Jim Hicks — Physics in Laura’s World

This is Jim Hicks. Retired now, he was a longtime physics teacher at a high school in Illinois.

His students call him “Uncle Jim.”

Jim Hicks, physics teacher, Laurafan, entertainer

Besides being a physics teacher, Jim is a literary traveler. He has written for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Lore, the newsletter of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet, South Dakota. He has written for the Homesteader, the newsletter about Laura’s homesites across the country. He writes about moving through Laura’s world, measuring it, recording it, recreating it. History + literature + science = Jim Hicks.

Six years ago, Jim addressed a ballroom audience in Mankato, Minnesota. For this audience of Little House fans, he reconstructed, in great detail, the trip that Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland (allegedly) took during the hard winter of 1880-1881, the trip that (allegedly) kept the town from starving when blizzards prevented the trains from coming, as described by Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter. He talked about sled speed. He talked about wheat-sack weight. He talked about friction. He talked about the phases of the moon. And he had that audience absolutely enthralled for a full thirty minutes.

That’s why he’s an award-winning high school teacher.

He’s an award-winning high-school teacher who also happens to be a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books. The audience he spoke to was at LauraPalooza 2010, and in July of 2012, he did the same thing. And then again in 2015.

The next LauraPalooza is in 2017. Will Jim be there? We’ll soon find out!

Good and Bad Literary News in Laura’s World

Bad news first, shall we?

Amy Lauters’ Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane, Literary Journalist is one of many Laura-related books published by the University of Missouri Press

The bad news in the world of Laura comes from The Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri. The University of Missouri System announced earlier this week that it was going to shut down its press. This is sobering for the Laura Ingalls Wilder community, as many books—William Holtz’s Ghost in the Little House, Amy Lauters’ The Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane, John Miller’s Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Stephen Hines’ Little House in the Ozarks among them—were published by the University of Missouri Press. (Rose Wilder Lane herself had personal ties to the University of Missouri.)


But the good news—it is fabulous. Pioneer Girl is going to be published! That’s right, the autobiography Laura wrote before the Little House books were published is going to be available through the South Dakota State Historical Society Press in the summer of 2013.

We’ve been waiting a long time for this one. Die-hard fans have copies of the manuscript, which has always been available through the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. But obtaining it has never been easy. The SDSHS Press has negotiated a deal with the Little House Heritage Trust to publish an annotated version of the autobiography, largely on the strength of 2010 LauraPalooza speaker Pamela Smith Hill’s extraordinary 2007 biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life.

Pre-order your copy (cost is $35) by emailing the SDSHS Press at orders@sdshspress.com.

One door closes, another opens.

Endings and Beginnings

Today feels momentous. It’s the last day of the month, certainly. From a personal perspective, it’s also my kids’ last full day of school. In the world of Laura, it’s the last day of registration for this summer’s second-ever LauraPalooza conference.

But the blog has just begun.

This guy wore a sunbonnet to report from LauraPalooza 2010 for a Minneapolis TV station. What a sport! Think he’ll be there this year?

Next up: ebooks. I’m putting the final touches on the draft of the first ebook in the Little House Travel series. This inaugural guide will be all about the homesite that is the focus of four (or depending on how you look at it, five) books in the Little House series: De Smet, South Dakota. For the next few days, while the book is with editors, I’m going to work on augmenting this site to accomodate the book releases. Stay tuned.