Most of us from Missouri know about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her travels and memoirs have been taught to us in school, and many of us have travelled to her home in Mansfield. I can remember many evenings spent with my family in our living room, listening to Mom read chapters of the Little House series. Before most of the kids my age had even heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I had already heard all of her stories. I remember that we had a Little House trivia book, and I would sit for hours memorizing all the details of every story. Around the age of eight, we took a family trip to Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, and I have been hooked ever since. I have always been in love with history, and this house seemed like Heaven on earth to me. I have made several trips back since then, and I enjoy it more every time.
You may be wondering how Laura Ingalls Wilder is related to agriculture. It is quite simple, actually; for her whole life, Laura was involved in agriculture. In the Big Woods of Wisconsin, Ma kept cows (one was named Sukey) for fresh milk and butter, and Pa butchered a hog every year, and would let Laura and her sister, Mary, roast and eat the tail. Mary and Laura helped Ma make cheese and butter (which Ma would color with carrot juice to make it pretty and yellow). Pa also tells how his pa harvested maple syrup from the trees in the Big Woods. Later, in Kansas and the Dakotas, the Ingalls’ built houses out of sod and planted wheat, which was destroyed by locusts one year. Once, Pa hired on as a cowboy to help drive a herd of cattle to market, directly contributing to the beef industry. The family always had a garden, and Laura loved playing with all of the squash and pumpkins that would be stored in the attic throughout the winter. Later, after marrying Almanzo and settling in Mansfield, Laura was a reporter for the Missouri Ruralist, where she shared farming secrets, tricks of the trade, and a few memoirs of her life with Pa and Ma, and Mary and Jack. It was not until 1932 that Little House in the Big Woods was published, bringing Laura to the forefront of children’s writing. In the next 11 years, Laura would draw from her agricultural experiences in the Big Woods and on the Great Plains to write her beloved stories. Laura was once interviewed, and the the description that the visitor gave of his subject was quite fitting. To sum it up, he stated that Laura was a wonderful older woman, a grand storyteller, an agriculturalist, and “a writer, too.” I feel that without her experiences in agriculture, Laura may not have been inspired to write the story of her history, and her life would be forgotten too easily. However, we do have her story because she was determined to share it, and she has captivated generations of children, and will continue to do so in the future. I really do think of Laura as an old-fashioned agvocate.
For more information on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum in Mansfield, MO, visit this link: http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/