Many of the stops we have made on this journey have been chosen by Marc and I or Marcus. Caroline is a good sport and embraces the things we choose. Well this stop was all for her even though we all enjoyed the time we spent in De Smet, South Dakota. We camped at Washington Park in the town of De Smet. It really is just a few parking spots next to the park with electric hook-up for $9 a night. Perfect for us. We played in the park and took a walk around the little town the Ingalls had called home for a few years. We saw the school where Laura and Carrie had attend for a few years and the store Charles had owned, as well as a house they had lived in while they were in town. What really amazed me is that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote stories about her life here as a child when she was 65 years old. No wonder most of the original buildings are no longer here. No one knew they would be important years later.
Four people miles away made this stop one that Caroline will never forget. You never know how the kind things you do may have an impact months later or miles away. First Aunt Krysta and Uncle Bill gave Caroline a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and Little House on the Prairie DVD for Christmas. Both of which she loved. Then Grammy Carol (with Eddie’s help) made a Colonial dress for Caroline and her doll Clara for Christmas. This dress was the icing on the cake for our visit. It made Caroline feel as if she had gone back 150 years. When we were visiting my cousin Steve and his wife April, April encouraged Caroline to borrow any books she wanted. Caroline chose the complete Little House collection. Caroline knew all the details to look for!
As we walked around the town of De Smet we saw The Surveyors’ House which was in By the Shores of Sliver Lake. We walked by Ingalls’ home that Pa built in town and the school in De Smet where Carrie and Laura attended. The Long Winter was written about the town of De Smet. The next day we went to the Ingalls Homestead, Laura’s Living Prairie. It is on the land Pa received in the Homestead Act. It is set up like it would have been in 1880. Laura shared memories of her life on this farm in her books Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years.
We arrived at 9 when the homestead opened so there were not very many people around. It cost $10 per person, but all the activities were included. First we visited Laura’s Travel exhibit to learn about her travels across the midwest in a covered wagon. Then we visited a dugout like one the Ingalls family lived in on the banks of Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, MN. We then saw a shanty that had been moved from near Spring Lake just outside De Smet. Then we saw the hayroof barn Charles had described in his homestead proving-up papers. Marcus and Caroline had fun trying out the well. Pa had dug six feet to find water. Then we toured the Little House. It was reconstructed on the location and to the dimensions of the Ingalls’ claim shanty built by Charles Ingalls in the spring of 1880. We were told how the shanty was added on to over time. The historical interpreter helped Caroline and Marcus make toys called button buzzers. She helped Caroline start a braided rug and encouraged her to try out the pump organ (just like the one Laura had helped to buy for her sister Mary.) Marcus and his dad tried sewing on the sewing machine. Then we went outside to help with the laundry. Caroline and Marcus liked this part! Caroline checked out the heirloom garden and they all tried to rope a cow. At the livestock barn they rode on a pony and rode in a cart pulled by a Shetland pony. We were able to see a baby born about 40 hours earlier. Caroline loved those ponies. Then we boarded a covered wagon and headed to school. Caroline and Marcus each were able to drive. At school (not really a school Laura had attended or taught in) the teacher greeted us. The children sat in their seats and we learned about what we would have had for lunch and what our lessons would have been like. When school was over each of the children rung the bell. We rode back on the wagon through the sea of native prairie grass. As the historical interpreters told about the life here, Caroline’s face would light up as she knew from reading the books what they were telling about. Our next stop was to learn about the farm machinery used. I think this was Marcus’ favorite. He and Marc talked about each piece of equipment and how they worked. They were even able to use a few of the machines in the garage. While we were here we used a shucker to remove the corn from a corn cob and made a doll. Marcus made a corn cob super hero instead. Caroline and Marcus each made their own rope, which Caroline used for a jump rope. Our last stop was the Bethany Church which was built in 1905. This church was originally located about 10 miles north of the Ingalls Homestead.
We spent half a day here. There was plenty of place for us to park our whole rig. It was definitely worth the $10 each that we paid when you see the look on Caroline’s face. And for the last person who helped make this day memorable, Caroline used the money Grammy Red given her for her birthday to purchase the complete collection of Little House on the Prairie DVD’s.