lovelace. Since my daughters are four years apart, this might be my only window for this kind of thing--as it is, I had to bribe the 13-year-old with a side trip to Mall of America. For her, the LHOP and Betsy-Tacy series are a fuzzy memory, buried under the collected works of J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, and Meg Cabot. At least the 9-year-old, who prefers realistic and historical fiction, is as thrilled out of her mind as I could wish. Out of all the Little House books, On the Banks of Plum Creek is her favorite, set in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
While the Ingalls' dugout has long ago collapsed and returned to prairie (now marked only by a sign and, according to the internet, not open till May), Walnut Grove houses the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, featuring replicas galore, a few actual items, and plenty of memorabilia from the television show which my girls have never seen and which have as much to do with the books as--well--which don't have much at all to do with the books. Nevertheless, we're going to blitz through Season One of the show so that we might enjoy the TV memorabilia on its own. I must say, given the amount of the website and museum devoted to the show, the purist in me doubted the chops of the LIW Museum. However, when I called yesterday and hit them up with a random question, fresh from my re-read of Plum Creek, they knew the answer!

Q: After the grasshoppers came and ate all the wheat, where did Pa walk to, to find harvest work?

A: They think he walked to Olmstead County, where his brother Peter was.
Dude. That's 160.97 miles, or 64 hrs 23 mins of walking.
Poor Pa! 161 or so miles, in his worn-out boots, with no highway to speak of. Ma estimated the walk would take a week each way, so that's about 23 miles per day, or over 9 hours walking. Yikes. Danged grasshoppers.

We ourselves will be driving that luxurious highway in our luxurious rental car, because after Walnut Grove we'll go straight to Mankato, a.k.a. Betsy Warrington Ray's "Deep Valley." Unfortunately we'll miss the extravaganza scheduled for Betsy's 121st birthday on April 6, but the awesome people at the Betsy-Tacy Society have our private tour scheduled. I repeat: our PRIVATE tour. Oh my word. We're already starting a notebook of questions, so that poor woman doesn't know what she's in for. Everything from, "Was Mr. Meecham (in Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill) based on a real person?" to "Why did Betsy's family get rid of Rena and hire Anna instead?" Not to mention, can we still see the elementary school/Ekstroms' house/library/Baptist church and so on. Applying my 21st century internet stalking skills, I've already located the Lovelace's rental house in Minneapolis for a drive-by because Betsy's Wedding has lots of Joe Willard in it, and I'm all about Joe Willard.

Better cut this off here because I'm planning on re-reading the entire Betsy-Tacy series, and I'm only on Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill. I'll probably also pick up LIW's  By the Shores of Silver Lake, too, just to refresh my memory on the Ingalls' leaving Walnut Grove.

I invite you to read along, and watch for more posts on our Literary Dream Tour!


  1. Squeeee!! Although I must admit (in shame, I might add) that I never read the Betsy-Tacy series, I have read the Little House series so many times, I can't even tell you. Sounds like such an awesome trip!

  2. Marie--drop everything and GET ON IT with Betsy-Tacy. The series goes from when Betsy is five until after she's married. They are the most wonderfullest books ever. As Lucy and I agreed, Betsy had a way better childhood than either of us, and we thought we were doing fine!

  3. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR AND PAINT IT RED. Oh my gosh, I am SO envious! Although as Brittany O'Neill (who told me about your upcoming escapade!) noted, our recent move from Washington to North Dakota (we're in Grand Forks, right on the border of Minnesota!) has us MUCH closer to Little House territory than ever before! Perhaps this place has some redeeming value, afterall! ;) My daughter turned 7 on the 15th, and I gave her the full boxed set of LHOTP books...seems to me like we'll have to glean what we can from your trip, and follow in your footsteps this summer! Have a blast!

  4. Lindsey--so envious of YOU, to be so close to DeSmet! I would have loved to throw that in because of being within a couple hours of it, but it gave way to stinking Mall of America. You have some fun, fun, fun road trips ahead. Don't miss Betsy-Tacy, either!

  5. Gosh, I loved those Betsy-Tacy books years ago...need to find a source and go visit the next time we're in MN in the summer. Have a great trip and stay warm!

    1. Thanks, Judy! How lucky to have the opportunity to check out one of the sites every summer. I won't have time to visit some of the nearby add-ons: Pepin, DeSmet, even more of Minneapolis...