Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Introduction to "Little House"

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows I'm very interested in -- okay, obsessed with -- author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her "Little House" books. But how did this obsession begin? Who was responsible for introducing me? It's really a somewhat interesting story, so I thought I'd share it today.

When my mother was a little girl, her bookmobile driver recommended that she read Little House in the Big Woods. She took his advice and checked out the book, and when she returned it the next week, the bookmobile man asked her if she liked it. When she said she did, he led her back to the shelf and showed her the rest of the "Little House" books lined up there, and said, "Look -- all of these books are about that same little girl." So she read them all, and of course, she was hooked.

Now interestingly enough, that bookmobile driver had a brother. And that brother was raising his young nephew. And that nephew, when he was grown, married my mother. So the person responsible for introducing my mother to the "Little House" books, and who was thus indirectly responsible for my obsession with the series, is none other than my great-uncle's brother. He had no idea what he was starting... :o)

Now back then, my mother wasn't into "Little House" like I am into "Little House". She liked the books, and when Michael Landon's television series came on, of course she watched it and enjoyed it, although she obviously recognized from the beginning how much the show strayed from the books. But that was pretty much the extent of it.

Well. I discovered the "Little House" books on my mother's bookshelf when I was three years old and insisted she read them to me. She said I wasn't old enough for them yet, but I protested that they had a little girl on the front, so they must be little girl books and I wanted to read them. What could she say to that? So she read them to me, and I loved them from the start.

Now I read and reread those books several times throughout my childhood, but in seventh grade, I became friends with another "Little House" fan. She knew a girl who had a book called The Story of the Ingalls, which contained information about the real Ingalls family and what became of each of them after the series ended. She told me all she could remember, which wasn't nearly enough to satiate either of us.

We discovered a biography about Laura at the library, written by Donald Zochert. We devoured the book and all of the information it had to offer, but to us, the treasure trove was found in the very back of the book: a list of addresses to all of the Little House museums scattered across the midwest. We wrote to them all, and they sent brochures about their sites as well as order forms for their gift shops. The Story of the Ingalls was available through those gift shops, as were many many other booklets about the various people and places of the Little House books by the same author, William Anderson.

As the years passed, we managed to accumulate them all, and in 1993, my family took its first "Little House" vacation, visiting each and every one of Laura's Little Houses. How excited I was to discover that we had planned our trip quite by accident to be the very weekend that William Anderson, who had become quite the hero to our young Laura-obsessed brains, was going to be there signing books.

Since then, I've taken many trips back (and seen Bill Anderson so many times that the thrill has worn off, I'm sorry to say), some of which were with that same friend from junior high. Those little towns seemed so very far away to us then that we never would have dreamed that someday we'd be visiting them together.

Perhaps there's another fan in the making reading this here today, and wondering just where ARE all those real Little House sites? Send me a message and you will quickly learn all you could possibly care to know! Seriously!! And if you've never read the "Little House" books -- how much you've missed!! I highly recommend you rectify that and pick up your copy of Little House in the Big Woods today. No excuses that they are "children's books", the online community of "Little House" fans includes almost NO children, and many hundreds of grown women, and even a handful of men. Why don't you join us today? :o)

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