Monday, January 14, 2013

My First Literary Love by Paige Shelton

I’m pretty sure I have never read one other thing I thought was as romantic as when Almanzo Wilder drove a horse drawn sleigh over the frozen winter South Dakota prairie to gather Laura Ingalls so she could spend the weekends with her family. Sigh.

I probably read THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS, the eighth book in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, when I was eight or nine, and it is my favorite of the “Little House” books. The courtship of Laura and Almanzo was the perfect first romance for my little girl self.

When Laura Ingalls began teaching – at the age of fifteen I should add (she lied and said she was sixteen but that’s another story) – she took a position in a one-room schoolhouse that was a long way from her family’s DeSmet, South Dakota home. The couple she lived with proved to be a challenge – the woman was mentally unstable and there were moments when Laura felt her life was in danger. Laura eventually enjoyed teaching but she was never happy or comfortable in that house. Every Friday during the long winter, Almanzo braved the cold, the bitter prairie wind, and the dangerous icy plains just so Laura could be with her own family in DeSmet, and then he’d take her back on Sundays. I didn’t think that love could ever be better expressed. I fell hard.

About five years ago I took a Laura Ingalls Wilder trip and visited many of her homes. My last stop was at the home where Laura and Almanzo lived most of their lives together in Mansfield, Missouri. There are some amazing things to see in that house – a portrait of their daughter Rose, Laura’s pa’s fiddle, Laura’s china, jars still containing some of Almanzo’s medications, and so much more. But my favorite part of the house, of the trip in fact, was a space that was probably about five feet by about ten feet. It was a nook off the front and dining rooms. It had its own short walls. Inside that nook was Laura’s library. Shelves full of books filled the space, and I could imagine Laura venturing inside, finding a book, and then making her way to the window seat at the front of the house where she used to sit and read. As I listened to the tour guide explain that Almanzo had built this library for Laura because she loved books so much, my heart, of course, swooned a little more, and I knew that both Laura and I had picked the right guy.

The best thing about literary crushes is that they are able to live on forever and be visited again and again simply by opening a book. It was great to meet Almanzo Wilder when I did, and I’m so glad that he was my “first.”

Thank you, Sabrina!


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

What I love most about this post is learning that I can take a Laura Ingalls Wilder trip and visit so many amazing places. I had a crush on Almanzo back in the day, too, Paige. Time to watch some episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

J Orton said...

Love this!I was trying to remember my first literary crush and couldn't. I have never been one to crush on celebrities or fictional characters (well, there were my crushes on David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman in 1st grade, so maybe I only had a thing for musicians with records on cereal boxes?). I'm kind of jealous of your crush on Almanzo and the great story behind it, though. Your story makes me feel like I've missed out now. Something to add to my bucket list I guess--Experience the exhilaration of discovering my first literary love.... Ahhh, sounds heavenly. ;)

Christine H. said...

Call me Kate and Paige. So good to hear about you both being besotted with Almanzo Wilder! What a treasure of a young man and what a HERO!! It was nice to be reminded of the “good ol days” of Little House on the Prairie….I have watched it recently and think it would have been fun, and dangerous, to live in those days. To make your own entertainment to be able to roam in the countryside without been absconded by modern day villains. Great job both of you. Congrats Paige and of course to our Miss Call Me Kate for bringing our minds to focus on “good stuff.”

Ginger said...

What a fun post to read, I loved it! Thanks for sharing Paige and thanks again "Kate" for this great blog where we can learns so much about books and authors.

Linda Rodriguez said...

What fun! Almanzo in THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS! I've read it several times, but have to confess I never had a crush on Almanzo. Even though the book Laura wrote about his childhood, FARMER BOY, is my favorite of all her books (for its great detail of everyday life).

There's also a book called A LITTLE HOUSE SAMPLER that gathers some of Laura's pieces written for newspapers and pieces by her daughter Rose about her life as a girl on the Wilders' Missouri Ozarks farm. You might enjoy that, too.