A LONG WINTER
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
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
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
THE BLIZZARD WALK
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. : )
WE DON'T HAVE WEATHER LIKE THAT
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
I'm Rebecca Webb and I can be reached via e-mail at: