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Chasing Laura, Part One

October 21, 2010

So daughter and I hit the road this morning for De Smet. I have never been through Southwestern MN or SD before, and I can honestly tell you that this trip so far has permanently revised my definition of the word ‘rural’. We live in a small town about 20 mins south of Minneapolis, that I so foolishly thought was in the boondocks. I tell ya, some of the ‘towns’ we drove through on our way here made our hometown look like a burgeoning metropolis. Is it even right to call a place like Revere, which had a population of 100 on their welcome sign, a town??

Up until DeSmet, the Ingalls clan were usually all by themselves in the middle of nowhere. Even in this day and age, rural communities still seem pretty remote and quiet. Every small town we whizzed through on our way here had four similarities: a gas station, a church and graveyard, a bar, and about ten farmhouses. You wonder to yourself how much life has really changed for folks who live here in the last fifty years. Do these guys have the Internet? ESPN? Nintendo Wii? I couldn’t find a fast food restaurant for an hour of the trip, so it’s not a reach to wonder.

Anyhoo. Daughter and I decided we would stop in Walnut Grove, MN, another home of Laura’s, on the way to break up the monotony of eating for four and a half hours straight. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Gift Shop was conveniently located right off Hwy 14. The entrance to the museum was of course located in the gift shop, which sold an overpriced array of Ingalls-themed gifts. The museum itself wasn’t so much a Laura museum as it was a Walnut Grove museum. There were a lot of pictures of Walnut Grove residents past and present, someone’s very large antique doll collection (???), and simulated chapel and school buildings, but overall the museum was seriously lacking in actual Laura stuff. They had some nice pictures of the Ingalls family and some other pics of people like Nellie Owens and Christy McClary from Plum Creek, as well as a whole room devoted to the Little House TV show, but no actual Ingalls memorabilia. Which was weird. We got really excited when we saw a fiddle on the wall with a sign next to it that said “Pa’s fiddle”, but then under that in smaller letters was “is on display in Mansfield, MO”. WHAT????

There were some nice antiques from the time period as well as a sample sod house. Was it worth the 10$ to get in? Not really. Big tourist trap if you ask me. I bet they make tons of money there just from putting Laura’s name on the door so suckers like me will stop and check it out for 10$ a pop. So tomorrow will be the big trip into DeSmet. We’re enjoying being back in civilization and will probably go check out Secretariat tonight. More posts tomorrow.

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