Laura Ingalls Wilder would be astounded at the interest people still have in her
books and her life and the many forms that interest has taken. Eighty years after the publication of the first book in her Little House on the Prairie series, The Little House in the Big Woods, Laura is big business in the towns where she lived. Wendy McClure describes these places in her great book The Wilder Life, My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.
It’s good the Ingalls family kept moving, because it has given each tiny town where they lived, no matter how briefly they lit there, a chance to lure visitors to the family’s various homes, cabins and indentations in the sod. For example, tiny Pepin, Wisconsin, generally the site of the Little House in the Big Woods, holds Laura Ingalls Wilder Days annually in September. In De Smet, South Dakota (By the Shores of Silver Lake), they have a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, all sorts of Laura-themed shops and restaurants and a pageant that is celebrating its the 40th anniversary this summer. Walnut Grove, Minnesota, (On the Banks of Plum Creek) also has a pageant and a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. Four authors appeared at the museum last weekend to promote their books about Laura.
Of course the Little House TV series made hay from the novels and it still lives on in Hallmark Channel reruns decades after it was in production. The show was super-popular in France. I once met a woman from France…. who said all that she knew about Minnesota she learned from the Little House on the Prairie TV series. Now, so far from the prairie, Carnival Cruise lines is getting in on the Laura action, with “THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE REUNION CRUISE, a 7 Day Fan-Filled Cruise to the Mexican Riviera Mexican Riviera with the ORIGINAL Cast Aboard the Carnival Splendor, November 13 – 20 2011.”
But back on the prairie….this Saturday and Sunday, Allison Arngrim, who played Laura’s arch enemy Nellie Oleson on the TV series, will appear at the museum in Walnut Grove. An actress and stand up comedian, Arngrim pokes fun at her days as that ringlet wearing little priss, Nellie, in her book, “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.” (I love the French title: La Petite Garce Dans La Prairie.) Check out a clip of her comedy show of the same name in which she asks, “Do you know what it means to be Nellie Olesen? It means someone has celled me a bitch every day since I was eleven.”
Seems like it was worth it.