Homestead on the Range

Lazy road trips are the best road trips.

Mom and I enjoyed a leisurely continental breakfast at the AmericInn in Madison, SD around 9:15 this morning, checked out around 10 am, and ambled on out to DeSmet, SD around lunch time to check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder Visitor Center. The Scheduleless Schedule is the only schedule for us this week, and I’m loving it.

Today’s Tweets

  • @BeyondLitlHouse Heading into De Smet in a half hour with my mom– can’t wait!! :D #LauraIngallsWilder #SouthDakota #roadtrip
  • Greetings from Howard, SD. Population 1156. #roadtrip #SouthDakota
  • South Dakota: Land of enough roadkill to fill Lake Erie, & 80 fafillion windmills. Grabbed a few sweet close-ups for @HankGreen#DFTBA
  • Kadoka, SD: “Is that a road or a driveway? Dinner at the bar or Jiggers? Are these hourly motels?” I take my mom on the best vacations.

Today’s Small Town Spotlight

  • Cavour, SD: Population 141; 60 households; median income $27,750.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The highlight of our day was definitely our visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead. My mom and I had an absolutely wonderful time there and I would highly recommend a visit for any fans of the Little House on the Prairie books. We spent hours wandering around the grounds and took loads of pictures. More than I could ever post here, at any rate. To see the whole mess of ’em, click here to view the album on Facebook.

Welcome to Super Awesome Nerd Girl Funtime Bookish Prairieland Vacation Mega Hotspot!

The first stop upon reaching the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead (LIWH) is a trip through the Visitor Center to buy books, corncob dolls, and postcards, and to meet Diane. Diane, a 12 year veteran of the LIWH, is awesome, and she knows everything about everything to do with LIW.

If you go here: You will meet Diane.

The front porch of the Visitor Center is where we met our first barn cat of the tour, a skinny, gray little thing we let into the visitor center by mistake. Oops…

Look, Ma! The claim shanty!

Next up? What better way to get around the homestead than by covered wagon? Anchors aweigh!

What’s so great about this place (and I imagine even more so if you’re a little kid– or grown-up– who can’t keep their hands to themselves) is that you’re encouraged to touch stuff, pick stuff up, climb on stuff. There was even a sign on the side of this wagon reminding you it’s okay to get inside it! And you don’t have to ask me twice when it comes to wearing a bright pink bonnet.

Mom and I both took turns on the wagon seat. She’s an awesome sport, my mom is. But then– I knew that going into this trip. It’s the main reason I invited her. ;)

Tickling the ivories of (a replica of?) Mary’s organ.

There’s a reconstructed claim shanty on the property, built to the exact dimensions and descriptions of the one Charles “Pa” Ingalls built there in the Spring of 1880. It was so weird walking around inside it and seeing Ma’s what-not, the sewing machine where she worked on Mary’s college clothes, and even Mary’s organ.

They’re also replicas, but even so– seeing them live, in person, touchable, was an amazing experience for me. I’ve been a fan of the LIW books since I was eight. They shaped so many of my daydreams, so much of the way I viewed my world. Visiting this house was like walking through my own memories. My own memories made flesh. Unbelievable.

Mmm… Boiled stuff…

One of the stops along the self-guided tour of the homestead is a dugout in the side of one of the hills. It’s there to show what the dugout was like where the Ingalls family lived when they were back near Walnut Grove, MN in Laura’s book “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”

It was small, smelled like dirt, and you could see it must leak like a juicy secret when the rain comes. But according to a sign on the wall the total cost of building such a home was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.50 (wood for the door, nails, a latch, and a pane of window glass), so it could hardly be beat.

Too bad they were prone to collapsing and only lasted six to seven years.

“Mew? Mew? Mew? Mew. Mewmewmewmewmew!”

Another building to visit during the tour is the hay roof barn. While inside the barn we were introduced to five new kittens.

I say “introduced,” but the momma kitty could’ve been saying anything, really. I’m just assuming it was an introduction what with all the coaxing us into the barn, herding us to the manger, and meowing for us to scratch her proud head while she ate canned food beside her wobbling, blinking, mewing babies. I held two of them while she was there, leaning them down by their mama every now and again so nobody set to freaking out. Cutest little balls of downy fluff you ever saw. And they were so young their eyes could barely focus! Wonderful. :)

Okey doke. This temporary resident of the America’s Best Value Inn of Kadoka, SD needs to hit the sack. Continental breakfast ends at 9, and check-out’s at 10 am.

Tomorrow? We see the sights. As in: The big ‘uns. As in: Badlands National Park.

What’s the coolest national park/ monument you’ve ever seen? Was it how you expected it to be?



  1. This is so awesome I just can’t stand it! It all looks like what I’d imagine it to be. I think the coolest photo is the cottonwood trees because we know for a fact that Pa planted them. Don’t forget to pick up some name cards before you leave!

  2. Looks like the best trip ever. I think I’ve watched every ‘Little house’ episode 3x’s. This is the best virtual trip I’ve ever had. Thanks Ruth and Mom!

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