Guest Post: A Wilder Traveler by Sarah S. Uthoff
It was a casual conversation that changed my life. Right after I was born my mother spoke with someone at work who told her since she had a little girl, she needed to get a set of Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. So picking up used copies at garage sales she got me the whole set and as I grew up I made everyone read them to me over and over again. I was entranced and got something new from each reading.
My cousin Julie says Laura took over not only my life, but everyone else’s I knew. My Grandpa Uthoff built me a tiny covered wagon; my grandmother Orianna sewed me my first Laura dress; my little brother played Jack when I played Laura (as the other choice I gave him was Laura’s little sister, he happily chose the dog). My mother bought me a lifetime membership in a different Laura organization every Christmas and, most important of all, she organized family vacation taking me to almost all the places that Laura lived.
Since those first trips in the early 1980s, I’ve often returned to the Laura homesites. I’ve gone when I’m practically the only person there, I’ve gone on bus tours and with conferences, I’ve gone during pageants and festivals and my work researching and searching about Laura’s life became well-known I’ve even spoken at them. In fact I’ll be speaking at four of the homesites this year. This has given me a unique perspective on how to take a Laura trip, what to expect, where to eat, where to stay, etc. I’ve even designed and taught a continuing education class on how to take a Laura vacation. I can truly say that the key to a successful Laura trip is preparation because if you just show up at a homesite without doing some research you’ll miss so much.
In my efforts to share Laura will other people, I recently started a radio show/interactive podcast on a website called Blog Talk Radio. During a live show people can stream it, ask questions or make comments in the chatroom, call in and ask questions, or even call via cell phone and listen in. After the broadcast they can listen to the archive recording on the website or download it and take it with them on iTunes. Episodes alternate between 30 minute episodes where I discuss a Laura related topic and 60 minute episodes where I interview someone connected with Laura.
Episodes have included “How to Take a Laura Vacation” and interviews with staff members from Laura sites in Independence, Kansas; Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and the De Smet Wilder Pageant. Find more information here.
In short, Mansfield, Missouri has the most stuff, De Smet, South Dakota the most places, Walnut Grove, Minnesota the most impressive pageant, but all of the sites are worth a visit.
Uthof f is the Vice-President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. She is a Humanities Iowa speaker on Laura Ingalls Wilder and a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Find more about Uthoff on her website, blog, Twitter, YouTube and BlogTalkRadio under Trundlebed Tales (one of the rejected titles for Little House in the Big Woods).