~”Savor the Spirit”~a tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder

Obsession might be too strong of a word to describe my affection of the “Little House” series. As a little girl, I recall vividly listening to a teacher read from “Little House in the Big Woods”. Naturally my mind would transport me to the setting. And to my delight, the books inspired the T.V. show in the 70’s.

The chapter, Winter Days and Winter Nights, describes the harshness the family endured (but oh, the fun too!) And Christmas, although the Ingalls girls received very little, was my favorite part. I longed to make “sugar snow” and candy just she did. And then spring time came…and summer soon followed.

“She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura so eloquently, and simply, shared her rich memories of family, faith, and perseverance…they were pioneers. Could you imagine that life today? Yes, many have experienced failure and loss. Oh to embody the grit and strength of those before us~the ones that made “something out of nothing”. Wouldn’t we have a more sustainable and worthy existence? Her life evokes inspiration. The simplicity, coupled with the complexity of overcoming the extremities of daily living, is truly an oxymoron~one that I shared with many elementary-aged students while teaching. During my Westward Expansion units a transformation would take place. Together, the students and I, would embark on our mission to settle and make a “home”. The students were delighted to make homemade butter and pretend we were pioneers. And this narrative of a young girl captured the essence of the pioneering “spirit”. The “spirit” of the pioneer is what I wish to capture in my own life.

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born February 7, 1867 in the cabin she described in “Little House in the Big Woods” (located just outside of Pepin, Wisconsin). After a move to Kansas two years later, and experiencing a wheat crop loss, the family journeyed back to the Big Woods. Despite the constant mislays, the family forged ahead. Many of you might be familiar with the town, Walnut Grove (particularly girls of the 70’s 😊).

The Ingalls family settled in Minnesota and Laura described their first year in a dugout in On the Banks of Plum Creek. After two years, Pa sold the Plum Creek Farm he built and he “tried his hand” at hotel management in Burr Oak, Iowa. A year later, unsuccessful, they left Iowa and returned to Walnut Grove. Another two years found the family in the Dakota Territory. Pa filed a homestead claim near De Smet.

Laura began her teaching career in 1883~ and while boarding with a family, is driven by Almanzo Wilder on weekends. They marry in 1885 and a daughter, Rose, is born in 1886. Sadly, they lost a baby boy 3 years later. Laura and Almanzo leave South Dakota (Dakota Territory officially became two states in 1889) for Minnesota and then Florida to seek health benefits for “Manly” (a.k.a. Almanzo), who had a stroke after he and Laura had contracted diphtheria. In 1892 they returned to De Smet, South Dakota.

It was 1894 and the trio traveled to Mansfield, Missouri. Upon buying a 40 acre farm and naming their homestead, Rocky Ridge, The Wilder family, settled at their final home.

Laura became a columnist and editor for the Missouri Ruralist in 1911. She began writing her Little House books in the 1930’s and 40’s and published her first book at 65 years old. At the age of 90, Laura died on February 10th, 1957 (Almanzo had passed away 8 years earlier at 92). Both are buried at the Mansfield Cemetery in Missouri.

Have you ever thought of completing a timeline of history for YOUR LIFE? Check out Laura’s:
  • 1st working phonograph (thank you, Mr. Edison)
  • 1st hand powered dishwasher
  • the invention of radio (thank you, Mr. Marconi)
  • Wright Brothers first flight
  • Einstein published his theory of relativity
  • WWI
  • 19th Amendment
  • Discovery of penicillin
  • Great Depression
  • WWII, D-Day, and V-E Day
  • 1st microwave oven
  • Korean War
Laura died 13 years before I was born. She truly understood how to “live in the moment of now”. How I wish I could have sat with her over a cup of coffee~to sip her memories and enjoy the taste of life she encouraged her readers to savor.