De Smet Day 1: The Holy Grail of Little House…

De Smet is literally in the middle of nowhere. It is so small and safe the bed and breakfast where we stayed did not even lock the doors at night. We could come and go as we pleased. Not once did I feel this was unsafe although it was a bit unsettling at first. It was both sad and comforting that there are places such as this that still exist, but as a whole, we can no longer do this everywhere.

We arrived around 4:00 local time. Unfortunately, one of the places on our places to visit closed at 3:00 on Saturdays, Loftus Department Store. They are closed on Sunday’s and we left too early to go on Monday. This really was our only disappointment of all the places we visited. It was still exciting to get a picture in front of it.

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After checking in, eating homemade cookies and having homemade lemonade courtesy of the B&B owners, we headed to the Ingalls Homestead. This is the homestead Pa claimed when he came to South Dakota. It is featured in several of the Little House books.

Although it was late in the day and we were a little tired from traveling, we still had to make it to the Homestead. I can’t tell you how exciting, for whatever reason, it was to pull-up and see a place I’ve experienced in reading the books. My mom felt the same way, but my daughter wasn’t quite sure what the fuss was all about.

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We parked, paid our admission—which allowed us access to the Homestead for the duration of our trip all for one price—and watched a short video. Then we could finally go see the grounds.

We walked out the back door to see the entirety of the place. There is a three story tower one can climb to see an unobstructed view. Emily and I climbed to the top first thing. My mom said she might make it up, but wouldn’t make it down and waited for us. Here was our view from the top, which I thought was beautiful and peaceful.

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First stop was an old schoolhouse with, gasp, a merry-go-round and teeter-totter, outside. Emily had fun pushing grandma around on the merry-go-round and riding the teeter-totter with me. Haven’t seen either of these in a long time. Inside the schoolhouse were displays of the Little House books and a covered wagon. Yet another wonderment in how a family traveled cross-country in one of these things.

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Next up were an authentic dugout and replica of a claim shanty. The entire dugout would have fit into the reading room of the library with plenty of room left over. My office is bigger than the claim shanty, but the shanty was spacious compared to dugout.

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A straw roofed barn was next on the trail. Inside was a calf and a barn cat who seemed to be guarding the baby chicks. We later found out the cat had just had kittens and were hidden somewhere in the barn (I found them on our visit the next day).

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It wouldn’t be a real farm without a well and pump somewhere on the property. My daughter thought it was a hoot to use. It brought back memories for my mom and I as this is what both of us used while growing up. I had to walk down the street with a bucket to get drinking water from the neighborhood pump (no lie), when I was young. It was never a fun day on wash day because we had to get enough water to fill up the wringer washer and rinse tub, usually twice. Do you know how heavy a five-gallon bucket is to carry filled with water?

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Our next major stop for the day was the replica of the completed Ingalls’ claim shanty. A docent provided a detailed history of the Ingalls’ time on the Homestead during Laura’s time. The docent also explained some of the kitchen and household tools used during that time. This was one of those instances where my mom said,”I had those when growing up,” such as the cook stove that was heated by wood or coal, the foot pedal sewing machine (she learned to sew on one), and an old iron that had to be heated by placing it on the stove. I may have already mentioned this, but it was fascinating to see some of the things she and I grew up with that my children will never quite understand due to modern conveniences. And, I think I’m okay with that. However, if there ever is a Zombie apocalypse, I also know I can survive off the land if needed.

Here are some pictures of the stove, a corn husk bed, the foot pedal sewing machine, and an authenic foot pedal organ like the one Mary Ingalls used to play.

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Outside the shanty, my daughter helped wash some clothes on a washboard, using homemade soap the docent made, and an even older wringer than I used. She then hung the clothes on the line. This also brought back not-so-fond memories of below zero weather and still needing to hang the clothes up to freeze dry. Don’t miss those days at all!

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Before we left, Emily was able to ride a pony, shuck some corn, make a corncob doll, and we both made a jump rope. Then it was time to call it a day. More about the Homestead during our second day there in the next post.

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