When I was a little girl I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I read the books. I watched the show. I wanted to live in a log cabin with a loft bedroom. I longed to wear dresses and bonnets and carry a silver lunch pail to school every day. Of course my lunch pail would have been filled with peanut butter sandwiches and Twinkies instead of bear jerky and biscuits, but that is such a minor detail.
My obsession was such that for two years running I dressed as Laura for Halloween. Are you getting a sense of my popularity as a child? To this day I haven’t forgiven the people who, when they saw my costume, said, "Oh look, it’s Holly Hobby."
The day I found out that there was a Laura Ingalls Wilder Trail I ran and hopped into my car clutching "the trail" map gleefully in my hands. In the next instant I realized I was 29-years-old, had a job and a child and I couldn’t just rush off.
After more careful contemplation of the map it occurred to me that each inch, zig-zagging from place to place across the Midwest, was hundreds of miles apart. The glow inside of me started to dim.
As I saw it there were three major obstacles for my Laura Ingalls Wilder adventure.
•First, the amount of days it would take to actually enjoy such a lengthy journey would be too many.
•Second, convincing my daughter that driving so far could and would be fun.
•And the last, but greatest, obstacle; the cost of gas would be totally insane.
Sure, seeing all of Laura’s old haunts would be great, but financially and logistically it simply wouldn’t work for me. However, what did Laura Ingalls Wilder write about that still inspires so many children? The answer is simple: the pioneer experience. We can all get that right here in Ohio. Ohio is rich in pioneer history.
Parents of fourth graders, listen up. Fourth grade is the year for Ohio History in most schools. The Ohio Historical Society has a family pass that will get you in every Society owned site in the entire state for one low price. It’s a great idea to take your child to some of the places he/she is learning about. Visiting places makes learning real, more of an experience than a lesson in a book.
The Ohio Historical Center is one of my favorite places. The center itself is amazing and full of everything from prehistoric Ohio history up to the 20th century, with a heavy emphasis on pioneer life in Ohio. My kids have always enjoyed dressing up and playing in the pioneer cabin. I always recommend going to both the center and its Ohio Village as they compliment each other.
For me, the pioneer experience comes alive at the village. I used to walk around pretending it was Walnut Grove! I know, I have issues.
Ohio Village is designed to resemble an 1800s frontier town with a general store, a blacksmith’s shop, a church and of course a one room school house. Costumed volunteers are in buildings to answer questions and demonstrate jobs. Best of all the general store is a real store and you can buy things. Pioneer items with modern day prices!
Ohio Village is now closed on a daily basis, open only for special engagements such as their Dickens of Christmas celebration on Dec. 12, 13, 19, and 20 from 6-9 p.m. and Dec. 21 from noon to 5 p.m. It’s a treat that you shouldn’t miss.
To make the Dickens’ Christmas experience more fulfilling, catch a performance of "Ebenezer" at the Columbus Children’s Theater and then head on over to the Ohio Historical Center to jump right into a Dickens’ village. A pioneer experience with a British accent, fun!
A new discovery of mine is Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village in Waynesville, Ohio. It’s amazing really. A group of concerned citizens organized, to save log dwellings all over the state. They disassembled, relocated, re-assembled and restored log buildings to create a pioneer living history experience. The authenticity of the structures – no replicas – makes Caesar’s Creek special. The buildings are open to walk through during special events only. Events are plentiful though, so check their Web site for dates. Caesarscreekpioneervillage.org
Pioneer history is all around you. If you take the time to look for it, I guarantee you’ll find something wonderful in your own community.
Take a short trip back in time. Don’t worry about packing. Just have fun.
Kristi Farrow is a travel writer and a customer service specialist at the Southeast Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.