Washed his face in a fryin' pan;
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel
Died with a toothache in his heel.”
My husband was singing this tune the other day as he went about his chores. Our oldest son looked at him, and asked, “What on Earth are you singing, Dad?” I shook my head, and thought how sad my boys did not grow up with Little House on the Prairie. (By the way, the song was what Mr. Edwards used to hum, and was played as a leitmotif for the character on the show).
Growing up, I was a huge Little House on the Prairie (LHOTP) fan, and every Monday night my family gathered around the television set to watch the Ingalls family. I enjoyed watching with my parents, yet knew they felt secure in letting me and my sisters watch it, with or without their supervision.
LHOTP was a great family show, and one of the longest running family series in television history. The show conveyed many themes and episodes were filled with values, love, friendship, honesty, sorrow, humor, hard work, and faith, as well as, laughter, tears, and even corniness. Laura, Mary, Carrie, and baby Grace loved and honored their parents and loved each other, even though they bickered like all siblings. Ma and Pa loved each other, stayed together, and disciplined their children with love.
Like most girls, I dreamed of being Laura. I was born and raised in the Bay area of California, very different from the wind-swept prairies of Walnut Grove; however, I could relate to Laura. I grew up in a family of all girls, was a Tomboy, and was stubborn like my ‘pa.’ I could be sweet one moment and vindictive the next, but only to those who did me wrong. I could see the humor in things and, of course, I would much rather be outside chasing my dog Bandit, or going fishing or swimming then working in the kitchen. In addition, while Laura grew up, so did I right beside her, I felt the same growing pains and trails, fell in and out of love, and had desire to become a school teacher.
The television series Little House on the Prairie was a loose adaptation of the classic "Little House" books. My love of the television series inspired me to read the books, and although the show loosely followed them, it did preserve the heart and spirit of the novels. I read all nine of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "Little House" books, as well as, West from Home, On the Way Home, and several autobiographies. I also read all Roger MacBride’s "Rocky Ridge Years" books (aka the Rose years). And I still have the "Little House" books from my childhood. They are worn, with torn jackets, and missing pages, stained yellow with age, but every once and a while I go back and read them again and still cherish them. Perhaps "Little House" is one of the reasons I've always loved stories and storytelling.
Laura was an all-American girl, from a time honored, yet almost forgotten era. She was an early pioneer, and later farmer’s wife, out to tame the new frontier. The "Little House" years were a simpler time, where neighbors helped neighbors, and when people had to go without or starve. Today we have televisions, telephones, microwaves, automobiles, grocery stores and shopping malls, while pioneers lived off the land, made their own clothes, baked from scratch, rode horses or walked, and worked from dawn to dusk. Prairie life was not a fairy-tale.
I read that Laura Ingalls Wilder once said the reason she wrote her books was to preserve the stories of her childhood for today's children, to help them to understand how much America had changed during her lifetime. America and technology has changed a great deal in my lifetime, too. Society continues to change and evolve, and perhaps we need these stories more than ever. Perhaps we can stop and examine the present along with the past and maybe, just maybe, the past can teach us something.