Chasing Laura Ingalls Wilder: traveling through her world, one homesite at a time

“No Dogs Allowed.”

The homesite in Independence, Kansas claims the distinction of being the very first homesite I ever visited, way back in 2001. I’d just moved to the southwestern edge of Kansas the year before from Boston, and I planned my visit to Independence around a trip back to the east coast. It was a couple hours out of the way, but I was heading for an eight-hour drive anyway, all the way diagonally across Kansas from the Kansas City airport. I had time.

Back then, the site was just starting to gain momentum. It didn’t have regular hours, or a website (it was 2001, after all). But I had gathered what information I could online and navigated my way south from Kansas City, almost to the Oklahoma border.

My excitement was palpable, at once prickly and whooshing through me. From behind the wheel, I saw a sign, green with white lettering: “Verdigris River.” With a shuddering intake of breath I looked down as I drove over a small bridge, but the brush was so thick I couldn’t identify any water. But still! I had driven over the Verdigris! The same Verdigris River mentioned all over the book! The one that likely fed the creek that Mr. Edwards had braved in flooded conditions, clothes on his head and potatoes in his pockets, just to bring Laura and Mary their Christmas candy.

It’s like that when you first approach the homesites. You see the signs: Lake Thompson or Plum Creek or Pepin. Your heart begins to flutter in a speed directly proportional to the level of your fandom. Your breathing seems to stop.

That Sunday in June, as the sign directed me to turn south off route 160 toward the tiny town of Wayside, Kansas, my anticipation grew. By the time I approached the wide expanse of fields and saw the fenced-off log cabin replica, I was so excited I almost forgot to park. But I managed it, then walked over to the fence, where I was greeted by this handwritten sign:

Ever see that Charlie Brown special “Snoopy Come Home”? Specifically this part (and the song beginning at :33)? And do you remember how you felt? 

Then you know.

Twelve years later, I’m happy to say, the site is much different. And today, May 6, 2012, the Sunday edition of Tulsa World provides a great rundown on the site and what it’s like to visit. I’m pretty picky about my Little House articles; this seems well done.

    • Tracy A Moore on May 7, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Reply

    The same sort of thing happened to me the one and only time I made a trip to Walnutt Grove in 1992. The anticipation of getting closer….then just before we got there….road block! There was a detour that took us 10 miles or so out of the way! Eventually got there…and it was well worth it!

    • patty collins on May 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Reply

    It is funny how this keeps happening to us! The LHOTP site had closed for the season the day before I finally got there the first time. I guess it makes for a good story. BTW, as a Peanuts collector as well as a Little House collector, I appreciated the connection.:) “No dogs allowed…no dogs or birds” tee hee:)

    • Babette on May 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Reply

    I went through a Pearl Buck phase and made my family follow the winding road to her home in W. Va.(her birthplace and where she spent many years)…Bryn got car sick and threw up…there were twists and turns in the mountain roads…

    And. It. Was. Closed.

    Sigh.

    We rewarded everyone w a stop a Tamarack in W. Va. afterwards.
    But I never lobbied for a repeat visit.

  1. Reply

    Thanks for the post Sandra. You will be happy to note that we are working on a QR code virtual tour for smart phones so that when visitors come after hours they can still see interiors of the buildings and when we do have to be closed for any reason folks can still walk the grounds where the family lived and use the codes and phones to experience the site. Now with Facebook, Voicemail and the internet we are able to better let folks know if we have to be closed, this technology driven age sure does help! Thanks again for the mention and we hope to see you soon on the prairie!

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