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Little Trip to the Prairie

July 14, 2008 - Cindy Votruba
This last week I was on vacation. I didn’t really go anywhere far as I still had to do my two paper routes. I used a YMCA day pass I received three years ago for volunteering at Sounds of Summer and hit the pool for more than an hour and a half. I worked on the photo board for Marshall Area Stage Company’s “The Pirates of Penzance” summer musical. I also made the trek to DeSmet, S.D., one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites last Wednesday and stayed overnight. And I’m glad I went.

Now I’m not a huge “Little House on the Prairie” fan. I read the books when I was a kid. I watched quite a few episodes of the television show. I guess living close to Walnut Grove has inspired me to investigate the life and times of Laura a little bit.

So Wednesday morning I got in the Jeep and headed on 19 to Ivanhoe and then 75 to 14. I knew there were two spots in DeSmet that I had to hit: the Ingalls Homestead and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. I figured I’ll start out my trip on whichever site came first. The Homestead won. The Homestead was the land where the Ingalls once lived. Now, there are several replica and original buildings showing what pioneer life was back in the 1880s. A Girl Scout troop from Leota, S.D. was touring the sites on that day, so there was a little more emphasis on the hands-on activities, such as making hay twists and grinding wheat. Families from all over the country were at the Homestead. Part of my visit to the Homestead involved a covered wagon ride to the Johnson School. The driver asked where everyone was from. Boston, Mass., Georgia, southern California, Sturgeon Bay, Wis. I didn’t want to say, “oh, Minnesota, just two hours away.”

There was also a litter of kittens in one of the buildings, so I got my kitten fix (I can’t have pets where I live).

I decided to have lunch and then check into the hotel before I went to the Memorial Society. I was told by the managers of the hotel that I had the “wellness” room and asked if I had a pacemaker. Apparently the bed, the pillow and the shower were all magnetized. I think it helped a little bit with my cold, but I’ll admit I had a good night’s sleep.

The Memorial Society involved a tour of the surveyor’s house the Ingalls once lived in, the first DeSmet school in which Laura and Carrie Ingalls attended, and the house Charles Ingalls built for his family. The school was just opened to the public about a year ago and even though it’s in tough shape, the Society plans to fix it up to what it looked like back in the 1880s. Even the desks are the ones that were used back then. Unfortunately, visitors cannot take photos on the inside of the buildings, so I don’t have any shots of the desks and the things the Ingalls family used back then. (Of course, I still have to look for my camera) I was following around another group of Girl Scouts (same troop, different bunch). They were going to attend a dress rehearsal of the DeSmet pageant that night. I asked one of the leaders if I could hang out with them that night. I’ve been wanting to see the pageant for awhile now, but it gets so busy on weekends. Some of the things in the Ingalls’ house included a purse Carrie used, the original photo Carrie took of her mother, one of Rose Wilder Lane’s typewriters and dishes used by Caroline and Carrie. I also went out to DeSmet Cemetery where Charles and Caroline Ingalls, Carrie Ingalls Swanzey, Mary Ingalls and Grace Ingalls Dow, along with other noteables from the “By the Shores of Silver Lake” book, are buried. I actually went out there twice as I didn’t know Grace was there in the first place.

I also have to say I had the best ever bottled water at the Memorial Society. It was only from Maynard’s Grocery Store in town, but wherever it was stored, it was really cold and it tasted really good. Go figure.

After watching several episodes of “Cold Case” on TNT and “Ghost Hunters” on the Sci Fi channel and sleeping, I headed to the Loftus store and also to the Wards Cafe for a piece of pumpkin pie. Thus ended my fun in DeSmet.

I hit 14 again, making a stop in Brookings for the McCrory Gardens. Seventy acres of flowers and trees. I arrived at the time that a majority of the gardens were being watered. So here I was, dodging the sprinklers. I did get hit with water a few times, but it was a scorcher on Thursday, so I dried off quickly. (Now if only I can find my camera!)

It seems that I left off the web site address that I mentioned in my last blog posting, so here it is:

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out “The Pirates of Penzance.” Sure it is mostly singing, but the folks in the show do a phenomenal job. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a part of Marshall Area Stage Company. It’s a fun show. And if you know of great story ideas for me, send them my way....I like a good feature.


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