The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
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Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder—a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she’s never been to, yet somehow knows by heart. She traces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family— looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House—exploring the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura’s hometowns. Whether she’s churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of “the Laura experience.” The result is an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones—and find that our old love has only deepened.
her hair in pigtail braids. She reads from index cards. Shelby Ann makes my heart melt. “The life of a great writer,” she begins. For the first two minutes she reads off the names of Laura’s family—her grandparents, parents, and siblings; her husband and her children—and the dates and places of their births. Then Shelby Ann lists the places where Laura and her family lived and the years they lived there. Beyond the names, dates, and places, the marriages, births, and deaths, only a very few
God: I wanted to live in one room with my whole family and have a pathetic corncob doll all my own. I wanted to wear a calico sunbonnet—or rather, I wanted to not wear a calico sunbonnet, the way Laura did, letting it hang down her back by its ties. I wanted to do chores because of those books. Carry water, churn butter, make headcheese. I wanted dead rabbits brought home for supper. I wanted go out into the backyard and just, I don’t know, grab stuff off trees, or uproot things from the ground,
the end of These Happy Golden Years, in the house Almanzo built. “With all the little drawers for the sugar and the flour?” Catherine said. “I loved that!” “Yes! And remember the one in the surveyors’ house?” That was from By the Shores of Silver Lake, when the Ingalls family spends the winter in a well-stocked house owned by the railroad company; I lived for the description of the neat shelves full of abundance. “You have to read this article Laura wrote about the kitchen in the house here,”
work after her divorce. She had a voice that made her sound like she was always on the verge of either a question or a sigh. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she said. “I guess that’s why we’re here.” I nodded, though I didn’t know quite what she meant. “We were off the grid for four days back in December,” she said. “In Morristown?” I asked. “Wow, what happened?” I thought she was talking about an ice storm or something. “No, this was at our church,” she said. “It was sort
her family had lived, in Wisconsin and Kansas and Minnesota and South Dakota and Missouri. All these years I hadn’t quite believed that the places in the books existed, but they did, and house foundations had been unearthed, and cabins reconstructed, and museums erected. I’d even met a few people who’d been to them. My friend Brian, for instance, had claimed that his wife’s knees had buckled—buckled!—at the sight of Pa’s fiddle while visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Missouri. The sites