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From that story of her life between ages 2 and 18 would eventually spring the beloved “Little House” series of eight fictionalized children’s books.Maybe you diehard fans have heard that some salacious tales can be found in “Pioneer Girl” — a married shopkeeper’s infatuation with a female employee! That stuff, however, turns out to be mostly town gossip from when the Ingalls clan lived in Burr Oak, Iowa, running a hotel (a period that didn’t make it into the kids books) and in Walnut Grove, Minn.The guided tour began right outside the gift shop, with historical buildings that have been moved from their original locations to the Memorial Society’s lot near the edge of town.

Louis by car, carrying a notebook and an overnight bag. The population has dwindled to 1,300 since reaching a peak of 1,429 in 1990. Unless you count the tourists — 40,000 come every summer, and the mid-September weekend when I drove down, the town was so packed that I had to stay in Ava, fifteen miles to the south.

It's only a four-hour drive, but once you exit Interstate 44 in Lebanon and head south through the rolling hills of the Ozarks, two-lane Route 5 transports you back in time, through dying old towns without a single gas station or fast-food joint, separated mostly by farmland. My fellow visitors and I had come for Laura Ingalls Wilder Days.

A massive bank collapse the previous year and its aftermath, the infamous Panic of 1893, was the worst economic depression in U. Its ranks swelled as it marched through Pennsylvania, and eventually Coxey's Army set up camp in Maryland. If news of the protests reached De Smet, Laura didn't deem it worthy of inclusion in her journal. But on the road, the Wilders encountered dozens of settlers headed in the opposite direction who had failed and were on their way back to the Dakotas. Mansfield epitomizes the 99 percent: The unemployment rate here is 9.5 percent, slightly above the national average, and one-quarter of all households pull down less than $15,000 annually.

Using the $100 bill as a down payment, the Wilders purchased a farm a mile outside of town, fittingly named Rocky Ridge. I arrived in Mansfield in the fall of 2011, traveling the 200 miles from St. Like virtually every place else in America, it's worse off than it was ten years ago.

They had two horses, some furniture, a stray dog named Fido Laura had adopted somewhere in Kansas and their life savings in the form of a $100 bill hidden in Laura's lap desk. Laura and Almanzo both contracted diphtheria; the infection left Almanzo with a permanent limp.

De Smet had endured a Bible-worthy run of droughts dating back to the year of Rose's birth. Having given up their dream of turning their homestead into a prosperous farm, they'd abandoned it to work for Almanzo's parents in Minnesota, then for an ill-fated venture to central Florida and finally for a rented house in De Smet, where Almanzo got stuck for months on jury duty and Laura earned their 0 by working twelve-hour days for a seamstress. A band of unemployed workers in Ohio, led by a small-time politician named Jacob Coxey, marched on Washington to lobby the government to create jobs. In De Smet Mansfield was hailed as the "Land of the Big Red Apple," a paradise of fertile fields and orchards. city), people had set up tent compounds in public spaces in the name of the Occupy movement, collective but disparate acts of civil disobedience meant to protest the unequal distribution of wealth between Wall Street and the other 99 percent of the country.

It’s set up just the way Laura described it in the book, with supplies in the pantry, Ma and Pa’s room downstairs, and the girls’ room upstairs.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside due to copyright issues, but take my word for it–it was like stepping into the pages of the book.

Until now, the unedited, written-in-pencil memoir was available only on microfilm.

Apparently motivated by the death of her big sister Mary in October 1928, Wilder wrote it in 1929-30 at her Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Mo., about 50 miles east of Springfield.

What surprised the editor of this new Wilder book as she was researching the manuscript and Wilder’s life? Turns out that Charles Ingalls exchanged the pooch and some ponies for a pair of horses.

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