Little House on the Prairie ran for nine seasons and three post-series movies. Fans have been clamoring for a reunion show for years, though as time passes it seems less likely that it would be possible. Some of the actors have passed away--Michael Landon, Kevin Hagen, Dabbs Greer, Merlin Olsen, Victor French--and some have moved on to other careers.
There are fans who like the earlier episodes where the Ingalls girls are still young and growing up. Others, like me, enjoy the older seasons where Adam Kendall and Almanzo Wilder are a part of the town. And every fan has his or her favorite episodes.
"Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow" remains my favorite, though there are others that come in a close second. It is television drama at its best, and contains so many elements of what made the show a success. A two-part episode, it is partially based on the tragedies the real Wilders experienced as a young married couple.
Almanzo contracts diphtheria. Ordered to bed by Doc Baker, when a hailstorm threatens his wheat crop, Almanzo races out to save it and ends up suffering a stroke. The real Almanzo experienced this as well. Unlike his TV counterpart, he would suffer its effects for the rest of his life. In addition, the real life Laura also contract diphtheria, and Rose was sent to live with her grandparents, Caroline and Charles, while they battled their illness.
Now paralyzed, Almanzo (played by Dean Butler) is unable to make the mortgage payments. Deeply in debt, and with a very pregnant Laura no longer able to work, the Wilders are concerned about their future. Things go from bad to worse when Almanzo's older sister, Eliza Jane arrives to take care of Almanzo.
Feeling lonely, Eliza Jane hampers Almanzo's recovery, hoping she can find him a proper job in Minneapolis that he can perform from his wheelchair. Almanzo and Eliza Jane make plans to sell the house in Walnut Grove, but a tornado destroys it. In real life, the Wilder's home was destroyed by a fire not long after the death of their infant son.
The loss of the house on top of Almanzo's illness and the thought of leaving the place that has been her home for most of her life, cause Laura to give up and retreat to bed. Almanzo decides he must be the husband that Beth needs. With the help of Charles, he learns to walk again, and then begins rebuilding a small home in Walnut Grove.
Beth and Manly have an emotional reunion in front of the frame of their new home, where Laura sees Almanzo walk for the first time since his stroke. "Welcome home, Beth," announces Almanzo before they embrace.
I hope you'll consider sharing your favorite Little House on the Prairie episodes with us.