Finding the Location for Little House on the Prairie
My conversation with Kent McCray continues with Kent sharing all about the misadventures he had finding an ideal location to shoot Little House on the Prairie and how they ended up where they did.
I was looking for locations and being practical as I am, I knew we were going to be shooting in January, so I’m thinking where can I find weather that is going to be suitable to work with; what area of the country can we go to to get this effect. I went to Santa Fe and Albuquerque New Mexico. I then went to Arizona and I found a beautiful spot. It had a meadow and a creek, trees and the whole thing and I felt very secure about working in southern Arizona because I knew the weather would be more reliable than rain around Los Angeles. So I brought Michael, Ed Friendly, the art director, Trevor Williams, the assistant director, Miles Middough, and Teddy Voigtlander, our cinematographer down to Arizona to show them what I had found. I really thought I found a spot that had all the things for the show to work.
So, we went to this wonderful meadow that I had found, we drove up and got out of the car and I was devastated. Between the time I had seen it and the time I went back with this group of key people, there had been a killing frost. All the leaves on the trees had fallen off and behind the trees was a hill of cactus. Not good for Kansas. I was so devastated I couldn’t speak.
We went back to Tucson where we were staying overnight. This was in December and we were close to wanting to do the show. Michael had only planned to stay one night. We got back to our hotel and we talked and talked and talked and we finally decided that we should go back to Northern California.
This was in December of 1973 and at that particular time there was a great gas crunch where it was tough getting flights, everything was a mess as far as getting anywhere. We booked flights to Sacramento. I took Michael, Miles Middough, Teddy Voigtlander, and Trevor Williams and we canvassed all of the area above Sacramento, Marysville, Chico, and all these areas for different things. We went to the spot where they had shot Oklahoma! We’re driving around in a pick-up truck, it’s raining and we’re all getting wet. It was just a miserable, miserable trip.
We ended up in Stockton. We had shot Bonanza up in Sonora, California, which is outside of Modesto, near the foothills, near Yosemite. Up above Sonora there’s very good timber country, so we could get snow up in there. We had shot Bonanza many times there. So I suggested that and we took off and went to Sonora. In the meantime, out of Stockton, around Fairfield (I think) along Route 4, we found a ranch on which we could erect the log cabin. It went by a stream. We made arrangements to work out of Sonora and Stockton to shoot the pilot and we came back to L.A. and cast the show; did a lot of work to prepare the show; I went back and did some work with the art director. He actually went up with some people to cut logs so that we could build the log cabin and then duplicate it so that we could have an interior set on the Fair Grounds.
That’s how we started shooting the pilot right after New Year’s in 1974.