Thursday, November 19, 2009

Confessions of A LIW Fan

I confess.
I am a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.
I did not know how many other adult fans she had until I started reading blogs about her. One in particular, Beyond Little House,is the best blog I have ever read about LIW. It is the combined efforts of several fans,some of who had their own blogs or websites. They decided to pool their resources and have one site that they all contribute to. It has great information,photos,and links.
Some people cock their heads and look at me funny when I say I love Laura Ingalls Wilder,and that I still read her books,even though I am about 5 days away from my 42nd birthday. "Aren't those for kids?"tends to be the the first question they ask. Well, yes,they are,and no,they aren't.
My first introduction to Laura came in the Fall of 1974 when I started first grade. The Little House on The Prairie movie came out. My family watched the movie,and I remember that I liked it.After that every Monday night at 8:00 PM we watched the series until it ended.I loved the show very much. I had a huge crush on Dean Butler,who played Almanzo. Michael Landon,though very handsome,was a bit old for my Grammar School-Junior High taste.
My first introduction to her books was in second grade. My teacher,Mrs Whittier,handed me a book one day that she thought I would enjoy. It was Little House in the Big Woods. I remember starting the book and not caring for it. Why,I don't remember. For whatever reason,it just did not strike a chord with me at that point. I gave her back the book and told her I didn't care for it. She was very surprised.
Then came Christmas in third grade. My oldest brother and his then wife sent me the complete collection of the Little House series. It was the yellow books,in the yellow box. I figured I would give them another try. I opened Little House in the Big Woods,started to read,and it happened.
I was hooked.
I could not read the books fast enough. At first,they seemed strange,because I had been watching the show,and the show and the books did not jive. It took me a while to figure out that TV shows often use dramatic license,and that the show was
based on the books,not following the books.Once I figured that out,I could enjoy both the books and the show separately. I cannot tell you how many times I read those books.By my twenties,this set had seen better days.I had pages falling out and spines torn. I refused to part with them. I taped and retaped pages.
A few years ago,my son Zach showed some interest in her books. I would let him read them,but the condition of the books left something to be desired. One book ( These Happy Golden Years,one of my favorites)was in three pieces. I bit the bullet,threw out my precious yellow set,and bought new copies. I also bought On The Way Home,and West From Home. I didn't like my new copies as much as my old ones. No illustrations by Garth Williams! How can you have books without his illustrations? As a child they helped me picture their daily lives. I felt bad for my son.
Today,I think I enjoy the books more than the series. Almanzo is a much more dashing figure,saving the town by getting the wheat out on the open prairie during blizzard season,which was very dangerous. His pursuit of Laura was quite respectful and gentle. He seemed very much a man's man.The show made him more a shy,somewhat immature character. There was nothing "macho" about him. I suppose this was because they felt that some older man coming in trying to court a young Melissa Gilbert would not sit well with viewers,so they made him as unthreatening as possible.Personally, I would've loved to have had him as he was in the books.
Someday, I would love to visit all the areas in which she lived. We are planning a cross country trek for next summer (fingers crossed),and we are going to visit historical sites. De Smet is on the agenda. those who ask,"Isn't that for kids?" I respond yes,it is. However, it's also a look into the history of America. It's a look into the pioneer drive that made this country what it is. It's a glimpse into the life of woman who went from travelling by covered wagon to travelleling by car and plane! How many changes this country went through in her lifetime is staggering.
She lived an amazing life.

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