Chapter 225 Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead, Or, My Dream House

“We don’t want to go to the Laura Ingalls house,” Tom and Huck whined in the RV. “Those books are girl books, and we’re boys. There’s nothing good there.”

That is a fairly representative example of the logic of 7 and 10 year old boys. They have not read even one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. They have little awareness of who she was. But they knew they did not want to spend three days of our vacation re-tracing the steps of “some old-fashioned girl’s life” at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead.

Using the logic of a mother, I ignored them and popped in a book-on-tape (CD) recording of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s By The Shores of Silver Lake, the book that chronicles Wilder’s initial arrival at our eventual destination, DeSmet, South Dakota. I turned up the volume high enough so that I couldn’t hear the protest coming from the boys in the back seat. After a while, the whining stopped. The boys were in shock. This book described rides on fast ponies, rough men building railroads, howling blizzards, and wolves. Maybe it wasn’t so girlish after all.

“Mom,” said Tom, after listening to the story for a while, “Laura Ingalls was a tomboy. Tomboys are the only kind of girls I like. Her story is pretty good.”

That’s progress, I guess.

One of my favorite stops on our recent RV trip was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota. The 150 acre homestead has been restored with 10 acres of crops and buildings that match the dimensions of the ones Laura’s family built in the 1880s. It also has additional buildings from the nineteenth century — a sod house similar to the one the Ingalls lived in in On the Banks of Plum Creek, a railroad shanty, and a one-room school house. It is surrounded by mile upon mile of prairie grass. Hardly a tree to be seen anywhere.

The Ingalls Homestead is a wonderful place for children, even those like mine, who aren’t familiar with Wilder’s books. Children are allowed to touch everything, even farm animals and old farm tools. Each building, whether house or barn or school, has an employee dressed in costume from the late nineteenth century to explain how settlers like the Ingalls family lived, learned, worked, and ate over one hundred years ago.

Tom and Huck got to use the farm’s nineteenth century machinery to make rope and pull the kernels off corn for animal feed.

Getting kernels off the corn

Making rope

They rode ponies and got to drive a team of horses pulling a wagon out to the one-room school house (with supervision). They had a lesson from the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse, a woman who attended and taught in a one-room schoolhouse herself. At the end of the day, they helped milk a cow and feed the chickens. They got to watch birds building a nest and observe a cat and her brand new litter of kittens. Sad to say we have never done any of the above in our suburban California town.

Pony ride

Huck drives the team of horses, Sam and David, as they pull a covered wagon to the schoolhouse

Tom described these kittens as “smaller than pickles”. They were tiny.

We camped at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in a covered wagon for two nights, so we could see how a family fit in a covered wagon. (Answer: squeezed in close together.) We also built a campfire, roasted marshmallows, and watched fireflies (the first I’ve ever seen) twinkle in the prairie twilight. We were almost the only family there that night (just one other covered wagon had people inside), and we felt the vastness of the prairie and the peacefulness of solitude. I’ve never seen more stars in the sky. I heard the prairie wind stirring the grass and the sounds of cattle in the distance, much as I imagined Laura Ingalls Wilder may have over a century ago.

Our wagon:

Interior of the covered wagon

When our campfire had burned its last embers and we prepared to sleep in our covered wagon, Huck, snuggled on my lap, whispered to me, “Mom, this is my dream house.”

Mine, too.

Prairie twilight


Filed under A Family Business, Laura Ingalls Wilder

22 responses to “Chapter 225 Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead, Or, My Dream House

  1. You are a smart woman. Way to get through to the boys, and I’m glad your dream trip went so well. I enjoyed reading about it.

  2. Thanks for reading, and many thanks for your kind comment.


  3. Thank you for a beautiful post about your trip. I agree, Ingalls Homestead is simply magical. I can’t wait to take my kids (6 and 3 1/2) there to camp just as you did.

  4. ps: I’ll be linking to this post in my blog, Only Laura:

  5. Pingback: Ingalls Homestead Is For Tomboys « Only Laura

  6. The Ingalls Homested is my favorite LIW place to visit. I have been there about a dozen times and I still get excited at the thought. I am linking your blog to my web site. Thanks to Sandra and her Only Laura blog for mentioning this post, it is great.

  7. BiblioHistoria

    I am so glad you and your boys had fun. I guess that means if I ever get to De Smet in the next 4 years, my son will also have fun as well. Thanks for the wonderful photos. And it’s good to have you home too.

  8. Sounds like you created a lot of wonderful memories which is one of life’s most important achievements. Welcome home.

  9. Wonderful. Thanks for taking us along.

  10. Thank you for the great description of your trip to the Ingalls Homestead. I think you did a great job describing what it feels like. I really think you feel part of the books there more than anywhere else. It sounds like you missed the pageant though and if you ever get a chance to go back, try to hit that. It’s like you went to visit the Ingalls Family.

  11. My thanks to all of you for reading our experience of the LIW Homestead and for your kind comments. It’s so nice to know there are others out there who can appreciate why it is such a special place.


  12. Pingback: Chapter 226 Laura Ingalls in Town « Book Hunter’s Holiday

  13. WM


    Kittahs kittahs kittahs kittahs kittahs!

  14. Pingback: Chapter 243 Bookshops and Community, Or, Blogs and Bibliophiles « Book Hunter’s Holiday

  15. Sarah

    cool i wanna go

  16. we also went to desmet, sd while on a 3 week road trip. i felt compelled to go since my maiden name is desmet! i also was aware of the LIW connection, and knew about father desmet. after that trip, we decided to move from southern california (los angeles) to rapid city. we knew no one here, but it seemed like a great place to live. moved out here 5 1/2 years ago, found jobs within a week of hunting, and have been blissfully happy ever since! glad your family had a great time on the prairie!

  17. RaeAnna

    I have many young sons who have said the same things about my only daughter and I reading “girl’s” books, refering to the LIW series. And yet they somehow are the ones who press me to read another chapter when I’m about to close the book. “Farmer Boy” is their favorite for obvious reasons. To me, these books are a treasured representation of family unity, faith in God, patriotism, respect for God’s creations, seeking after education, survival, and personal motivation during adversity. All of my children will be excited to learn of our next family vacation thanks to your experiences shared here.

  18. Pingback: Chapter 623 My Fantasy Vacation « Book Hunter’s Holiday

  19. Pingback: Chapter 626 Blogging Is The New Letter Writing, Or, Another Fun Library Sale Find « Book Hunter’s Holiday

  20. Pingback: Chapter 638 The TBR (To-Be-Read) Stack « Book Hunter’s Holiday

  21. I do have two boys too, now they are growned ups. Anyway, I am from Brazil and my dream is to know Laura´s places!

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