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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



I don’t tend to go on vacation very often. In fact, if it doesn’t have something to do with some sort of FFA activity or the State Fair I’m hard pressed to take more than a day off of work at a time, so when the opportunity arose to take the kids on a “family vacation” I didn’t hesitate and away we went. As crazy as it sounds we had a great time poking around the Okoboji region and even found a few out of the way places as we wandered about.

I want to concentrate on one in particular this week, and anyone who is my age, or watched black and white television or ever was a young girl and read a book will understand this out of the way stop as soon as it is mentioned.

An hour and a half north of Vic’s Corner, which anyone who has spent any time in the Iowa Great Lakes region will know as the best place to get gas, especially since Vic comes out and pumps it for you, sits the quiet little town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota. I just saw lightbulbs appear over many of your heads but don’t get too far ahead of me. Probably about the size of Redfield, Walnut Grove boasts one claim to fame and that comes in the form of its most famous daughter, Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is here that the basis for the entire Little House on the Prairie television show was loosely based with the characters based on real people, although some professional leeway was taken with the town itself.

Over the age of 60 when she started writing in her home in Missouri, Mrs. Wilder wove young and old alike through the tales of Ma and Pa and their life on the Minnesota frontier. In Walnut Grove you won’t find many businesses, although Main Street is kept clean and the buildings tidy, however you will find the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. The museum sits on a city block neat and simple, although the gift shop at beginning and end is a bit overwhelming, especially for any fan of the Little House Series. The depot contains photos and mementos from the family and timelines of the family and their travels to Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and eventually Kansas. A small chapel invites one into pray, next to the onion domed “Grandmothers House” which is full of fun antiques. Behind that one has a chance to step into a sod dugout similar to the one Charles Ingalls built on the banks of Plum Creek, but let’s not get that far yet. Next to it are Pioneer and Settlers Cabins, a small school and the final exhibit hall which is set up inside with a general store, post office and bank, giving little ones a chance to relive the way it used to be.

From the museum one simply needs to go north a little over one mile to a poorly marked driveway (if you miss the sign which sits in the road ditch you’ll end up a few miles up the road realizing you need to turn around.) which leads into the Plum Creek farm. Pulling in the driveway one is met with the view of a beautiful Victorian farmhouse so immaculately kept one would think it was a museum in itself. The occupants, who are no relation to the Ingalls family, have a sign posted next to the barn and for $5 a carload (on the honor system) one can drive the quarter mile lane through corn and bean fields back to a clearing which now has a parking lot and picnic area. You are now on the banks of Plum Creek, where gazing across one is met with a giant fading sign, noting the location of the dugout home of the Ingalls family.

The clear bubbling creek, complete with schools of fish, Walleye perhaps, winds its way past the Ingalls site and gives the visitor that sense of peaceful calmness that must have brought the Ingalls to settle here in the first place. It’s sheltered bend, its prairie grasses and wildflowers and cool refreshing breeze makes one sit and contemplate life over 100 years ago, as well as being one of those places in nature where one looks around and feels closest to God. Although there are no bells and whistles, no gift shop and not one thing commercial about the place, it is perhaps one of the few places in my travels where I have felt that I could come time and time again to sit on the rocks next to the gentle flow of the water and never feel as though I had spent too much time there.

There are few places that I feel are truly hidden treasures but the little quiet spot just north of Walnut Grove known as Plum Creek has to be on that list, and for those of you who are lucky enough to have some time to venture that way, be sure to pack a picnic lunch because you will want to spend a little more time there than you thought you would. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look through my old boxes for a copy of the Little House books to read again. More vacation stories next week, remember…we’re all in this together.