Thursday, November 9
(I'd post some pix but the connection is weak. I'll trying matching up photos as soon as I can.)
Today we stalked Laura Ingalls Wilder. Stef and I both loved Laura's adventures in her books and the show, so visiting at least one of her home towns was a must.
We headed out for breakfast and were again greeted with a "Hunters Welcome" sign. Seriously, those signs were everywhere. I must say that before this trip I had no real understanding of hunting. Now, I think I at least have a grasp. I understand it's a male bonding thing, something boys do with their dads and that it helps control certain animal populations... otherwise I didn't really get it. At one point Stef went into a gas station to get some water. When she came back she tossed a booklet in my lap. It was a hunter's guide book. It outlined the rules, required licenses and so on that were required for hunting. It reminded me of the National Baseball Leagues Official rule book. Flipping through the booklet, it became abundantly clear that hunters are in no way interested in causing suffering. Around here, hunting is something you are raised with and a rite of passage. The state outlines very specific rules that must be adhered to. The restrictions are much tighter than I ever imagined. For instance, you may not shoot a mourning dove unless it's in flight. You may not hunt until 30 minutes prior to sun up. If you're using a bow they describe the pounds of pressure necessary. Who knew?! It's all about preventing suffering while controlling the population. The wildlife population is more than the state could ever handle so why not ask the public to help out? I'm sure if I had stopped any hunter and asked about "the rules" he would have known them inside and out. I'm also sure that the whole thing is very much on a honor system. If a hunter broke any laws I feel certain a sort of black ball effect would follow. I am surprised as anyone about these revelations but I guess the most attractive part of traveling is getting a fresh perspective.
I also have a whole new appreciation for farmers. On the way to South Dakota we took the 90. On the way back to Minnesota we drove along the 14 (aka Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway). The 14 is much prettier and somehow more friendly than the 90. There are farms lining the entire route. I spent much of my day trying to steal a picture of the countless barns and farmhouse disintegrating into the ground. We noticed that almost every farmhouse had an ancient, decaying barn and/or farmhouse next to it. I was fascinated by each one. I thought they were beautiful and each must have such a story to tell. I kept wondering who had built those old places I had to assume the descendants of the original builder, probably a grandson or great granddaughter, now lived next those old structures and just didn't have the heart to tear them down. I wondered where the rest of the family went. What do they do now? Sometimes we'd pass an entire complex of collapsing barns and homes and I'd wonder where that family went. Obviously, a whole life had thrived there at one time. What happened? I wanted to stop and take better pictures but it seemed too intrusive to do so because a family was usually living right there. I suppose there is something very comforting about living next to the house your grandfather built with his own hands. I wouldn't be able to tear it down either.
This trip has helped me realize that most Americans are hard working people trying to preserve their way of life. There is so much opportunity to do just that. After rolling along the 14 for several hours I became obsessed with the idea of ethanol fuel. How great would it be to have American farmers making as much money as oil men? I saw my first ethanol sticker on a gas pump today but it wasn't clear if it actually pumped the stuff. All I know is that we seem to have a heck of a lot fertile land and hard working farming families, why not depend on them for our fuel? I'm gonna look into it. If India can convert why can't we? Oh yeah, the oil companies. Well, if this weeks election is any indication, those guys should be shaking on their boots.
One of my favorite customs in middle America is waving to the car/truck as they pass you while heading in the opposite direction. Mostly it was older people waving to us. Sometimes it wasn't even a wave, a trucker would raise an index finger in our direction and that was it. For the record South Dakotans wave more frequently than Minnesotans. Eventually we discovered that if it's wearing overalls it will wave.
As this blog indicates, you tend to do a lot of thinking as you roll along the US highways.
As originally mentioned, our first destination was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in De Smet, SD. According to Shandon, it was where Laura and family lived during her teen years. (Remember Laura trying to curl her hair with a warmed pencil? Is was a pencil, or something, right?) Now, here's where touring in the off season is a bummer... the homestead was "closed for the season". Oh well, the gift store had a sign in the window inviting us to take a map and look around. We did. A small buildings had latches to keep the wind from blowing them open, but nothing was locked (except the store). We wandered around and looked inside the tiny house and the larger barn. We pumped water from the still operating hand pump (cool!). and took a peek in the outhouse. While I was disappointed the store wasn't open, it was really fun to look around on our own. It was about 40 degrees outside and the wind had really kicked up. We ducked into the small barn and immediately felt warmer. The floor was covered in hay. That stuff really is great insulation. It was still cold but SO much better in there, even with the door wide open. The house was tiny but the barn was big with a big upstairs museum-like room. I swung open the big door up there and could understand how that breeze would be great in the summer. In the middle of November it's not so fun. We made our way back to the car for a diet coke somewhere.
Next, we headed towards Walnut Grove. The house in Plum Creek is no longer there but the town has a cute gift store. We went in and I actually got a little misty when it occurred to me that my dad read every word of those books to me. How great is that? I must take a moment to point out that Laura's story had a profound impact on my life. I literally think of her and pioneers all of the time. I'm sure I've mentioned it before but it's true. My mom and I often comment that we would have made terrible pioneers.
We picked up a few souvenirs then headed to a smart business owner 's place called "Oleson's Mercantile". It's not the real place but ya gotta admit that name is great. I bet everyone else in town slapped their heads and thought "Why didn't I think of that?".
We drove around Walnut Grove a bit and really liked it. If you're interested, you can rent a loft there fore $250 per month. It's a nice place... you might want to consider it.
Somewhere along the line we decided it would be a good idea to loop back to Cracker Barrel for dinner. We were singing "Cracker Barrel here we come" to the tune "California Here I Come". It was a heck of a drive but worth it. God knows when I'll be able to eat there again so I went for it. Shandon and Norman, have no fear, I took a picture of dinner for you.
Posted by Lucy at 9:59 PM