Sunday, 14 August 2011

On the Banks of Plum Creek

After our sojourn in Wisconsin, we bade a reluctant farewell to the Pilgrims and, in true Pioneer style, headed West. Our next stop was Walnut Grove, Minnesota. En route we may not have had to swim across rivers or survive off cornbread and salt-pork fat, but we did have the more modern problem of TR being hideously travel sick. Thank goodness for baby wipes, is all I'm saying!

Walnut Grove is both the name of the fictional town where the TV series 'Little House on the Prairie' was set and the real name of the town where Laura Ingalls and her family lived for a few years. Book afficionados may note that this was the setting for 'On the Banks of Plum Creek'. As a child, this was my favourite book - not least for the wonderful story of Laura getting even with mean Nellie Oleson. (What child doesn't like to read about a bit of justly-deserved revenge?) I'd dreamed of paddling in the creek among the plum thickets and climbing up to the prairie above the dugout house, just as Laura and Mary did. I never thought I would, though.

Not so much 'On the Banks' as 'Right in It'.
Imagine my joy, then, when I got to do all of that. Even better, it was all just as I'd imagined it: the cool, clear water of the creek, the sweet-smelling prairie, and the sound of the breeze rustling the grasses and of the crickets chirping. Even Mr Ruby was impressed and he'd been very much sold the idea of Plum Creek being, 'a hole in the ground' (big shout-out to the Pilgrim Father, there!). He later commented on how quiet I was, which, to be fair, is rather unusual for me! To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed and somewhat choked up.
Straight from my imagination
Mr Ruby is good with the camera!

Back to the 'hole in the ground' though, all you can see of their dugout home is a grass-covered hole with a sign by it, so the Pilgrim Father was right about that. Apparently your average dugout home lasts 6-7 years, so I guess expecting one to last 130-odd years is maybe a little optimistic.

Me, managing not to fall in the Hole in the Ground.

We stayed a while at the Creek but didn't linger long in the town. It's a bit of a dive, to be honest! Like so many places we passed en route it had a big and rather ugly soybean processing plant, for the production of ethanol bio-fuel. This dominates the town somewhat and makes the surroundings all look a bit dingy. Now I'm not entirely sure how I feel about biofuels. I accept that we need an alternative to oil, but if you're using land previously used to grow food, in order to now produce fuel, where's your food coming from? As I say, I'm just not sure.

So, it was back in the RV for the long drive to South Dakota. But who were those ghostly figures we left behind?

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