Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.
~Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder; Chapter 1 — at the very beginning
Most of you have heard my story before. How I was introduced to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder by my sixth grade teacher Mr. Lazarus when I was eleven. If only I could find Mr. Lazarus now to thank him for how he changed my life. How I checked out each and every book from our school library till I read them all. How one day a classmate, a boy, no less, found out which book I was getting on that library day (I had earned a reputation by then as the girl who was reading all those books) and raced in ahead of me and checked it out just to torment me. And how I, shy and quiet as I was, told the librarian what he had done and she made him give the book to me. How Laura and her books sparked my lifelong love of American History and respect of Native Americans. And horses too, although I chose the “Indian pony” Appaloosa horse as my breed of choice over her Manly’s choice of the Morgan horse, but let’s face it, I love ALL horses.
I can still remember all the extra early finds. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook that I spotted on a bookstore shelf. The discovery of The First Four Years and On The Way Home were like finding treasures. And doing a school report on Laura when I looked under “W” in the public library set of encyclopedia and saw that tiny little picture of Laura as a woman in her 80s. That tiny passage was all that I could find about the real Laura and I wanted to know so much more. You can imagine my delight later when I discovered the William Anderson (well known Laura Ingalls Wilder expert) booklets! Remember folks, this was all in the early to middle 1970s.
I wanted to be Laura. I wanted to live like Laura lived, although in my preteen mind she lived permanently in the late 1800s. I wanted to see where Laura lived. I wanted others to love those books and their storyteller as much as I did. I wanted to meet others who shared my love. I wanted to help to preserve the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy for future generations too.
Guess what! I was able to fulfill so many of my dreams. I have been able to see many of the places that Laura lived and I have met so many others who share the same love. I have been able to meet so many of those same people by going to two LauraPalooza conferences, where I learned more than I ever thought I needed to know about my favorite author. And there have been so many other Laura adventures that I have been lucky enough to experience! I’ve even been privileged to have been able to help preserve her legacy by helping at the website Beyond Little House and even writing several posts there. Plus, I was honored to serve for a year on the board of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association.
How lucky am I? And I’m not done yet. I plan to help preserve Laura’s legacy in other ways, maybe quiet more simple ways, but I will never stop.
And for now, I’m going back to my LIW beginnings. I’ve spent the last few years learning new things and almost feel as if I’ve lost sight of why I first fell in love with Laura and her writing. So, I’m connecting myself with her earlier writing and the things that others have discovered and shared with us. And most of all, I’m re-reading the Little House books. Just for the pure joy of it all.
Today is the anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth in that little log house in the big woods of Wisconsin. And I am oh so glad that she decided to share her stories with us.
Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!