Saturday, January 8, 2011

By the Shores of Silver Lake in Winter

I had occasion this week to stay in DeSmet, SD--Laura Ingalls' Wilder's "Little Town on the Prairie." The motel is where Dean Butler, who played Almanzo in the Little House TV series, stays when he's in town. (Check out Butler's blog here.) It is also very near Silver Lake, now a slough, that Laura used in the title of the fifth of her Little House series. (Imagine dried cattails and tall grass poking through ice & snow in the video above. And wind--lots more wind. I did not stop to take my own photo because of the snow and wind.)

This book introduced me to the Little House series, as my third grade teacher read it aloud to us in school. I still remember passages about sliding on the ice, as we had an ice patch in front of our two-room schoolhouse that we liked to slide on, too. Laura describes it this way:

When the sun shone, no matter how cold it was, Laura had to go out. When Ma would let them go, she and Carrie, well wrapped up in coats and hoods, with shoes and mittens and mufflers on, went sliding on Silver Lake. Holding hands, they ran a little way and then slid on the dark, smooth ice. First on one foot, then on the other, with little runs between slides, they went back and forth, breathless and warm and laughing.

Those were glorious days when they were out in the glitter of the sharp cold. Then it was good to come into the warm, close house, and good to eat supper, and through the evening of music and singing and dancing, Laura was the merriest of all.

The book tells the story of building the railroad and beginning the town of DeSmet. It was also the beginning of Laura's adolescence, as she is thirteen in this book and starting to see things from a more adult viewpoint, taking on more responsibilities.

(photo by Matt Howry,

By the Shores of Silver Lake won Laura Ingalls Wilder a Newbery Honor Book Award in 1940. Many of the things Laura writes about in this book have become tourist destinations in DeSmet.

While I disagree with Laura about the excitement of being out in the cold, I admire her spirit. What do I like about winter? Staying inside, reading, writing, hot chocolate, the fireplace. What about you?


  1. It's appearing that I like to eat! Now I'm trying to enjoy exercise...

  2. Ha! That IS more of a challenge, Jennifer!