Some day, I hope to produce an adaptation of THE LONG WINTER.

To date, only two known adaptations of THE LONG WINTER have been produced. Neither has been published. Lorie Shooltz provided an adaptation for the Theater Project Company of St. Louis in 1987. Eleanor Lindsay wrote one for the Dallas Children's Theater in 1986. I spoke with Ms. Lindsay, who told me she chose not to pursue publication of her adaptation because she wasn't satisfied with the pageant-like, narrated style of the piece.

With its classic Aristotelean plotting, high drama and limited locations, THE LONG WINTER is really the only Little House book that begs to be adapted for the stage. For a child reading the entire series, the bleak story and limited action often make it one of the most challenging of Laura's books. But to the adult, it stands out as the most significant of Wilder's books, a strong work, magnificently written, addressing vital themes including progress, the purpose of human life, and the American character.

Okay, so, if it's such a great adult book, why does a woman who specializes in adapting children's literature for the stage to create performing opportunities for youth want to adapt it?

  • It yields many great parts for kids [Laura, Mary, Carrie, Grace, Cap, Almanzo, Royal, Mary Power, Minnie Johnson, school children)].
  • It permits intergenerational activity (this country needs more activities at the community level so that kids spend less time restricted to their peers).
  • It develops critical thinking skills that will enable them to grow into the kind of people who can appreciate the book on all its levels.
  • It might get them reading the rest of the Little House books. Can you imagine? There are people who haven't read them! I hate this godless culture.

    I visited DeSmet (for the second time) on July 2, 1999. I wanted to see if I could figure out what happened when the children made their way home from the school in a blizzard, to see if it will translate to the stage.

    Main Street (Calumet) runs approx. north/south (thanks, N.), with Spirit Lake to the north and the school house (original site) to the south (two blocks). Second Street is perpendicular to Main Street, crossing Main Street at the corner that includes Pa's store building (northeast corner) and the Fuller store (southeast corner). Across the street from Fuller's store (to the west) is the block that ends with the Royal Brother's feedstore and the Mead Hotel on its western corner. As best I can figure, what happened was, the group came out of the school house intending to go straight ahead (right up Second Street) two blocks to the Pa/Fuller intersection (Calumet and 2nd). Instead, they got blown so hard they moved sideways, proceeding to their left at a 45 degree angle. By the time they got to Main Street, they had veered an entire block west so that they were behind Mead Hotel.

    Cap must have figured out that they were traveling at an angle and cut back hard to his right at some point to get back to Second Street. He wound up making it to Fuller's, which was probably the schoolhouse party's original destination.

    Remember, I'm just guessing my best here.

    Okay, see the car? It's parked in front of a white structure that sits essentially where the school house was. In the distance on the right hand side of the street is a red brick building. It is approximately two blocks away, on the opposite side of Main Street (Calumet). That's Pa's store building site. That's where the school house party was aiming for (straight ahead to Main Street) when they left the school. Instead, they wound up a full block to the left.

    Okay, the wooden building (it's a Food Pride) with a little parking lot, rail fence and light pole next to it sits approximately where the Wilder Brothers' Feedstore was. The parking lot (between the wooden building and the light pole) is about where the Mead Hotel was. I'm taking the picture from the railroad tracks. Had Laura failed to bang into the back of the hotel (figure the back end of the parking lot), they'd have kept heading right towards where I'm standing to take the picture... empty prairie north/northwest of town. Now, up the street from the Food Pride is a brick building, and beyond it is a shorter brick building. Second Street runs between those two brick buildings. The schoolhouse party was supposed to be coming up that street... and instead they ended up at the back of the parking lot, about to head towards the railroad tracks and open prairie. Pa's store building is across the street from the shorter, more distant brick building.

    Okay, now I'm standing beside the site of Pa's store building shooting across Main (Calumet) Street. The store with the "Buche" on it is approximately where Fuller's was, directly across the street from Pa's building. The blue store two doors down, with the pick-up in front of it, is the original Loftus Store, still in operation.

    For your general viewing pleasure, this is "wild and free" Spirit Lake. One of the cool things about DeSmet is, it is SOOOO not Disneyland. There are no signs to Spirit Lake... just the simplest of directions on a hand-out map of interesting "Laura" locations available at the city office . Even the country roads are unnamed.... instead there are horizontal white arrow pickets at gravel intersections displaying the names of area farmers and the approximate distance to their land. In other words, you have to be a bit of a pioneer. : )

    Pope County is on the edge of the prairie just (roughly) 150 miles northeast of DeSmet. Weather conditions are similar. The winter of 1996-97 saw eight blizzards. The wind blew so hard that it would come right through the walls of a house, making a whistling sound through the seams of the paneling. If your headboard was against the wall, you'd have to sleep upside down in your bed to keep the draft off your head or you'd be too cold to sleep. Dogs refused to go outside to relieve themselves. Drifts would form over the roads so large that tunnels had to be made through them to get traffic moving again. Blizzards still happen, and I can't imagine trying to come through one with as little as the settlers of DeSmet had.

    I'm Rebecca Webb and I can be reached via e-mail at:

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