Even though I consider myself a history buff and a great fan of the Little House books, this news came as a great revelation to me. I was going through some keepsakes boxes in the attic recently when I came across a hardback book called Little House in the Ozarks. Curious, I opened it and discovered it had been given to me by my paternal grandparents for my birthday in 1995. I had never read it.
In the first few pages, I discovered that after a childhood spent traveling from place to place in the American West, Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Almanzo settled in Mansfield, MO (45 miles east of Springfield, MO) and lived there longer than they had lived anywhere else. They were married sixty-four years. Laura outlived her huband by eight years and passed away on their beloved Rocky Ridge Farm at the age of ninety.
Another fact that suprised me was that Laura spent twenty years as a pioneer woman journalist before ever starting her Little House series. Little House in the Ozarks, edited by Stephen W. Hines, is a compilation of Laura’s rediscovered writings from this journalistic period of her life, when she wrote about life and social issues for various Missouri farm papers and national magazines. Among her contemporaries, Laura had a reputation as good neighbor and someone who “gets eggs in the winter when none of her neighbors get them” — apparently a high compliment in these parts.
I’m just a few chapters in but so far I’m finding it a fascinating read, with such an interesting mix of universal themes (you’d think she was writing about the 21st century!) and quaint descriptions of amusing scenes from bygone days. I’d definitely recommend it to any Little House fans, young and old.
Who could have predicted sixteen years ago — except, apparently, my grandparents — that I would someday live in another “little house in the Ozarks”? Like many of the books my grandparents gave me, I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time and have only in recent years recognized the wisdom and foresight of their choices for me.
P.S. There’s a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield that I hope to visit. It closes November 15th until March, so I had better go there soon. I’ll let you know whether it’s worth the detour.