Dakota Gatorade

Haymaker’s Punch, Switchel, or Ginger Water?Perhaps we of the 21st century would liken it to Gatorade, Dakota-Style. I’ve tried it many times in many recipes. It’s a startlingly pleasant yet curious concoction which some might call “an acquired taste.” 

Call it what you will, but here’s a little background on this go-to refreshment for hardworking farmers in the heat of summer. Just ignore the part of the article that tries to claim no one had ice.If the events in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s FARMER BOY are any indication, I think those “Wilder boys” would vehemently disagree: 


http://www.free-times.com/restaurants/switchel-up-your-summer-sips-052516

Making a Public Historian: The Contract

The “contract” between an historian and her audience–whether implied or on paper–is the standard to which her output should be held at all times. Mine is that of historical integrity on every level, including acknowledging what I do not know, and the commitment to finding the answers to the best of my ability, using every available resource, and a pledge to never stop learning. I’m an Interdisciplinary Public Historian, and my work encompasses (or soon will) every method of study and educational practice from primary source research and first-person interpretation to museum advocacy, sustainability, and accessibility for all interested parties from audience to institution.

The History Doctor

This year for my course on the Practice of Public History we’ve introduced Master Classes, which have given our students the opportunity to learn directly from some of the best practitioners in the field.  But because I want to make sure that my folks understand that public historians practice their craft in a dizzying variety of contexts, often far away from museums and historic sites, our presenters this term have been documentarians, broadcasters, and authors: Ric Burns, Susan Swain, and Tony Horwitz, so far.  The best Master Classes, of course, are those in which everyone learns, including the instructor, and ours have borne out the truth of that statement, as Ric, Susan, and Tony have augmented our reading, thinking, and discussions in considerable ways.  That’s especially true because this semester we set ourselves the collective task of constructing a more effective vocabulary for talking about and explaining just what public history is…

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Context is Crucial, Part ONE

Pardon my snark. But this kind of stuff comes up a LOT in the world of LIW fandom, and I feel it necessary to address the topic.

A blogger, identity unknown to me, wrote a piece which excoriates LIW’s parents and accuses them of virtually “pimping” their second daughter to work outside the home in various capacities for the sole benefit of alleviating their (as the blogger perceives it) financial ineptitude. Further, she charges that in so doing, the Ingalls family de-prioritized Laura’s education in favor of Mary’s. I smell trouble. In the form of a woefully uninformed opinion being asserted as fact. And then some. Here is the blog entry, with my comments, below:

http://littlehousediscussion.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-pimping-of-laura-ingalls-wilder.html?m=1

Well, once again, a blogger with virtually zero understanding of the experiences of the vast majority of Americans during the late 19th century asks legitimate questions but then takes a little turn into indignant ranting as she spouts off with woefully uninformed and incomplete arguments. And does so by conflating LIW’s actual experiences with her fiction, then takes it all out of context and flings blame all over the place.

Um, people work. And many, many children, even today, start earning money as pre-teens. Speaking from personal experience, some of us had to work at a young age to supplement our struggling parents’ income. Some of us also LIKED THE OPPORTUNITY TO EARN MONEY, even if we couldn’t turn around and spend our earnings frivolously. I can’t be the only kid who was thrilled to take home $5 or $10 an evening for a quick babysitting job and then save up for a new pair of shoes or the school field trip that was beyond my parents’ budget otherwise!
Ingalls, Carrie, Mary, and Laura id126 LIWHA

Again, speaking from experience: Families rally around the person with the biggest perceived hardship. You do special crap for the person who has suffered the most. Mary didn’t “just” go blind. She was deathly ill and it almost killed her. At 14. That means she got a second chance. Should they have just stuck her in the rocking chair permanently? What, patient and studious, tougher-than-meningoencephalitis Mary wasn’t deserving of some book-larnin’? She couldn’t attend regular school. And she had few prospects of a life remotely “normal” for the time. Of course giving her an opportunity for some better education was a priority! Besides, “College” education at the time was not what it is today. She wasn’t going to Oxford. She was going to a school focused heavily on practical skills and learning as much independence as possible. Mary’s education was similar to a modern high school education, with some voc tech, modified for visual impairments.

And Laura could have delayed marriage, if she had wanted to, don’t you think? Maybe she didn’t think it was practical. Maybe she wanted autonomy that she perceived she would have with the dashing “old bachelor” who treated her well, handed her the reins, built her a customized home, and–this likely had some influence–came from a hard-working, financially-stable family which was considerably wealthier than hers. She probably didn’t think it wise to pass up the opportunity to marry a really decent chap who came with those perks. Maybe she lamented her choices or even resented her parents at some point later. Or not. But I don’t think blaming Chaz & Co. gets us anywhere. Life in that era was HARD. And very, very few homesteaders succeeded in the eyes of anyone who didn’t live that life, too. Success is relative in any case, but not starving to death while facing the reality of that life was considered pretty successful by many Homesteaders. And a lot of them would have a thing or two to say to this blogger:

http://littlehousediscussion.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-pimping-of-laura-ingalls-wilder.html?m=1

Here She Comes…The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder!

All day today, LauraLand has been abuzz with news items, excerpts, and interviews with author/editor/LIW historian William Anderson‘s newest work, The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Harper), which hits shelves tomorrow. I’m eagerly anticipating my copies from various sources (yay, interwebs, for making it possible to place orders at multiple non-profit museum shops even when the museums themselves are not yet open for the season!). Have you ordered yours yet?

Here’s Bill’s selection on the use of Laura’s work in the 1948 Japanese Re-education program, which he submitted to TIME Magazine:

Read a Moving Letter From Laura Ingalls Wilder on the ‘Things Worthwhile in Life’

And here is an interview with Bill, conducted by Caroline Fraser, and published today in Slate:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2016/03/the_selected_letters_of_laura_ingalls_wilder_interview_with_editor_william.html

Remember, one of the best ways to show your #LoveForLIW is to support the non-profit museums that preserve her legacy with archives and artifact collections. Your book-buying dollars go further when you spend at these sites, rather than purchasing at mega-marts and corporate conglomerates.

The always delightfully friendly and helpful Amy Ankrum, Director of Walnut Grove, Minnesota’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, was kind enough to take my order directly over the phone. When I spoke with her today, she said the books were due to arrive in the afternoon, and mine would go out in the late mail. If past experience is any judge, I can expect my copy will be in my hands before the week is out!

You can reach Amy and her very knowledgeable staff:

Toll-free phone: (800) 528-7280 (within the U.S.) or: (507) 859-2358

330 8th Street

Walnut Grove, MN 56180

email to:   lauramuseum@walnutgrove.org

Online Gift Shop: http://www.walnutgrove.org/store/

SELECTEDlettersLIW2016WTAcover

Other Laura museums to purchase from:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet, SD:

(800) 880-3383 or (605)854-3383    or email to:    info@discoverlaura.org

103 Olivet Avenue

DeSmet, SD 57231

http://shop.discoverlaura.org/The-Selected-Letters-of-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-900.htm

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, Mansfield, MO:

(877) 924-7126     OPEN NOW! Season is 1 March to 15 November 2016.

3068 Highway A

Mansfield, MO 65704

http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/?post_type=product

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Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, KS:

(620) 289-4238   or email to:   Lhopmuseumks@gmail.com

2307 CR 3000

Independence, Kansas 67301

(Open 7 Days, April through September, Friday/Saturday/Sunday in October)

Donationshttps://secure.squarespace.com/commerce/donate?donatePageId=55d0cb2be4b0b18c963be80f

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak, IA:

(563) 735-5916   or email to: museum@lauraingallswilder.us

3603 236th Avenue

Decorah, IA 52101

http://store.lauraingallswilder.us/t/museumlauraingallswilderus/books

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, WI:

(715) 513-6383 

306 3rd Street (State Hwy 35)

Pepin, WI 54759

http://lauraingallspepin.com/Websites/liwmuseum/images/Documents/Paver_form_rev2.pdf

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Almanzo Wilder Farm, Burke (Malone), NY:

(518) 483-1207   or email to:   farm@almanzowilderfarm.com

177 Stacy Road /PO Box 283

Burke, NY 12953

http://almanzosgeneralstore.com

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Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum (Wilder family site), Spring Valley, MN:

(507) 436-7659    or email to:   wilderinspringvalley@hotmail.com

221 W. Courtland Street

Spring Valley, MN 55975

http://www.springvalleymnmuseum.org/wilderlinks.html

 

2015-06-24 18.55.14

Little Bessie says: “Please support your favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder museum…or, in this case, ALMANZO Wilder museum!” (Almanzo’s bucolic birthplace at Burke, NY is also known as Almanzo Wilder Farm. And it’s also home to a bunch of Little Bessie’s friends…)

2012-07-16 16.49.58

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in DeSmet, SD, is also home to DeSmet’s First School, where Laura and Carrie attended during the now-legendary Hard Winter of 1880-1881.

2012-07-09 16.33.22

A setting of Laura’s Rosebud Chintz dinnerware on display at Burr Oak, IA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old News…

2015-07-11 22.42.38

QUINN has a message for me.

…Quinn still hates it when I travel.

So this winter, as I sit tight at home, taking Museum Studies classes remotely and working on my book research, we snuggle an extra good long time every day. Somehow, I doubt she feels I will ever make up for the many long stretches of time when I’m on the road for research trips and Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC presentations. I keep telling her she needs to pick up that winning PowerBall ticket for us, so I can buy a sweet feline-customized AirStream travel trailer and take her with me in style. So far, no dice. Doesn’t she have the sweetest grumpy face? Best Kitty Everrrrrrr.

Protected: Vanity Fair notices The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Shenanigans ensue.

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Just How Cold Was It? 

17 February 1936: The coldest temperature recorded in South Dakota history. 58 degrees BELOW ZERO, at McIntosh, SD.
Author Laura Ingalls Wilder would, a few years later, immortalize a different weather system, known as the Hard Winter of 1880-1881, in her book, THE LONG WINTER. In that book and others, Dakota winters were described as experiencing temperatures in the -30s or -40s (Farenheit); sometimes, she said, the thermometer would simply freeze and no longer work at all.
In this age of central heating, snow tires, fiberglass insultion, Polartec  cold-weather gear, and satellite weather forecasting, extreme temperatures of that nature will still make us shudder. Imagine facing an air temperature of -58F  without our modern comforts, and compounded with the reality of food and fuel being in very short, often sporadic, supply. I’m willing to bet even the bison (what few remained on the High Plains at the time) felt their dense wooly coats weren’t quite adequate.

By the time of this 1936 event, Wilder had long since moved out of the state, but her sister Carrie (Ingalls) Swanzey was living 242 miles to the SW of McIntosh, in the somewhat milder Black Hills region at Keystone, South Dakota. I hear from the folks at the Keystone Historical Society that winter in the shadow of Mt. Rushmore is certainly snowy, and at times blustery, but nothing compared to the legendary whiteout blizzards of the Hard Winter. Perhaps someday this New Hampshire native (who’s shoveled a fair amount of snow and chipped countless inches of ice off her driveway over the years) will brave a little jaunt to Dakota in one of the months that ends in -uary. Maybe.

Stay warm!