"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

John 10:10

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Little Town on the Prairie Trip

When Madeline started kindergarten in 2006, I read the entire Little House on the Prairie series out loud to her.  It is one of my dearest memories.  Cuddling together on the couch, we shared the excitement and heartbreak of pioneering with the Ingalls family together.  That started our love affair.

 Ever since then, we have been big fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We have watched the TV series on DVD.  (Beware, after the first season hardly any of the TV series is close to accurate.)  Madeline and Lydia have both read the whole series on their own.  And now I am reading them aloud once again to our little girls.  It is a joy.

We can identify with a family of girls.  We love Pa's need to forge ahead, and sympathize with Ma's selflessness in moving her family for her man.  We can't believe how hard they have to work just to survive.  We feel ashamed for our own complaining about modern hardships.  And of course, we admire Laura's writing.  Every word counts.  You feel like you are part of their family, and we feel like they are part of ours.

Thus, we have been thinking about this trip for quite some time.  This was the summer to do it.

We left for DeSmet the morning of Saturday, July 20.  It was an easy 5 and a half hour drive to De Smet.  With a short lunch break in Sioux Falls, we got there in time for the 2:00 tour of the Ingalls' homes in town. While we were waiting for the tour to begin, the girls played in the Discovery Center across the street.  The tour brought us through the Surveyor's House, replica of the DeSmet school, replica of the Brewster school, and the house that Ma and Pa lived their final years in.  This tour took about 2 hours.  We then drove out to the cemetery to see where Ma and Pa are buried.

Then we went to our Bed and Breakfast to check in and relax for a while.  We stayed at Heritage House Bed and Breakfast.  We had a suite with plenty of room for our family.  For supper, we ate across the street in the bakery, which was serving supper on pageant weekends.

We went out to the pageant a little before 7:00 for the 8:00 show of Little Town on the Prairie.  We had plenty of time to find a seat, ride in the wagon, get treats from the concession stand, and look through the program.  It was an absolutely beautiful night out on the prairie.

The next morning we ate breakfast at our B and B, then let Julia take a much needed nap while we watched the British Open.  Once everyone was revived, we went to the homestead.  This was the actual land that Pa bought.  There, we were able to climb on a covered wagon, go in a dug out home, a claim shanty, a replica of the home Pa built on their homestead, a barn, and a school house.  There were many hands on activities such as washing clothes, playing Mary's organ, pumping the well, riding a pony, riding in a covered wagon, and making corncob dolls.  We spent about 3 hours there.

I went to DeSmet with low expectations.  Although I knew we would enjoy the trip, I wasn't sure how much time we would need to spend on the tours or how much there would actually be able to "do."  My expectations were surpassed.  DeSmet is a small, sleepy South Dakota town.  It is not commercialized or crawling with people.  Yet all the Little House places and activities were well done. I thought I had an accurate picture in my head of what the Ingalls family encountered in their adventures before visiting.  But when you walk in to that small dugout you simply cannot imagine the hope that they had to have to live in such circumstances.  When you look around the Surveyor's House and remember Laura's inflated perception of how spacious it was, gaze across the prairie and imagine no trees or people anywhere, or ride in a covered wagon and listen to the slow clomping of the horses, you are astounded by their courage.  I had tears in my eyes as I stood in the replicated house that Pa built for his family, thinking of the hard work he put in to provide for his family and pursue freedom.

We had a late lunch at the Subway in town, then left DeSmet.  We made a quick stop in Brookings to run in to the South Dakota Art Museum where we were able to view the stunning Harvey Dunn painting "The Prairie is My Garden."  Then we traveled on to Sioux Falls to stay the night.  We arrived at the Staybridge Suites, let Julia crawl around the hotel room unecumbered while the big girls went swimming with Daddy, then went out for supper.  The night was complete by piling in to beds and watching HGTV.  (Another reason to not pay for cable at home, it is a treat when you go to a hotel.)  The next day we had breakfast at the hotel then drove to Falls Park.  We explored the water and rocks for about an hour.  Then we went to the noon church service at the beautiful St. Joseph Cathedral.  After church, we went to Phillips Avenue to eat at the Phillips Avenue Diner.  We walked along the street looking at the sculptures, played in a great toy store for a while, grabbed an iced latte, and piled in the van for home.  We were home by about 7:00.