Getting the flavor of...
The real Little House on the Prairie
As a child, I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books, said Jenna Russell in The Boston Globe. My daughters— ages 7 and 8—have inherited my love for these charming tales of pioneer life, so this summer we decided to tour the author’s childhood stomping grounds. We started at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, S.D., a thoughtful re-creation of the family’s farm where visitors can drive a buggy, wash laundry in a tub, and “stretch out on a hay-stuffed pallet like the one Laura slept on.” Two hours east, on the banks of Plum Creek in Minnesota, we visited the site of the dugout home where Laura lived from age 7 to 12—before the family headed to South Dakota. The only evidence that a home once stood here is a vague depression in the ground. But around it lies the same landscape Laura adored: “in front the brown water swirling through a tunnel of trees; behind, a sea of prairie wildflowers.”
Driving the Mississippi
“The Mississippi River is a movable feast,” said Peter Kujawinski in The New York Times. I recently drove my family down the Great River Road, a patchwork of highways and county roads that stretches 3,000 miles from Minnesota to Louisiana. Never straying far from the water, “we found a little bit of everything,” from grimy shoreline factories to Native American burial mounds. Wilderness was everywhere, and my children delighted in all the hawk and snapping turtle sightings. We stopped for picnics in little river towns, where the kids climbed oaks and skipped stones on the water. “It felt like something out of Mark Twain’s childhood.” We visited historic sites along the way—a reconstructed 18th-century French fort in southern Illinois; a blues museum in Helena, Ark.—and were never disappointed. Each time we crossed the Mississippi’s wide expanse, the children sang the old song spelling out the river’s name. “Amazingly, it never got old.”