Monday September 14, 2009
Yesterday, when the Commodore wanted to know which of two routes to choose through Missouri, I foolishly opened my mouth. She listened to me, and followed my chosen route. The drive is along state roads and US highways, not interstates, so there are some disadvantages, slower speeds, roads that aren't quite as good, and the real kicker, the exits are not listed in The Next Exit. BUT there is one enormous bonus in that it cuts down on the distance we travel through Missouri. Missouri is the unfortunate State that, way back on our first voyage, we hit just as we were getting really tired. And we apparently hit it just as every skunk in Missouri decided to cross the road and get hit, and all of the hog farmers decided to move their livestock. (By the way, the smells of hog and skunk combined are the only thing I have ever smelled that rivaled the smell of exploded rotten egg mixed with Lysol as the worst combination of smells.) The 2nd Mate found a note that I wrote in the The Next Exit book that sums it up "The landscape does its best to be romantic but the perfume of the air foils its attempt." Add to that the fact that it took us the better part of two days to get through Missouri, and you have the boys' nickname for the state "The Show Me How to Get Out of Here State."
Obviously, I picked the route with the fewest Missouri miles. It is also the route that winds through hundreds of miles of mountain roads through Arkansas and Missouri. I was afraid that the Commodore would never forgive me, or allow me to navigate again, but there was a surprise that saved me. The road passes within two miles of Rocky Ridge Farm, where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived, and wrote her Little House Books. The Commodore and I had been on the road before, and we had steeled our hearts and driven on, for the crew was at home, desperately awaiting our return (and Tallulah's arrival, as that was when we had gone to fetch her) and we had no time to spare. Not this time. We could not pass the place by twice.
So we went in. There is a little museum near the farm house that Almanzo and Laura built, and their "Rock House," which Rose had built for them, was up the road a little. We did not see the Rock House. The museum and the farmhouse were all we had time for.
Immediately inside the museum, so that it is almost the first thing that one sees is a large glass display case with the words "Pa's Fiddle" written across the top. I was simply enraptured, but very quietly. The kind where you can't say anything because it would ruin everything, because no one else could feel quite the same, and it's no use trying to explain because words don't cover it. Pa's fiddle, Laura's lapdesk and sewing box and Ma's books. All truly amazing. There were also newspaper clippings that were quite thrilling. It is one thing to read in The Long Winter about Almanzo driving forty miles to get food for the town, but it feels entirely different to read in a newspaper that he saved the whole town from starving. And of course, there is the glass bread plate that survived the fire, sitting in a display case looking just as it does in the picture in the book. And pictures of all of the people.
Then we moved on to the tour of the house. The first room one sees is the kitchen. It is miniscule, even for a kitchen, but it was originally the one room log house that they lived in for a year after moving to Missouri. In the next room, is the collection that rescued me from the realm of the Commodore's wrath, the thing that she was apparently most looking forward to, whether or not she knew it. Laura's Blue Willow China. It is all set out on a table, looking magnificent. I was more excited about Laura's favorite chair, standing beside the table, and a chair made by Almanzo in the opposite corner. To each his own.
Everyone else had their favorite bits. The Boy was just excited to be there, but I think the gift shop was his favorite. The 1st Mate liked the fiddle and the wagon that Almanzo, Laura, and Rose traveled in. The 2nd Mate and the A.B. liked a cypress table that Almazo built. The A.B. was also highly impressed by the chicken coop fastened to the back of the wagon. He has suggested creating a similar contraption for Tallulah. I don't think that that will happen, but who knows. He can be very perservering when he gets an idea in his head.
My favorite part was being in the same place as the person who wrote the books that I have loved for so long. Although I detested most of them until I was about thirteen, I did love Farmer Boy the very first time I read it when I was about eight.
So there is one dream accomplished. Time to move on. To Nebraska, where we finally are. We arrived last night around ten thirty. The Admiral already had a hotel room, so we parked Tallulah outside and crashed. Lo and behold, the parking lot was about a hundred feet from the railroad tracks. Ah the dulcet sound of freight trains thundering past in the night, blasting their horns. There is no lullaby like it. Nor are there any less effective ones known to Man or Border Collie. But we are in NEBRASKA! so the trains are forgiven, as is the early morning cold-enough-to-see-your-breath weather. And the smell of the Broken Bow feedlot. At least there are no skunks yet. If there were though, I would probably forgive them too.