Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Happy New Year!

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

Laura rocked in her chair next to the fireplace. A quilt wrapped around her, she gazed into the yellow and orange flames of the roaring fire. How much longer?

The mantle clock chimed five times and anxiety bubbled inside her. She had no reason to be nervous. Manly made this trip in worse weather at least half a dozen times. But this was different. That was before they were married…before she moved into the tidy white house Almanzo used to share with his sister.

Through the glass she saw the darkening sky and heard the steady slap of wind blowing sleet against the window panes. He hadn’t told her when he would be home, but Manly never liked to be late for supper. A thick, hearty stew simmered on the stove. The freshly baked loaf of bread he enjoyed dipping into the gravy so he could scoop up every last drop had cooled by now. The smell of percolating coffee wafted from the kitchen.

She stood and pulled the quilt tight around her shoulders before trudging to the front window. The snow that had fallen yesterday hugged the sides of the barn and chicken coop where they met the ground. Today’s icy storm would make the roads slippery. Could Almanzo’s cutter have slid off the road? Laura couldn’t keep her mind from conjuring up an image of Manly trapped underneath his tipped over cutter in a ditch slowly freezing to death. She shuddered. No. It will do no good to think like that. He’ll be home any minute.

But he wasn’t home any minute.

She ate supper and he didn’t come.

She washed the dirty dishes and wrapped up the bread and he didn’t come.

She stoked the dying fire three times and still there was no sound of sleigh bells in the front yard. Oh, Manly, she thought as she looked out the window for what seemed like the thousandth time. Where are you?

By ten o’clock it was all Laura could do to keep herself from saddling up one of the horses to go out in search of her husband. She knew it made no sense. She could only assume he took the usual route home from Sleepy Eye. If the road were blocked or he had to seek shelter from the storm, she would have no idea where to find him. Frantic, she dashed upstairs to her bedroom and grabbed her Bible. Then going back to the chair in front of the fireplace, she turned up the kerosene lamp, snuggled into the quilt, and searched for the peace and comfort only the Bible’s pages could provide.

Laura found the passage right away. When she was still a child, Ma would recite this portion of Scripture before Pa left on any journey and every night until his safe return. It was a tradition she continued in her own home now that she was married. This was only the third time Almanzo had been away since their August wedding, but she found it especially lonely without him around the place. She took a deep breath and then recited slowly:

Psalm 121
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Her gazed lingered on the last line of the Psalm. She closed the Bible, leaving her right thumb in between the pages to hold her place. She breathed slow and steady, her eyelids suddenly heavy from lack of sleep.

A cold rush of air startled Laura awake.

“Were ya sleepin’?" a snow covered Almanzo asked from the front door.

She sprung up from the chair and ran over to embrace him. “Oh, Manly, I am so glad you’re home!” He chuckled as she pecked his cheek with kisses.

He tried to pull her arms away from his neck. “You’re going to be all wet.”

“I don’t care.”

“Well, at least let me take my coat and hat off.”

She stepped back. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“I woulda come in through the back door to avoid this mess on the carpet, but it was iced shut.”

Laura fluttered her hands. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you’re home safely.” She took his hat into the kitchen and shook the melting ice off in the sink. His dripping boots squished and thudded on the floor behind her as he walked into the room.

Pulling off his coat and the muffler that hung around his neck, he put the wet clothes on hooks by the back door so they could dry. Once Laura had placed his hat on another hook, he scooped her up in his arms.

“I’m sorry I was so late.” He planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “Had to wait for a shipment to arrive. I promised Mr. Crowley I would help him unload before I left.”

Leaning her head against his broad chest, she heard the thump, thump of his heart. “That’s okay. Are you hungry?” she asked, though she was sure she knew the answer.

“I’m starved.”

Laura pulled away. “I made beef stew—”

Before she knew what was happening, he had drawn her back to him and engulfed her with a deep kiss. Moments passed, and when they finally parted, Laura’s heart raced in her chest. “What was that for?”

“Listen,” he said. The clock chimed once, twice, and then ten more times, signaling the beginning of the new year. “Happy new year, Beth.”

“Happy new year, Manly.”

They kissed once more, whispering I love you to each other. The moment they parted a crooked smile turned the corner of his lips. “Can I have that stew now?”

“Oh, Manly!” She playfully slapped him before grabbing a bowl and spoon from the table. Everything had worked out fine, just as the Scripture had said. I pray this is a sign of a wonderful new year.

The End.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder was born in De Smet, South Dakota (when it was still Dakota Territory) on December 5, 1886 to Almanzo and Laura Wilder. Difficulties and tragedy led the Wilders to leave De Smet and spend some time in Spring Valley, Minnesota and Westville, Florida before they returned for a time to De Smet.

In 1894, the Wilders journeyed with friends to Mansfield, Missouri, where they finally settled. Rose attended school in Mansfield, but finished high school in Crowley, Louisiana where her aunt, Eliza Jane Thayer lived.

After graduation, Rose learned telegraphy and worked to support herself. While living in San Francisco, she met Claire Gillette Lane, whom she married in 1909. Having moved to Kansas City, Rose wrote for the Kansas City Post before she and her husband began selling real estate. As the years went by, Rose and Gillette drifted apart, and eventually divorced.

Rose returned to her writing and for decades wrote for major magazine, in addition to ghostwriting and authoring books. It was Rose who encouraged her mother to earn extra money by writing.

Rose Wilder Lane died on October 30, 1968, right before she was due to take a trip to Europe. She is buried in Mansfield, Missouri.

Happy 129th birthday to our favorite bachelor girl.


Rose Wilder Lane's home in Danbury, Connecticut was recently up for sale. It sold last month for $400,000. You can see pictures here.

Sleigh Bells Ring: LHOP Inspired Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Sleigh Bells Ring

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

"Bye Ma! Bye Pa!" Laura turned around in her place next to Almanzo, a large smile curling the corners of her lips. She waved at her parents who were still standing next to Reverend Alden on the church steps.

Almanzo prompted his Morgan's into a slow trot.

"Make sure you're home by supper," Charles called after them.

"Yes, Sir." Almanzo's voice sounded over the tinkling of bells. He waved without looking back as his horses pulled the cutter out of town behind the others.

Laura and Almanzo, Nellie and Percival Dalton, and Willie Oleson glided over the snow covered road toward the blind school. With Mary and Adam's help they had planned a little surprise sleigh ride party for the children before their parents came tomorrow to pick them up for the long holiday vacation.

The crisp air stung Laura's cheeks as she snuggled underneath the bear skins. Almanzo had tucked her in tightly, but the cold still seemed to seep through any gap and chilled her legs. Luckily the sun shone brightly and the wind had calmed down since they made their way into town for Sunday services.

Within seconds of Almanzo's horses stopping in front of the blind school, Hester Sue came out to greet them. Dressed in a heavy shawl with a wrap wounded tightly around her head, the corner of her eyes crinkled as she squinted from the sun reflecting off the snow.

"Halleluiah!" I don't think I coulda kept this secret another minute."

Almanzo's and Percival hearty laughs filled the air. They each held up a hand to help their ladies out of the sleighs. Willie jumped out of his father's sleigh and dug underneath the bear skins to find a basket of goodies he and his father had baked yesterday.

"You look more excited than Laura," Almanzo teased. He glanced over at Laura whose raised eyebrows feigned displeasure. He bent down and placed a quick kiss on her check. "Aw Beth, ya know I'm just jokin'."

"Oh, those young'uns. You can't pass nothin' by them. They could smell Mary fryin' up those donuts and they was sure she was up to some kind of mischief."

Hester Sue shook her head as she laughed. Some of the children saw more with their other senses then many sighted people saw with their eyes. "And Almanzo, after we finished pressin' the apple cider, Mary had enough to make ya a good helpin' of fried onions 'n apples. It's waitin' for you on the stove."

Almanzo took the steps two at a time. "Well then, let's get in there. I'm starvin'."

"You're always starving." Laura said with a smirk.

The group laughed as they filed into the hallway. Hester Sue took Laura's and Nellie's coats and hats. Laura spied Adam with the children in the classroom off to the left.

"See, I told you something was going on." The melodic voice of Susan Goodspeed tickled their ears.

Adam stood in front of the classroom. Dressed in the brown suit Laura had seen him wear so often while teaching, Adam commanded attention in any room he occupied. I wonder what he would have been if he hadn't lost his sight.

One hand on his hip, Adam smiled at the children. "We're going to end classes early today."

The room erupted with shouts and cheers.

Adam put his hand out to silence them, a motion Laura found curious since none of the children, nor Adam could see. "Settle down now. Some of your good friends from town have offered to take you on rides in their cutters this afternoon."

Again the room erupted with cheers and shouts. Adam immediately refocused their attention. "But we still have chores to do."

"Awwww." The children sighed.

Adam walked to the doorway leading out to the hallway where Laura and the rest of the group stood. "Susan, Christy, and Melissa, you're going to the kitchen to help Mrs. Kendall."

"Yes, Sir," they sang out, excusing themselves as they passed by the people in the hallway.

"Matthew, Robert, and Timothy," I need you to bring in some more firewood. Bundle up, the temperature is dropping."

"Yes, Sir," said Matthew.

The other two boys followed him out of the room. Looks like Matthew will be a leader when he gets older, thought Laura.

Chairs scrapped along the wooden floor as the rest of the children stood up. Adam smiled as the small group of children waiting anxiously to find out what they got to do. "The rest of you can get ready for a sleigh ride."

"Yeah!" they hollered as they raced toward the coat room to get dressed.

Adam turned toward the adults standing in the hallway. Percival lifted his head to look up at him. "Good to see you again, Adam."

The men shook hands. "It's good to see you too, Percival. I'm so glad you came up with this idea."

Percival shook his head. "I can't take the credit." Percival touched Willie's shoulder. "It was Willie's idea."

Adam extended his hand. "Well then, thank you, Willie. I know the children will have a wonderful time."

"It weren't nothin'." He shrugged.

Nellie nudged her little brother with her elbow. "Now, don't be modest. It's wonderful that you thought of doing this."

Everyone expressed their agreement. Laura noticed how much Willie had changed recently. His boyish features and mannerisms were quickly fading. It amazed her that a child who had been such a brat could grow up into a caring young man worthy of her admiration. It wouldn't be long before Willie began courting. When did he grow up?

Laura grabbed Nellie's arm. "C'mon, Nellie. Let's go help Mary in the kitchen."

The two women strolled arm in arm, chatting about food and how to plan out the day.

Willie slapped Almanzo's arm. "Bet ya never thought you would see that."

Almanzo chuckled. "Nope."

"See what?" Percival squinted at the two women as they turned the corner into the kitchen.

"Oh nothin'," said Willie as the group turned around and headed toward the door.

Mary stood at the stove frying donuts while Laura, Nellie, and Hester Sue piled plates high with chicken, slices of ham, and corn bread. A pot of beans simmered on the cook stove. Having sent the girls into the dining room to set the tables, the women settled into conversations of Christmases past.

Hester Sue told them of her first Christmas after the Civil War ended. Her Papa and Mama sitting around the fireplace of the first home they had ever owned. It was a tough Christmas, she said, as they had little money to put food on the table, but their freedom and the many dreams they held for the future were presents enough.

Nellie spoke of her first Christmas as Percival's wife and how they celebrated Hanukah together and Christmas with her family. Nellie had begun to learn the Jewish prayers and spoke of how fascinating it was to learn about a faith so different from her own.

As she spoke, Laura noticed the change that had come over her face ever since she had gotten married. As a child, Nellie wore a scowl or evil grin most of the time. How can this be the same person?

A chuckle unconsciously escaped Laura's lips and Nellie looked up from her work.

"What's so funny?"

Laura looked upon her former archenemy. Her eyes widened. "This. Us!" Laura's hands traveled to her hips. "Did you ever imagine that one day we could be in the same room without fighting?"

Nellie shrugged. "Well, I didn't think we would fight forever, but I didn't expect to like you as much as I do."

Sudden discomfort forced Nellie to lower her eyes, but Laura loved her candor. At least that part of Nellie hadn't changed. The strangeness of the situation left Laura a bit nervous, as if she expected immediate darkness to come and the old Nellie to slither out of it. But it also felt good to be together, forging a new relationship where a friendship once seemed impossible.

Hester Sue glanced from Laura to Nellie. Even Mary stopped her work to listen to the unfolding conversation.

A genuine smile parted Laura's lips. "I'm glad we decided to spend the day together."

"Me too." Nellie focused on putting the last few slices of ham on the plate. "Laura, whatever happened to your pony?"

Laura stopped rolling out the dough for the pie crust she was making. The lump that formed in her throat seemed impossible to swallow. She hadn't thought of Bunny in years.

Mary placed a plate of warm donuts down on the table and squeezed Laura's arm. Appreciative of the support, Laura squeezed back with her free hand. Clearing her throat, she looked at Nellie with moist eyes.

"Grandpa Ingalls and I were racing Bunny in the field. She got tangled in a barbed wire fence. Pa couldn't save her."

Nellie's face dropped into a sympathetic frown. "I'm sorry. She was a beautiful animal. Not that I ever appreciated her when I had her."

Hester Sue wagged a finger at Nellie. "Wait a second. I thought Bunny was Laura's horse."

"She was." Laura sprinkled the rolling pin with more flour. "I traded her to Mr. Oleson so that I could buy a cook stove for Ma for Christmas."

Nellie shook her head. "Father knew how much I wanted that horse. Laura really had him over a barrel."

Mary sat down at the table. "It sure messed up Pa's Christmas plans though."

"You're right," said Laura. "Pa was repairing and painting a set of wheels for Mr. Oleson so that he could buy Ma the cook stove." Laura placed the rolled out dough inside the greased pan and spooned in the apple filling. "Pa couldn't believe it when Mr. Oleson wouldn't sell him the stove...but he never told our secret."

"That was the year Pa made you a saddle for Bunny." Laura could tell by Mary's intense expression that she was remebering back to that Christmas on Plum Creek. "I will never forget the look on your face when Nellie and Mr. Oleson showed up at the door to take Bunny."

Nellie dabbed at the tears forming at the corners of her eyes. "Stop. You're making me feel even more guilty for what I did."

"Whatdya do?" Hester Sue's fists were planted firmly on her hips.

"I…uh..." Nellie slammed a spoon down on the table. "Well, if you really must know, I fell off Bunny and I pretended to be paralyzed."

"Good Lord, child. Why would you do such a thing?"

"To make Laura feel bad." Nellie's blond ringlets bounced as she shook her head. "And she did too. I made her wait on me hand and foot."

Laura's eyebrows lifted. "Yeah, until I figured out she wasn't paralyzed."

Nellie's eyes flew open. "Well, you got your revenge when you tossed me down the hill into the mill pond."

Hester Sue roared with laughter. "Now, that's somethin' I woulda loved to have seen."

Nellie plopped down into a chair and wiped her hands on a towel. "I guess I was rotten back then, wasn't I?"

"Yes, you were." Laura flung a pinch of flour across the table.

The flour landed on the bridge of Nellie's nose. Coughing and gasping for breath, Nellie threw the towel she had wiped her hands on and hit Laura in the face. Staring at each other with stunned faces, the kitchen grew deadly silent. But Laura couldn't hide the smile creeping across her face as she and Nellie burst into girlish giggles.

The sound of feet stamping into the hallway meant playtime was over.

"We best get this food out to the table," said Hester Sue. "We sure wouldn't want those young'uns starvin' to death."

Laura picked up the plate closest to her and followed behind Hester Sue. "Are you kidding? Almanzo will put away more food than all the children combined."

The women laughed as they marched down the hallway to the dining room to join the men and children.

The excited chatter in the dining room echoed through the first floor of the blind school. After filling their bellies with an abundance of good food, the men and children huddled together on blankets in front of the fireplace, snacking on donuts and sipping coffee or milk.

The women had left to wash the dishes and put away the food, but now rejoined the group.

"We can hear that ruckus all the way in the kitchen." Hester Sue pulled out a chair and sat down.

Adam stood up and brushed off his pants. "All done putting everything away?"

Hester Sue nodded. "Ya never woulda known we just had a big party by the looks of that kitchen."

"Good," he said, leaning on the table. "Get your coat on."

"What on earth for?"

A sly smile curled the corner of Adam's lips. "You are going on a sleigh ride."

"Oh, no, no, no." Hester Sue waved her hands in front of her chest. "Sleigh rides are for young folk."

"You've worked hard for days. It's time for some fun."

"I agree," said Laura. She stood in the doorway with Mary and Nellie by her side. "Why should the men have all the fun?" Laura clasped Mary's hand. "C'mon, let's go get dressed." They headed toward the coat room where they could hear the men chuckling over their behavior.

Hester Sue shook her head. "Well, there ain't no talkin' sense into you folks, so I best go along to make sure no one gets hurt."

"That's awful kind of you, Hester Sue," teased Willie.

From the hallway Laura saw Hester Sue shoot Willie a look that could kill. When Hester Sue turned around, Laura shoved a shawl and wrap in her direction.

"Hurry up, Hester Sue. I don't want to take a dangerous sleigh ride without you." Laura's devilish grin got her the same look that Hester Sue had given Willie.

Hester Sue turned back toward the children who were beside themselves with laughter. "You hush now or I won't be savin' you any cookies for snack time tonight. I'll just eat 'em myself, that's what I'll do."

They all laughed. Everyone knew that Hester Sue loved spoiling the children around Christmas.

Nestled into Mr. Oleson's sleigh, Mary and Adam smiled and chatted while the children sat on the front porch cheering the riders on. Hester Sue had hopped in alongside Nellie and Percival, leaving Almanzo and Laura to enjoy this sleigh ride by themselves.

"Thank you so much for doing this." Laura's face beamed with love for the man she had often dreamed about. "You made the children very happy."

Almanzo leaned in close enough that Laura could have felt his warm breath on her face if it had not been covered by his muffler. "Ya know I would do anythin' for you." Red heat simmered on Laura's cold cheeks. "It's been fun. The kids are wonderful. Besides, it's nice to have my favorite girl by my side."

Even though Laura often cringed when Almanzo had called her a girl in the past, their ever growing love for each other allowed her to accept his words as the compliment they were meant to be. No longer did Almanzo tug her pigtails before running off to lunch with a beautiful young lady dangling on his arm. His "favorite girl" was the one who he willingly kept close to his side at socials, church picnics, and other town events.

Again Laura's cheeks felt warm. Almanzo pulled back his muffler and placed a quick kiss on her cheek before turning his Morgans around to take another ride by the front of the school. Like the others, they bounced up and down the snow covered hills, laughing all the way.

After a few more passes, Willie and Percival pulled up on opposite sides of Almanzo's cutter. Almanzo looked up at the sky that had just begun to darken.

"Guess we better head home. We gotta get back by suppertime."

Willie let the reins fall over the front of the sleigh. "Yeah, you're right."

Adam helped Mary step out onto the frozen ground. "Why don't you come in for a cup of coffee before you travel all the way home."

After finishing the rest of the donuts and filling up on hot coffee, Laura and Almanzo, Percival and Nellie and Willie headed out in their sleighs toward home. At the break in the road, Willie, Percival and Nellie waved goodbye to Laura and Almanzo, who turned down the road that would go by the Ingalls farm. The young couple traveled in silence, each captured by their own thoughts.

"Whoa." Almanzo tugged the reins and his team halted in front of Laura's house.

Darkness had fallen along the ride home and soft yellow light colored the snow outside the front room window. The door creaked open, startling Laura and Almanzo. They had hoped to spend a few moments alone.

"Hello, Almanzo." Charles stood in the doorway.

"Evenin', Mr. Ingalls." Almanzo tipped his hat. "I hope we're not late."

"No, no. Caroline is just about ready to put food on the table." Charles shivered as he walked outside a few steps. "You're welcome to join us if you like."

"Thank ya, Sir, but Eliza Jane is waitin' on me. She wants to put up the Christmas tree tonight."

Charles nodded, but he did not move. Laura knew he was waiting for her and she resigned herself to going inside. She began to pull the bear skins up when Caroline appeared in the doorway.

"Charles, can you come help me with something?"

He turned around. "Sure darling. What do you need?"

Caroline looked over Charles's head at her daughter. "Come inside and I'll show you."

Charles shrugged. "Give my regards to your sister, Almanzo."

"I will, Sir."

Caroline stepped out of the doorway so that Charles could pass. She looked up at Laura and smiled before shutting the door.

Laura and Almanzo laughed. "Thank goodness for Ma," she said. "I'm not sure Pa will ever be ready for me to grow up."

"My father was the same way with my sisters." Almanzo's shoulders moved up and down. "I'll probably be the same way with my daughters too."

Laura shifted under the bear skins. They had spoken of the future before, but more about getting married and building a home. Children seemed too intimate of a topic to enter into their conversations.

Almanzo clasped her hand. "You better go inside before your pa starts peekin' outta the window."

A nervous giggle escaped her lips. "Will I see you tomorrow?"

Almanzo's free hand slid out of the bear skins and caressed her cheek. "Probably not until everyone gets together at church. Eliza Jane has a special dinner planned and Hester Sue is comin' over."

He glanced up at the sky filled with puffy, gray clouds and breathed deeply. "Smells like snow." He pointed up. "From the look of those clouds we'll have about a foot of snow by mornin'."

Laura shivered. Almanzo brought his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. A crooked smile slid across his face as Laura's chocolate brown eyes gazed upon him. Feeling the warmth of his body so close and his breath upon her face, her heart raced inside her chest. She was certain his heart pounded in the same rhythm.

His lips parted and he leaned in closer, stopping just before their lips touched. "Merry Christmas, Beth."

She swallowed away the lump in her throat. "Merry Christmas, Manly."

Their lips touched and the distance between them diminished. Her insides performed somersaults as sparks of excitement tingled through her. Reluctantly, they pulled back and it was several moments before his raspy voice broke through the silence.

"I'll wait 'til you're inside."

Laura nodded and adjusted her hat. Pulling her coat closer to her chin, Almanzo helped her pull the bear skins back so she could step out. She tucked them around Almanzo's body to keep him warm on the ride home.

She walked to the doorway and turned around. A gloved hand waved at her. His face now almost totally covered by his muffler and the flaps of his hat, she could just make out the sparkle of his eyes. Something cold and wet tickled her nose. Looking up, light, tiny snowflakes fell onto her face. Laura raised a gloved hand and watched the white flakes as delicate and unique as tatted lace drop onto her glove and then disappear. She smiled at Almanzo, waved, and walked inside.

Leaning against the door, Laura never heard her mother ask how the day went. She was too busy thinking of sleigh rides, Almanzo, and the magic of Christmas snow.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 4, 2015

More Gifts for Laura Fans

Little House on the Prairie: The Complete Series Deluxe Remastered Edition - DVD. All nine seasons of the beloved classic show starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert.

Dean Butler, who portrayed Almanzo Wilder on the Little House on the Prairie, produced this documentary about Almanzo's life growing up on a farm in Burke, NY. Using old photographs, excerpts from Wilder's Farmer Boy, and the beautiful landscape in Burke, NY, Butler has brought Almanzo Wilder to life in a unique and touching way. I reviewed it here.

Historical photographs, book excerpts, reenactments, and expert insights give viewers a glimpse into the life of one of America's most beloved writers. The artwork of illustrator Cheryl Harness captures the essence of Wilder's Little House series and brings this legacy to life through animation. Discussions with Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer, John E. Miller, and Pamela Smith Hill, editor of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, add depth to this engaging story covering Wilder's legacy.

Bonus features include topics on Native Americans and African Americans on the prairie, the beautiful work of American artist Harvey Dunn, and the Morgan Horse. Viewers are encouraged to travel behind the scenes with director Dean Butler as he chronicles his work on this documentary, and there is a discussion with illustrator Cheryl Harness on her contributions. Produced in association with Friendly Family Productions.

See my review here.

This 2005 television mini-series marked a return to the autobiographical books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Portraying a more realistic view of the pioneering era than the now classic television show, Little House on the Prairie, this Disney production chronicled the life of the Ingalls family as they staked their claim in Kansas. 

Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a CBS production that was originally released as two TV movies in 1999 and 2002. Now on one DVD, this chronicles the life of a teenage Laura in De Smet, how she meets Almanzo Wilder, their courtship and marriage, life on Rocky Ridge Farm, and Laura's return to De Smet to see her ailing father. You can read my thoughts on these movies here and here

Gifts for Laura Fans

Originally published from 1932 to 1943, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are classics of children’s literature, beloved by millions. But readers who last enjoyed them as children may be astonished at the quiet poetry of Wilder’s prose and the force and poignancy of her portrait of the lives of American pioneers. Now The Library of America and editor Caroline Fraser present a definitive boxed set that affirms Wilder’s place in the American canon, reintroducing these enduring works to readers young and old. Here, for the first time in two collectible hardcover volumes, are all eight Little House novels—brilliant narratives of the early life of Laura Ingalls and her family as they grow up with the country in the woods, on the plains, and finally in the small towns of the advancing American frontier—plus the posthumous novella The First Four Years, which recounts the early years of the author’s marriage to Almanzo Wilder. As a special feature, four rare autobiographical pieces address the need for historical accuracy in children’s literature, reveal real life events not included in the novels, and answer the inevitable question: what happened next?


Little House in the Big Woods

Farmer Boy

Little House on the Prairie

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Library of America volume #229


By the Shores of Silver Lake

The Long Winter

Little Town on the Prairie

These Happy Golden Years

The First Four Years

Library of America volume #230

More than 100 recipes introduce the foods and cooking of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer childhood, chronicled in her classic Little House books.

Notable Children’s Books of 1979 (ALA)
Best Books of 1979 (SLJ)
Notable 1979 Children's Trade Books in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)
Children's Books of 1979 (Library of Congress)
1980 Western Heritage Award

Laura Ingalls Wilder crossed the country by covered wagon, by train, and by car. Here, Laura's journal entries and letters from three of her most memorable journeys have been collected in one volume. On the Way Home recounts her 1894 move with her daughter, Rose, and her husband, Almanzo, from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, where Laura would live for the rest of her life. In West From Home, Laura wrote letters to Almanzo about her adventures as she traveled to California in 1915 to visit Rose. Finally, The Road Back tells the story of Laura and Almanzo's first trip back to DeSmet in 1931, the town where Laura grew up and where she fell in love with Almanzo.

Laura's candid sense of humor and keen eye for observation shine in this wonderful collection of writings about the many places she called home.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Country takes the millions of fans of the Little House books and the hit TV series on an enchanting tour of the real world of the well-loved author, visiting the people and places who inspired her classic books. With hundreds of photos, many in full color, this memorabilia book makes a beautiful gift.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Nite of Dreams Production Presents a Little House on the Prairie Tribute Dinner in March 2016

From the Nite of Dreams website:

Join Alison Arngrim, Allison Balson, Dan McBride, Radames Pera, Charlotte Stewart, Rachel Greenbush and Dean Butler for a very intimate dinner on March 19th, 2016 at the beautiful Anaheim White House in Anaheim, California.

A cocktail hour with a cash bar, a photo op with the cast, pass-around hors d’oeuvres, an elegant three-course dinner (wine included), a Q&A, special tributes and a chance for you to offer your own tribute and say “thank you” to the cast for all they have given you throughout the years.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share a table with the star of your choice, have up-close and personal conversations, hear behind-the-scenes stories – and much more – all while being wined and dined at one of the most beautiful restaurants in South Orange County.

We will post a direct link to discounted rooms at the magnificent Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, just steps from Disneyland, in the next few weeks. Stay a while longer and visit the “happiest place on earth!”

And… with an upgraded ticket, you’ll have a chance to be one of only 15 guests to join Alison Arngrim on Sunday, March 20th, on a tour of Big Sky Ranch, complete with transportation and lunch!

Don’t miss out!! We look forward to meeting you in March!

When: March 19, 2016 @ 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Where: The Anaheim White House, 887 S Anaheim Blvd,  Anaheim, CA 92805
Cost: $350-$750
Contact: Carolyn at 949-439-9504 or 

Tickets go on sale January 19, 2016!

Found at My Local Library: Michael Landon's Legacy by Cheryl Landon

Countless fans remember Michal Landon from his leading roles in the popular television series "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Highway to Heaven." Far fewer, perhaps, know Landon as a caring father who changed the course of his own life to save his daughter's. Cheryl, a motivational speaker who travels throughout the world to share her father's legacy, has combined the simple beliefs Michael Landon tried to exemplify - both at work and at home - with family stories, her own experience, and the loving touch of her father's spirit. This special book is guaranteed to charm "and" inspire. Includes a special introduction and photo section.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Support Plum Creek - The Little House on the Prairie LEGO® Ideas

You have to check out this LEGO® Ideas project page where a fan of the show built a LEGO Little House and barn. It is gathering support. Wouldn't it be great to see these on the toy shelves?

Visit for more details and to show your support.

Little House On The Prairie® DIY No Sew Christmas Tablerunner

Check out the Little House On The Prairie® website where they show you how to make a do-it-yourself No Sew Christmas Tablerunner using Little House on the Prairie Fabric from Andover. It's really cute.

You'll find detailed instructions at

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Day After: LHOP Inspired Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

The Day After

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

It was the morning after the church social. Laura's sixteenth birthday had come and gone, and she still couldn't believe what had happened to her. She expected to wake up at any moment to discover it was all a dream.

As she brushed her long auburn hair, she saw her smile reflecting back at her in the mirror. How could she not be smiling — Almanzo Wilder had kissed her last night. Every heart break she had experienced over the past two years while she tried in vain to get him to notice her melted away with his warm kiss.

Her fingers rose and touched her lips. She traced their outline with her ring finger, remembering the feelings his kiss stirred inside her.


Almanzo was lounging in his bed. His chores were waiting for him, but they seemed so meaningless after the night he had. He saw Laura's sweet, young face surrounded by waves of reddish-brown hair. Freckles decorated her perfectly shaped nose and cheeks. Her soft, pink lips had touched his as they shared their first kiss — the mere thought of them aroused feelings deep inside him; feelings he had never experienced before.

A knock interrupted his daydreams.

"Are you all right, Almanzo?" Eliza Jane's voice called through the door.

Slammed back to reality, he tossed the covers aside. "Uh…yeah, Sis. Just tired is all. I'll be down in a minute."

"Don't take too long or your breakfast will get cold."

"I won't."

He heard Eliza Jane's footsteps on the stairs and knew it was safe to get dressed. There was one other thing he had to do this morning — visit the Ingalls farm and ask Charles's permission to court Laura. He didn't think it would be a surprise to the patriarch of the Ingalls family, but it still made him nervous.

The smell of coffee, fried eggs, and bacon greeted him when he entered the dining room. Eliza Jane slid a plate in front of him and left hers on the table before coming back with two cups of coffee.

"Did you have a good time last night?" she asked when she sat down.

"Yeah," he mumbled, trying to downplay the events.

Eliza Jane smiled. "You danced with Laura Ingalls almost all night."

"Nobody else was asking her."

"How could they? She was glued to your side."

Almanzo glanced up and flashed her a crooked smile. "After I'm done with the chores this mornin', I'm gonna go out to the Ingalls place."

"That's fine. I have to grade papers today. Will you be home for dinner?"

"Probably not. I want to spend the afternoon with Laura…if it's okay with her pa."

Eliza Jane reached over and tapped the top of his hand with her fingers. "You've chosen a fine young lady."

He felt his heart squeeze. His older sister's approval meant a great deal to him.


Almanzo tugged on the reins and ordered his horse to stop. After he stepped out of his buggy, he smoothed his clothes and removed his hat. From behind him, in the doorway of the barn, Charles chuckled. He knew he would see Almanzo today.

"Morning, Almanzo," he called to him.

Almanzo whipped around and found Charles walking toward him. His right arm extended, he shook Charles's hand as he greeted him.

"Mornin, Mr. Ingalls."

"What brings you out here?" asked Charles, as if he didn't already know.

"Well, Sir, I…" Almanzo shuffled his weight back and forth on his feet, looking more anxious as he obviously struggled to maintain eye contact. "Uh…I…"


"I want your permission to court Laura," he blurted out.

Charles smiled. Almanzo stood firmly planted in front of him, but his rapid breathing and trembling right hand told Charles the boy was unsure of himself.

"Before I say anything else, let me just tell you that I don't think Laura could have chosen a better suitor. You're honest and hard working. I know you'll treat her with respect."

"Thank you, Sir."

"The difference in your ages has always concerned me, and that hasn't changed. Laura's still young. She has a chance to continue her schooling and I expect you not to interfere with that."

Almanzo nodded. "I understand."

"Good." He slapped the younger man on the back. "Now, why don't you come inside. I'm sure Laura will be happy to see you."

"Thank you, Sir," he said releasing a huge breath.

Never one to miss the chance to joke around, Charles stopped in the doorway. "Just remember what I did to you the last time I thought you were taking advantage of my daughter."

Almanzo rubbed his jaw. "Yeah, I'm hoping I never make ya that mad again."


Laura heard Almanzo's voice and was curious to find out why he was there. She glanced in the mirror and tucked a stray hair back into place before climbing down the ladder.

"Hi, Manly," she said cautiously. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I thought I might ask ya to come with me for a buggy ride out to the lake." He turned to Charles. "If that's all right with you, Mr. Ingalls."

Laura looked at her father, hoping he would agree. He glanced at his wife and then back at Laura.

"She has a few chores to do, but I guess they can wait until later."

A wide smile covered her face. "Thanks, Pa."

"If you wait a few minutes I can whip up some sandwiches for you to take," said Caroline.

"Thanks, Mrs. Ingalls," replied Almanzo.

Charles slapped him on the arm. "Why don't you and I go take a walk outside while the women do their stuff."


Laura helped her ma make ham sandwiches and wrap up a few pieces of corn bread. They worked in silence, but Caroline would glance over at her occasionally. Laura was sure her mother could see the excitement on her face. When they finished, Caroline packed the food into a small basket and handed it to her.

"Don't forget your shawl. It's a bit chilly."

"I won't, Ma. Thanks for the sandwiches."

"Ya ready Beth?" Almanzo asked when he saw the two women in the doorway.


He took the basket from her and helped her into the buggy, then he handed it back so he could climb in. They waved and said goodbye before Almanzo chirruped to Barnum and they headed away from the Ingalls farm.


Charles and Caroline stood in the open doorway watching the buggy disappear over the hill. Caroline leaned against her husband and he pulled her closer. They smiled at each other. Changes were ahead for them...and for Laura.

"Do you remember," began Caroline, "the day Laura took her final year exam?"

"How could I forget it?" It still smarted that he acted in haste and had done something he truly regretted.

"Do you know what she said to me when we talked later that afternoon?" He shook his head. "She told me she was going to make Almanzo see her as a woman some day." She smiled at Charles. "And she was right."

"Yeah." Charles paused. "I was wrong about him."

"What do you mean?"

"I was never quite sure of his intentions towards Laura." He shrugged. "Maybe I was a bit jealous. He was the only other man who shared her heart."

Caroline gazed into his dark eyes. "Can you think of a finer man to share her heart with?"

"No," admitted Charles, blinking back tears.

They went inside to have a cup of tea together. They reminisced about the young couple they used to be in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, hoping Laura and Almanzo would find the same true love they had.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Smithsonian Article on Scientists Who Investigate Events in Wilder's Life

Looks like everyone's favorite pioneer girl inspires more than the average bonnet head. On October 22, an article titled, "The Science of 'Little House on the Prairie'" appeared at

The article shared stories of three inspired scientists in totally unrelated disciplines--physics, meteorology, and medicine--who investigated events in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and what they discovered.

You can read the entire article at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Little House on the Prairie Cast Reunion Thursday on Home & Family

This Thursday, October 8, on Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" the cast of "Little House on the Prairie" is reuniting! The cast including Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls), Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder), Matthew Labyorteaux (Albert Ingalls) Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) and Lindsay Greenbush (Carrie Ingalls) will be featured throughout the episode. Segment highlights:

- A guided tour of the show's original filming locations with Alison Arngrim
- A tribute to Michael Landon (Charles Ingalls) by his children Michael Landon Jr. and Leslie Landon with never before seen family photos
- Melissa Gilbert will share a recipe from her cookbook (gingersnap pumpkin pie) and discuss her decision to run for congress
- Dean Butler shares a Christmas DIY from his own family traditions
- Home & Family's Debbie Matenopulous talks about Laura Ingalls and offers travel tips to trace the cross-country journey of the Ingalls family

Home & Family airs Weekdays at 10/9c on Hallmark

Saturday, September 19, 2015

LHOP Adventure Day 8 - Heading Home

I had packed most of my belongings before going to bed, so when we woke on the final day together, I just had to wash up and get dressed. We packed all our luggage into the car and headed out to breakfast at Walker's. To our great surprise, our honorary diva, Dorothy, arrived while we were there, so we got a chance to say our final goodbyes to her before driving to the airport in Madison.

It was tough for me to say goodbye to Divas Beth and Lorrie, but I was also eager to get home and see my family. We had chatted via FaceTime every night, but it's not the same as talking face-to-face.

Divas Marilyn and Martha and I made it into the airport and decided we would hang out at each other's gates until each of us left. Marilyn flew out first and then Martha a while later. Then it was just little ole me in the Madison airport waiting to head home. Once I arrived at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, I still had to wait for the valet to pick me up and get my car before I could drive home. By the time I pulled into my garage at 8:35 p.m., I was beat, but the reception I received at home was exhilarating.

Reflecting upon last year's Little House on the Prairie adventure, I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was. I had always dreamed of visiting these places, but it seemed impossible. The Little House on the Prairie cast reunion gave me the incentive to take the kind of road trip I never imagined I would have the chance to embark upon. My girls don't share my love of Little House, and I had never taken a vacation without them.

So, what did I come away with from my LHOP Adventure?

First of all, I have the greatest friends in the world. They had all met each other before, but this was the first time I had been able to join them. From the moment I first landed in Wisconsin until the moment I left, they made me feel like the most important person on the face of the planet. They were so excited to meet me in person...though I was equally as excited to meet them. For a kid who endured more than her fair share of teasing (what we now call bullying) growing up, it was so strange to be met with such enthusiasm and kindness. I wasn't sure how things would turn out when we had never met in person before, but those ten years of being online chums made it so easy to fall in step with each other.

I re-learned how to read a map. If I have never told you this, I'll admit right now that I am directionally-challenged. I could get lost leaving my backyard. I never, ever drive to a new place without using my GPS. These friends don't use--I don't even know if they own--a GPS. At night, the map would get pulled out and Lorrie and Beth--the main drivers--would discuss the route to take the next morning.

I'm now eager for more road trips and to do something like this with my girls. A tiny challenge will be to find somewhere we all want to go because the girls and I like very different things. Their tastes are also very different from each other's. But a road trip to a new place doesn't sound so intimidating as it once did.

There are two sites I would definitely like to visit one day: Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri and the Wilder Farm in Burke, New York. I also wouldn't mind paying a visit to the home of Rose Wilder Lane, which also happens to be for sale right now. I would love to see someone come along and turn it into a museum, but the Danbury Museum and Historical Society is located about 10 minutes from her home on King Street, so there really doesn't seem to be a need for it.

My road trip last summer was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure. It was eight days filled with laughter and friendship; the memories of which I will never forget.

To read Day 7 of my adventure, please click here.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

DVD Review: Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last summer's road trip to visit many of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites left me with a renewed sense of awe over how much she experienced in her lifetime. So, imagine my delight when, earlier this year, I was approached by Friendly Family Productions to review Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This special new edition includes not only a 56-minute documentary on my favorite writer, it also includes 35 minutes of bonus features that are narrated, directed, and co-produced by Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder on the classic Little House on the Prairie television series. Butler's Legacy Documentaries banner also brought Wilder fans, Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, which we reviewed here.

This documentary does not journey through Laura's entire life. Staying true to the Legacy Documentaries brand, it captures the defining moments of Wilder's life, and does so in a touching way that only those who have been part of Wilder's legacy can accomplish. While Laura's early life and marriage to Almanzo are mentioned, they only serve to sharpen the focus of the documentary, which remains strongly on Wilder's writing career: how the loss of her family, along with the concern that the pioneering era was slipping away, inspired her to put pen to paper; how farm life inspired her journalism work for the Missouri Ruralist; how the sometimes tense relationship with her daughter, Rose, shaped her writing, and how through that experience Wilder grew as a writer; the creation of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the series' continued popularity with young readers.

As was done with the Almanzo Wilder production, historical photographs, book excerpts, reenactments, and expert insights give viewers a glimpse into the life of one of America's most beloved writers. While many of the photographs are ones Wilder aficionados have seen before, they have been used in new ways to bring a special touch to Laura's story. The artwork of illustrator Cheryl Harness captures the essence of Wilder's Little House series and brings this legacy to life through animation. Discussions with Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer, John E. Miller, and Pamela Smith Hill, editor of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, add depth to this engaging story covering Wilder's legacy.

Bonus features include topics on Native Americans and African Americans on the prairie, the beautiful work of American artist Harvey Dunn, and the Morgan Horse. Viewers are encouraged to travel behind the scenes with director Dean Butler as he chronicles his work on this documentary, and there is a discussion with illustrator Cheryl Harness on her contributions.

Produced in association with Friendly Family Productions, Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must have for any Wilder fan.

Directors: Dean Butler
Producers: Dean Butler, Robin Bernheim-Burger, Trip Friendly (Executive Producer)
Format: Color, Closed-captioned
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Friendly Family Productions, LLC
Run Time: 91 minutes

I received a free copy of this DVD from Friendly Family Productions. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

LHOP Adventure Day 7

Hard to believe we are almost done. Thinking back on my trip more than a year later, I can't believe I did it. The girl who rarely travels and who is petrified of flying got on a plane all by herself and traveled across the country to meet a bunch of women she had only known online. I ever learned to use a map. Wow!

Day 7 started with a quick breakfast at the hotel in Spring Valley. We knew we had a lot of driving ahead of us, so we got on the road early and headed to Burr Oak, Iowa. Laura fans will remember that after leaving Walnut Grove, the Ingalls family spent some time with Uncle Peter and his family in South Troy, Minnesota before making their way to Burr Oak, Iowa to help their friends manage the Master's Hotel.

Now a museum, this is where I am fairly certain I purchased not only some note cards, but t-shirts for my girls. 

After eating lunch at The Family Table in Decorah, we drove back to Wisconsin. To do that, we took a nice scenic route and crossed over the Mississippi. Oh, my gosh, how scary it was going up the bridge. I like bridges about as much as I like flying, so my knuckles were so tight around the steering wheel, I was afraid I might crush it. In the seat next to me, Dorothy kept asking, "Are you all right?" I couldn't look sideways or down because that bridge just kept going up, and up, and up. It was well worth the view once we were down on the other side. Check out the neat boats.

Finally back in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, we had supper at Ponderosa--didn't even know those still existed because we haven't had one around here in more than thirty years. 

It was tough to settle in that night because I knew all of us were flying home the next day. It would be hard to say goodbye to my wonderful friends, but I was also thrilled to know I would see my family again soon.

You can read our Day 6 adventures here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

LHOP Adventure Day 6

I'm coming close to the end of sharing my 2014 LHOP Adventure. My last post was on Day 5. It was great meeting the cast members and hanging out in Walnut Grove, but I have to admit it was a bit hectic there too, and we had to stay on a strict timeline to get everything accomplished.

We decided to go back to Red Rooster for breakfast, but before we left Walnut Grove, we made sure to take pictures with the entire cast. Then we made our way to Spring Valley.

For those familiar with the real life of Laura and Almanzo Wilder, Spring Valley, Minnesota is where Almanzo's parents moved their family in 1873. The Spring Valley Methodist Church was built in 1876, and James Wilder (Almanzo's father) contributed to its construction.

After Almanzo's stroke, he and Laura lived in Spring Valley for a year before moving to Florida.

The church is now a museum and holds numerous artifacts, including records that indicate Almanzo and Laura attended the church from 1890 to 1891.

We also visited the cemetery and Wilder barn, which the owner allows people to view from the street. The Wilder home has since been torn down. 

The night ended with supper at Pizza Palace, before we tucked ourselves into bed at the Spring Valley Inns and Suites (perhaps our nicest accommodations of the trip--besides Beth's house).

Friday, August 21, 2015

LHOP Adventure Day 5

I can't believe it has been six months since my last LHOP Adventure update. You will have to excuse my tardiness, because my new career as a real estate agent is booming and I haven't had time to blog much.

If you want to remember what happened on Day 4, you can check it out here.

We started the fifth day of our adventure by having breakfast at Nellie's "Little Cafe on the Prairie," where they only accept cash. I really didn't think my friends were serious when they told me to bring a lot of money. Who doesn't take credit cards? Well, now we know Nellie doesn't.

It had been raining, so some of the cast got a bit wet before sitting down to sign autographs. That morning, I waited in line for Hersha Parady (Alice Garvey), Radames Pera (John Sanderson Jr.), and Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle). All of them were so pleasant. 

Divas Beth and Lorrie get their autographs.

We did more sightseeing and had lunch in the park. I chatted with some local authors and collected their business cards. We also waited in line to get autographs from Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson), Dan McBride (Henry Riley--the guy who always ate at Nellie's Restaurant, but always complained about the food), and the Turnbaugh Twins who played Grace Ingalls. 

Nasty Nellie Oleson (but Alison is very nice).

We ate at Red Rooster for supper and then we hung out together until bedtime. Another day of traveling awaited us. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Protest: LHOP Inspired Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

The Protest

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

Almanzo poked his head out of the doorway of the Feed and Seed when he heard Eliza Jane call his name. "Yeah, Sis."

Her skirt swished as she walked up to the platform. "I have a favor to ask of you. Laura Ingalls is taking a temporary teaching job in Curry. Would you mind driving her back and forth?"

"I dunno, Sis." His eyes wide, he wondered how he could get out of this. "Can't Mr. Ingalls do it?"

Eliza Jane shook her head. "Caroline was just telling me the other day how busy he is at the mill with Mr. Garvey away. 

"And there's nobody else?"

"What's wrong with you, Mannie? Laura and you are friends and you're always saying Barnum could use the exercise."

Almanzo removed his hat and jumped down off the platform. "I just don't wanna give Beth the wrong impression."

She squinted. "What are you talking about?"

"I've tried my best not to encourage this crush of hers." He shrugged. "If I take her, she might think it means somethin' it don't."

Eliza Jane pursed her lips. "I honestly don't believe she feels that way for you anymore."

"Whatya mean?" he asked, surprisingly hurt by her remark. 

"I honestly think she's passed being enamored with you. She hasn't said anything about the buggy ride you took her on a few weeks ago, nor has she asked to go again. Besides, there are new young men coming into town all the time. And of course there's the matter of Perley Day. She seemed quite taken with him while he was here."

"Perley Day never woulda been a likely suitor for her," he said. "He doesn't care about anyone but himself."

Eliza Jane placed her hand on top of his arm. "I think you're being too hard on him. I know he's irresponsible and reckless at times, but he truly seemed to like her. I wonder what might have happened between the two of them if he had stayed."

"I don't wanna talk about him, Eliza Jane."

"Then why don't you tell me what's really bothering you."

He lowered his head. "I already told ya."

"I think you're making more of this than there is. All I'm asking is for you to drive her to and from work."

He shuffled his boots in the dirt. "What boys have been noticing her?"

"Jimmy Hill and Christie Kennedy are no longer courting, and I understand he was quite smitten with Laura when his family lived in town before. There's that new boy Seth whose father bought the old Jenkins farm, and even Bart Slater is taken with her...though he knows she would never have him."

"Whatya know about these boys?" he asked suspiciously. "I mean, we all know Slater is trouble, but what about the other two?"

Eliza Jane placed a hand across her chest. "Since when did you become so protective of Laura Ingalls?"

He was stunned by the question. "I…uh…I just don't wanna see her gettin' hurt is all."

"Well, if you ask me, you're acting like someone who is interested in more than mere friendship."

"Don't be silly. Beth is just a kid."

"If you say so, Almanzo. So, are you going to take her?"

"Seein' as there's nobody else, I suppose I havta."

"I suppose so."

"Don't make a big deal out of it when ya tell her."

"I wouldn't dream of it," she replied. After a moment she added, "You know, Almanzo, it seems the only one making a big deal out of this is you." She gave him that older sister look over the rim of her eyeglasses and then walked to Nellie's Restaurant to wait for him to finish working. He would pick her up when he was done.

Almanzo moseyed back into the office of the Feed and Seed. How could Eliza Jane accuse him of being interested in Beth? She was just a friend. They liked the same things and that's why he enjoyed spending time with her. He certainly didn't see Laura as a girlfriend.

He remembered the women he had courted since moving to Walnut Grove; all refined young ladies who could have been good wives, but something was missing — they didn't share his passion for the farm. They tolerated how he went on about his plans for purchasing another hundred acres, but when they sweetly smiled at him he could tell he was boring them to death. But not Beth. Her eyes lit up when he spoke about the farm of his dreams. She even helped him break in Barnum. He had to admit he had more in common with her than any of the young women he had dangled on his arm. Surely though, there was no future with her. She was so much younger than he.

Almanzo took off his hat and scratched his head. He walked onto the platform and gazed over at the schoolhouse. What was it that made him argue against bringing Laura to Curry? There wasn't really any reason he couldn't bring her. Work at the Feed and Seed had been kind of slow. He shook his head. Eliza Jane was right; all he was doing was bringing her back and forth to work. Why should Laura think there was more to it than that?

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On This Date in Ingalls History: Charles "Pa" Ingalls Dies

On June 8, 1902 Charles Phillip Ingalls died of heart disease. His pioneering spirit led him across many states and territories before he finally settled his family in De Smet, SD. An esteemed member of the De Smet community, he helped organized the Congregational Church and held a variety of elected positions in town.

Many years later, Laura Ingalls Wilder captured her Pa's pioneering spirit in the opening pages of Little House on the Prairie:

A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin....Pa said there were too many people in the Big Woods now...Wild animals would not stay in a country where there were so many people. Pa did not like to stay, either. He liked a country where the wild animals lived without being afraid. He liked to see the little fawns and their mothers looking at him from the shadowy woods, and the fat, lazy bears eating berries in the wild-berry patches."

Photo from my visit last summer.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Decoration Day

What we currently know as Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. Officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, it stemmed from a desire to honor the dead of the Civil War.

New York was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1873, followed by all of the northern states in 1890. The South honored their dead on different days until after World War I, when the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in any war.

In Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend, author John E. Miller discusses how the Fourth of July and Decoration Day were the two biggest days of the year in the Mansfield, Missouri, where Almanzo and Laura Wilder lived most of their adult lives. Missouri was a border state, as Miller explains, so many families in and around Mansfield had Southern roots; but Union veterans maintained a high visibility. Miller states that while it is unknown how often the Wilders participated in Decoration Day exercises, they were active public figures: Almanzo was a Mason and both Wilders were involved in Eastern Star.

For more information on Memorial Day, visit

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Buggy Ride: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

The Buggy Ride

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

The townspeople of Walnut Grove filed out the front door as soon as Reverend Alden dismissed them. The warm weather had made the church uncomfortable and the sermon short.

Laura stood next her pa's wagon waiting for her parents to finish chatting with Mrs. Foster. She gazed over at the buggies lined up on one side of the church. All summer long, young couples would venture out to the lake or on a long ride through the countryside, sometimes stopping to share a picnic lunch before returning home.

She saw Christie Kennedy join Jimmy Hill in his buggy. Even Bart Slater had found a young lady to take for a drive. She spotted Nellie Oleson climbing into a buggy with her new beau, Tom Murphy, who had just moved into town.

No one had asked Laura; and the one person she wished to go on a buggy ride with couldn't see her as anything but a child. Nellie turned up her nose as she gave Laura a haughty stare from her seat next to Tom. The self-satisfied grin made Laura's face hot with anger. Nellie smirked as Tom chirruped to his horses and they took off towards the lake.

Jealous and angry, Laura stomped over to the church steps where Almanzo and Eliza Jane were saying goodbye to Reverend Alden.

"Oh. Hello, Laura," said Miss Wilder.

"Hello, Miss Wilder. Hi, Manly."

"Howdy, Beth. Is there something I can do for ya?"

Suddenly nervous, Laura glanced down at her feet. "I…uh…"

"Are you all right?" Eliza Jane asked.

Laura spied the last young couple heading out of town in their buggy, bringing her confidence back. "Yes, I'm fine," she answered with determination. "Manly, would you take me on a buggy ride this afternoon?"

Caught off guard by her question, Almanzo wasn't sure how to respond. He took his hat off and pushed back his wavy blond hair. He knew Laura had a crush on him. He had done his best not to encourage it, but if he said no, she would be embarrassed and hurt.

"I don't know, Beth. I've got a lot to do."

Eliza Jane snickered. "What could you possibly have to do on a Sunday?"

Laura sighed. "It's okay. I understand." She turned to leave.

Almanzo grabbed her arm. "Beth, it ain't what ya think. I just…the buggy only sits two and I havta bring Eliza Jane home."

"I can bring her home if you like," interjected Reverend Alden.

"Why thank you," said Miss Wilder. "See, it all worked out. Now you're free to go if you like, Mannie."

A renewed hope filled Laura's eyes as she awaited Almanzo's answer. He shrugged, no longer having an excuse not to take her.

"Well, I guess we can go if your pa says it's all right."

Laura and Almanzo walked over to Charles's wagon. She could see the trepidation on her pa's face.

"Afternoon, Mr. Ingalls," said Almanzo. "Mrs. Ingalls. I was wonderin' if Laura could accompany me on a buggy ride this afternoon."

Charles turned to Caroline, then over to Laura. He saw the eagerness on his daughter's face. It scared him--almost as much as Almanzo's unspoken intentions.

"I don't know, Almanzo…"

"Well, Barnum could use the exercise now that he's fully recovered, and Beth sure does seem to have a way with him."

"Please, Pa." Laura hated to beg. It made her sound like a child. But for a chance to ride with Manly, she would swallow her pride. 

"It's a beautiful day for a buggy ride, Charles." Caroline's wide smile revealed her straight white teeth. "Besides, it's for the horse." 

Almanzo almost choked. It sounded ridiculous when Mrs. Ingalls said it that way. "We're just goin' down to the lake."

Charles glanced over at Caroline one last time and then turned to Laura who looked like she would burst at any moment.

"Have her back by supper time," said Charles.

Almanzo shook his hand. "I will, Sir. Ya ready to go, Beth?"

Laura looked up at her ma. Caroline's eyes told her to relax and play it smart.

"I think so, Manly," Laura replied in a calm voice. She took his hand when he offered it and strolled with him towards his buggy, reminding herself not to act like a giddy school girl.

"Did we ever figure out how old he is?" Charles asked his wife.

"No, we didn't."

Almanzo led Barnum down the road towards the lake. Laura intentionally didn't say too much, lest she prattle on like an immature child. He glanced over at her occasionally wondering why she wasn't her vibrant, talkative self.

"Somethin wrong, Beth?"

"Oh no, Manly, everything's fine. I'm just enjoying the ride." Enjoying the ride my foot, she thought. How can I enjoy the ride when I'm too scared to do the wrong thing and risk ruining it?

Laura caught sight of Nellie and Tom on the other side of the lake. When Nellie spotted her, she began to hang all over Tom, making in difficult for him to control his horse. Laura rolled her eyes.

"That Nellie Oleson," she said without thinking.

"What about Nellie Oleson?"

Embarrassed, she tried to dismiss the comment. "Oh, it's nothing."

"Aw c'mon, ya gotta tell me. You've been too quiet today. I'm beginnin' to think ya don't enjoy my company."

"It could never be that," she gushed. Laura's face warmed and she put her hand up to hide the red color she felt certain was staining her cheeks. "Do you mind if I take the reins for a little while?"

"Be my guest. Barnum likes you better anyway."

As she grabbed the reins, she felt Almanzo's strong hands tighten over hers. Her pulse quickened. She gazed up at him and, for a second, lost herself in his ocean blue eyes.

"Ya got um?" he asked.

Shaken, all she could do was nod. When he released his grip, she wished he had held onto her for a few moments longer. Then she spied Nellie staring at her and romance was forgotten. Laura slapped Barnum with the reins and called, "Ha, ha!" The horse sped into a gallop.

Almanzo saw her mischievous grin as Beth brought the horse around to the other side of the lake. She edged the buggy in so close to Tom's that it startled his horse and he had to shrug off Nellie to keep them from falling into the lake. Laura pulled away and slowed Barnum down to a trot, the glint in her eye still sparkling.

"You're a little devil," Almanzo said, trying to contain his laughter.

Immediately embarrassed and ashamed, she apologized. "I'm sorry. That wasn't very ladylike of me."

"No, but it was very Beth-like." He smiled at her.

"Nellie Oleson always seems to get my dander up. She has everything and she flaunts it in my face."

"She doesn't have everythin'." Almanzo glancing over at her. How could she be jealous of Nellie? "She doesn't know anything about horses or farmin'."

"She doesn't have to. She's never had to work for anything."

Almanzo grabbed the reins from her and pulled Barnum to a stop. "And she doesn't have that beautiful reddish-brown hair either. Ya should wear it down more often. It looks real nice."

Laura's face felt warm again. "Thanks, Manly." She was sure he would hear her heart pounding inside her chest.

"Let's go out a little farther before we head back to your place," he suggested.

"All right, just make sure we're not late getting home."

"Don't worry, I wouldn't want your pa hittin me again," said Almanzo as he rubbed his chin.
They laughed. The tension now broken, the light conversation continued until he stopped the buggy in front of the Ingallses' farm. Manly jumped down and walked around to the other side of the buggy. Laura slid her hand into his and stepped out.

"I hope ya had a nice time," he said to her.

"I did. Thank you for taking me."

On weak legs, Laura walked towards the front door. She didn't dare look back at him. She could almost feel his stare pointed at the back of her head. 

Almanzo called to her. "Would ya come with me again some time?"

She turned slowly and struggled to keep her excitement at bay. In her most womanliest of voices she replied, "If my pa allows it, I would be happy to join you any time you wish to invite me."

"Good." He lowered his head to hide his delight. "Just one thing…"


"Don't try to be somethin' your not."

Laura's cheeks dimpled. "I'm sorry, Manly. I thought I would try to be a bit more cultured than I usually am."

"Don't ya know by now that I like ya just the way you are?" Gosh, that sounded forward. "I…uh…I should get goin'."

"Me too," she said, pointing her thumb towards the house.

"See ya, Beth."

"See ya, Manly." She flashed him one last smile before disappearing inside.

He stared at the closed door for a moment, flustered and confused. How could he say such a thing? Now she probably would think he was interested in more than just friendship.

Storm clouds had rolled in on the journey back to town, and a clap of thunder told Almanzo he should head back home. He jumped into the buggy and gazed up at the window to Laura's bedroom. I sure do enjoy her company. He chirruped to Barnum and headed towards his place.

Inside the house, Laura leaned against the front door. She gazed up at the roof, lost in her thoughts. She had ridden in a buggy with Almanzo. He had touched her hand. Had he actually told her that he liked her just the way she was?

"Hi, Half-pint. Did you have a nice time?" Charles asked.

Still staring at the ceiling she answered, "U-huh."

"Is everything okay?"

She sighed. "Everything is just fine."

Caroline struggled to hold back her laughter as she watched them. "Are you hungry, dear?"

"No, Ma. I think I'll just go up to bed."

"It's only supper time," said Carrie.

"That's okay." Laura shuffled to the ladder and climbed up to the loft.

A concerned Charles watched her disappear up into her room. "What do you make of that?" 

"She must have had a good time." Caroline did her best not to smile, but she could feel the corners of her mouth lifting.

"That's what I'm worried about."

In her room, Laura sat on the bed with her Remembrance Book open. She wanted to write everything down while it was still fresh in her mind--as if she would ever forget it. She glanced over at what she had written, and her eyes focused on the last line:

I think there's hope that I'll be Mrs. Almanzo Wilder yet.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.