Sunday, October 7, 2007

Little fan on the prairie

I've been having the time of my life in Minnesota. I am absolutely in love with St. Paul, visiting Garrison Keillor's bookstore Common Good, driving through funky regentrified neighborhoods with my Aunt Carol, marveling at the manses on Summit Avenue that F. Scott Fitzgerald passed through, sitting around the dinner table with my cousins, and poking through generations of family photos with my Uncle Greg.

In addition to these activities, I had to travel to the absolute epicenter of all things prairie, seeing as I wrote the book on prairie girl pursuits.

I went to Walnut Grove.

I climbed in my rental and drove to Southwestern Minnesota on Saturday, stopping at the Dairy Queen in Sleepy Eye for a snack. I sat in a window seat, watching a train heading east. I continued west on 14, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, until I reached Walnut Grove, pop. 599. At least that's what the sign said.

When I pulled over to take a photo, I climbed out of the car and was immediately assaulted by a hot prairie wind. It was unseasonably warm, to say the least--87 degrees, but it felt warmer. I could have done with a trip to an ice house at that point but who am I to complain? I just crawled back into my air-conditioned Saturn.

I found the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and I have to admit, I went just this side of nuts. I bought out the gift shop (the prices were downright reasonable and how can any self-respecting prairie girl pass up a limited-edition bobblehead Laura?) and checked out the displays, staring into the eyes of Charles Ingalls in his wedding portrait, gazing with admiration at a quilt Laura had made, and marveling at the low ceilings. Prairie folk sure were short.

As I hit the road, I hit seek on the radio and found the NPR station, just as A Prairie Home Companion was beginning and the sun was setting.

It was as perfect a moment as any prairie girl could ask for.

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A sampling of my books