Days 14 and 15: De Smet, SD and Minneapolis, MN
Day 14: DeSmet to Minneapolis
Despite the fact that I was exhausted, I work up early to explore the homestead. It didn't officially open until 11 am, but since we were on the property it didn't seem to be a problem to walk around. Diego, Nico, and I went in the shanty house, the dugout, and Ma's little house. They weren't open yet, but they weren't locked either so we were able to go inside and explore. When I walked into Ma's little house where the Ingalls family had actually lived, it was hard to believe that I was actually standing in a house where Laura Ingalls Wilder had walked. I also went to the livestock barn and another building that had information about all the places that Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived during her lifetime. The boys and Ellie played with the cats until it was time to get to town for our scheduled tour at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Site in town at 9:30.
The tour showed us the surveyor's house where the Ingalls family spent the winter of 1890 and opened their home to men traveling through town on their way out west, charging 25 cents for a place to sleep on the floor and 25 cents for dinner. The house used to be near Silver Lake and was moved to town in 1994.
We also go to see actual first school of De Smet, which Laura and her sister Carrie attended for five years. We saw real chalkboards that Laura may have written on.
We also learned that during the winter of 1891, there was so much snow that school was closed for months. The snow was higher than the trains and no trains could come to town.
The museum also had a covered wagon and a replica of another one room schoolhouse where Laura taught for two years.The final part of our tour was a visit to the final home that Pa Ingalls built in town, just a short drive away. This part of the tour was very interesting because we go to learn about what happened to Ma and Pa and Laura's sisters.
One thing I learned that I didn't know was the Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't publish her first book until she was 67. It was her daughter Rose who encouraged her to write and who also encouraged her to change the book from a book for adults and make it a book for children.
We wanted to go to the cemetery to see the graves of Ma and Pa Ingalls, Laura's sisters Carrie, Mary, and Grace and Laura and Almanzo's son who only lived for 28 days. However, we were so hungry that we decided to eat first and then we didn't end up having time to go. If I ever go back to De Smet, I will definitely go to the cemetery. I will also return to the homestead when it is open to see more of the buildings and to let the kids take a ride on the covered wagon.
We ate lunch at a quirky little place in town called Ward's. It was a bakery/cafe/bookstore/card shop/thrift store. There were tables in the center surrounded by all of the goods. We had great chicken salad sandwiches and burgers and fries and some delicious doughnuts, coffee and sticky buns. We ended up talking to a woman who was the music teacher at the local school. The school serves about 250 kids grades K-12, one class per grade, which means there are about 19 kids in each grade. She was telling us their plans for the in-person return to school where masks weren't even going to be required for the students. They are planning on socially distancing the students in the classroom and using the gym for the band classes. I told her that in Chicago we won't even be going back to school in person or even hybrid until November.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the racism that does exist in the Little House books. There are anti-Native American and anti-black sentiments expressed by Laura and other characters in the books. In 2018 the American Library Association actually took Laura Ingalls Wilder's name off a book award that they have had since 1954 because of this. According to the ALA, Wilder's books contain "dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities." If you read these books with your children, it is important to take the time to talk to your children about this.
No matter what you think about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her homestead and memorial site are interesting places to visit if you want to learn about the life of a homesteader and the life of one of an author who made a significant contribution to children's literature.
I want to mention that today on my news food I saw a video about a woman who got attacked by a bison at Custer National Park the same day that we were there. It happened at 7 pm and we were there earlier in the day. It also happened on the Iron Mountain Road loop, which we couldn't take because it's not good for RVs. She approached a baby bison and the baby's mother charged at her. She is fine, but she did have to be airlifted to the hospital and the bison did drag her pants off. There is a video of this that was posted online and it's pretty scary to watch. We were amazed at how many bison were in the video, probably hundreds.
We left De Smet around 12:15 and got to Rob's around 5 pm, which was an absolutely miracle for us because we told them we would get there around 6. We have not been early once this entire trip. It was so nice to sit on a couch and watch some TV. The boys played some soccer outside and some FIFA Xbox in the basement. We ate some fantastic pizza and some delicious cucumber salsa.
We watched the movie my brother had made of their trip to South Dakota in 2007. It was so much fun to watch Luke and Ellie at the ages of four and six and to see all the places they were that we also went to (Wall Drug, Deadwood, Badlands, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial). They also did things we didn't do so that was fun to see. They went bike riding and took a little train ride. They went to a dinosaur park and a fairy tale park. They went to a cave and went to place where they drove around and got to see bears from inside their car. There is really so much to do in the Black Hills.
All of a suddent there was an alarm going off in the city to announce a storm warning. The sky turned yellow and peach colored. We were a little worried that we had come so far in the RV with no major damage only to have a tree fall on it our last night.
We all decided to sleep in my brother's house because we a little afraid about the storm and also because we have had enough of the RV. The boys and I slept in the basement on air mattresses and my mom and dad slept on the Murphy bed.
Day 15: Minneapolis to Antioch, IL
I slept the very best I have slept in two weeks. My brother's basement is so dark and it was the perfect temperature. Also, no flies were buzzing around my head. The boys slept great too and were so surprised when we woke up that it was actually 8 am already because it was so dark in the basement.
We went on a lovely walk to Lake Harriet, which is about a mile from their house. I wanted to show the boys the little elf door in a tree by the lake where Thom the Elf lives and I also wanted them to walk because we will be in the car for about six hours.
As I sit here with a bunch of flies buzzing around that have traveled all the way from South Dakota with us in the RV, I have to admit that I feel a sense of sadness that the trip is over. I have been looking forward to it for almost two months and it has been so fun to have this to look forward to. Even though it was not always perfect, I am so glad we did it.
The first few days I thought I would always be struck with a feeling of nausea when we got in the RV, but that went away. I didn't know if my dad would ever really feel comfortable driving it, but he did. I didn't know if my mom would enjoy being on the go so much, but I think she did. I didn't know if Ellie would have fun with no one else her age, but she did. I didn't know if the boys would be able to handle all the walking and driving, but they did. I think we all found ourselves out of our comfort zones and we made it through and we have so many memories. I don't know if we will ever rent an RV again, but I definitely think we will do more road trips and some camping in our future.
Thank you all for reading this blog. Mabye I'll try to write another one the next time we go on vacation. Although it might be a while until that happens.