Life As It Use To Be

Trip Start Mar 28, 2013
Trip End Jul 31, 2013

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Thursday, July 18, 2013

We went back and forth about whether or not we should drive a couple hours north straying from our direct route east. In the small town of De Smet, South Dakota was the Ingalls Homestead and we both guessed it would be a pretty great place. Aimee had grown up reading all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" books and we both watched the tv show as kids. It was going to be Clare's birthday and the more we thought about it we decided it would be a pretty neat place for her to spend her third birthday. Unfortunately that did mean part of her birthday would be a driving day. We let her pick a couple treats for the car and had 3 birthday balloons waiting in her carseat for her. We all sang her happy birthday before we left and she was as proud as a peacock. As soon as we left we saw 3 deer on the side of the road and told Clare that the 3 deer came to wish her happy birthday because she was 3 years old now! She smiled and nodded her head in total amazement! The drive went smoothly and we only had to stop once for gas and once to let a trailer moving a house go by. Interesting to see. We drove on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Highway as we neared De Smet.
We discovered that you could actually stay right at Ingalls Homestead as they had 8 campsites and had covered wagons you could sleep in as well. We were thrilled with the decision we made and were able to get a campsite there for the night. For anyone that is a Little House fan, to stand on the same land that the Ingalls lived on and farmed was a pretty cool experience. Something this campground had that none of the others we've stayed at had was a "storm shelter". I guess being in the prairies and with possible tornados they needed to provide a place to go. They used the space for the restrooms and showers as well and it was built underground into a hill. When Bruce had his shower that night there was quite a few little frogs jumping around in there with him!
There was a gift shop and visitor center where we watched a short movie about the Ingalls and how they ended up in South Dakota. They owned 160 acres and the barn Charles had built was still standing. There was a little calf in there to visit and some chickens. The house he had built was replicated from the papers he submitted to the city back in 1876. The kids saw the small room with 2 beds that the 4 girls shared and tried a sewing machine they would have used back then. There was a very old organ you had to pump with your feet to play and they made "button buzzers" like the kids back then made to play with. Surprisingly Caleb jumped at the chance to use the old fashioned washing machine and then hung the clothes on the line. Have to remember that for when we get home!

There was a huge vegetable garden we could explore that gave us some inspiration for when we get home. Our little garden last summer was lots of fun and the kids loved picking the vegetables for us to eat at lunch and dinner. They did enjoy Gramps very plentiful garden more though! They used the hand pump to fill a bucket with water and caught the little frogs around the pump. The birthday girl was right in there with her big brothers but we did have to keep reminding her not to squeeze the frogs too tight!

They had a horse drawn covered wagon that would take you for a ride out to an old school house they recently moved on the land. It was very similar to the school house that Laura eventually taught at. A teacher welcomed us by ringing the school bell and ushered us all into the school to get bonnets and aprons for the girls and straw hats for the boys. We sat at desks and were able to experience school like it was back then. Needless to say it made the boys eager to get back to Welborne in the Fall.  They did like ringing the bell at the end of class though!
On the way back each of the kids were given a chance to drive the wagon which they thought was pretty neat. Clare sat right up there on the drivers seat holding the reins looking like she'd been doing it for years! We visited the other barn where there was some ponies and a little foal. Clare had a pony ride for her birthday which made her feel pretty special after not being able to go horseback riding. The boys took turns going for a cart and pony ride then we went upstairs in the barn where we found an old carriage and sled they used in the winter. We also found 5 kittens and it didn't take long for the kids to adopt them as their own. They had another building where you could make rope and use a machine to take the kernels off a corn husk. Then they made a doll for Clare with the corn husk and Supermen with the boys husks. Clare carried her baby around while the boys used their new ropes to try and rope a calf statue.

We had a cake for Clare after dinner and sang happy birthday again much to her delight. She opened her cards and presents and was thrilled to be the center of our attention. We decided to get her the whole set of Little House books to read together for now and on her own as she gets older. It had already gotten quite late (we lost an hour when we moved into Central time) so we all curled up on the couch to start the first book before bed. The boys really enjoyed the book as well and will hopefully read the series too! Clare seemed to have a great third birthday and crashed right to sleep that night!

After getting everyone settled into bed Aimee had a quiet moment to walk around the homestead and through the fields and thought about this amazing place we were staying. There was a tower you could climb to see all their land and it was so peaceful at the top. The quiet gave her the opportunity for reflection on our trip and the way people use to live as a family. More and more we feel so grateful for this time together as a family.
The land is privately owned by another family now and they told us we were welcome to go in any of the buildings after hours. The first thing the kids wanted to do after breakfast was look for the kittens. Clare specifically thought they were her best birthday present and asked, "I can go see my cats now?". The boys were thoroughly disgusted to have to wait to hold them until they finished nursing from their Mother. It was so cute to see and we spent our whole morning in the barn playing with the kittens. They found the kittens liked to go in the carriage with them and the kids felt like they had a "ready made fort". Bruce and Aimee had some quiet time to chat and have a coffee. We debated staying another night especially when Cohen said it was his favourite place on the trip so far! It was a really special place and to think we may have decided against it! We felt like we better keep moving or we were never going to get home. Another border party tomorrow as we travel into Minnesota!
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Holly Cassidy on

What a wonderful place to visit!! Thanks for sharing!! :) Getting excited to see you all....not long now!! Travel safe!!

Holly again.... on

...oh, and a belated HaPpY BiRtHdAy to Miss Clare!! Such a big girl now!! xo

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