Well, now I’ve caught up to the Pepin Weekend, this past weekend. I need to clarify for those of you who do not know about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Laura Ingalls was born in a cabin outside of Pepin, Wisconsin in 1867. With her family, she traveled to many different areas, settling, building a home, and then moving on. Most of her moving was done in a covered wagon. She was a true Pioneer Girl; her father never wanted to settle but her mother insisted that they stay in once place because of the girls and their educational needs. The family finally stopped at De Smet, South Dakota; they were one of the first families in that area.
Laura married Almanzo Wilder when she was 19 and eventually settled (after several moves) in Mansfield, Missouri. They raised their only surviving child, Rose, in Missouri. Rose went on to become famous as Rose Wilder Lane.
Laura, with the encouragement of her daughter, wrote the first book of what later became a very popular series, “Little House in the Big Woods.” This was about her early childhood in Pepin. To read a little bit more of Laura, you can go here.
Norm and I have been to see the reproduction cabin near the site of the homestead and participate in the LIW days “Traditional Demonstrations” in the park in Pepin each fall. The people that come to demonstrate have become our family. In fact, I overheard one woodworker say, “I never go to family reunions because I have so little family. THIS is my family, THIS is my family reunion.”
Since I forgot my camera (sorry!), I need to describe what is there at Pepin. We arrived about 3:00 on Friday and started to set up. Tom Latené is the “main man” as he lives in Pepin with his wife and daughter and started the traditional crafts section years ago. He tells us where to camp, but most of the time we camp where we’ve always camped unless we request a move.
As we took things out of the van and started putting up the tent, Gary came by to help. He normally helps Tom L set up his blacksmith tent but Tom has injured his shoulder so could not do blacksmithing this weekend. It’s always nice to have help putting the tent up!
As we were putting up the tent, the dogs (we are babysitting our daughter’s Cocker Spaniel, Tasha) were staked out of the way and in the shade. For her first time at an event, Tasha did very well. She’s not used to being on a tether most of the time, but adjusted very quickly.
People started oozing in – some we’d seen during the Fair as they passed through the cabin during their visit to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.” Others we had not seen for several months to a year.
Sheri and her husband Pete arrived to set up his blacksmith area and her spinning area – she is a great spinner and sits spinning all day while selling children’s sunbonnets and baby bunnies.
Tom L came to set up his tent (his wife makes and sells tin decorations and cookie cutters);
Molly came in her “Swan Boat” – camper – to start setting up the cooking area. She and another gal, Maureen, cook for their demonstrations and cook for the entire group. We bring food and things as well as donate to help pay for the meat. We brought a 22 pound watermelon and a dozen eggs. They cooked breakfast for Saturday and Sunday as well as lunch for Saturday and Sunday and a big meal for Saturday night. The big meal on Saturday night is the family get-together – we sit at long picnic tables and visit.
Tom D came – he does woodworking as well. His wife and daughter came later that night – she is a teacher and their 4 year old is a handful around setting up time.
Dave W (from the State Fair) came with his characters and his banjo, fiddle and guitar.
Dave J came (we see him in Decorah) – he does dove-tailed boxes.
Jasper the potter came – he normally sets up next to us so I can watch him work while I spin. I helped hold some of his poles as 2 bodies are better than 1 for setting up some systems.
Most of the others came on Saturday morning before opening at 10:00.
Friday night is supper at Latene’s – the group is getting bigger and bigger each year. We have beer or tea and supper of some kind and visiting before the weekend starts.
Now that we were “home” at the tent, after the fun get-together, we settled down for bed. I had the commode (period correct, all the way) surrounded by my privacy curtains (Gary was really impressed when he helped me put them up), the beds set up so our heads were close enough we could see each other, the candle lantern ready to blow out, Tasha under Norm’s bed and Peanut in mine. I LOVE the real beds and mattresses – much easer to get in and out of than cots, much more comfortable, too!
Morning came and I got up with the dogs for a short walk. Jasper is an early riser so he was up getting coffee at the Rendezvous tent up the hill. Molly SAID she would not make coffee and breakfast for the men, but less than 30 minutes after that statement, men were eating eggs and bacon and drinking her good coffee.
About that time, the “family” came – much depleted, sadly. I gave Cindy a big, long hug – this was the first time I’d seen her since news of Jamie’s death in November so it was hard to see her, but good to see her, if you understand how I felt. But, no surprise, there was evidence of a new little one coming this fall. Yup, Cindy will have a baby in November. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the baby is due on Jamie’s funeral anniversary!
Cindy had brought a large poster with pictures of Jamie and the family for a memorial (and probably to stop the many questions of “Where’s Jamie?”). Tom L had gotten a tree planted in Jamie’s name, as well. It had been suggested during the Decorah weekend so those who wanted to help with it donated money this weekend. It’s a small white oak (I had suggested an oak tree, as Jamie had seemed as strong as an oak to me) with a brass plaque on it with his name.
However, not only was Jamie missing but the other 3 adult children. I had visited with the boys when they came to the State Fair and discovered that they had moved out of the home and were working for a farmer down the road. I also discovered that the oldest girl had found a job and moved out, too. This must be hard on Cindy – not only losing Jamie but not having the other 3 around the home. She and her husband have the 3 younger ones – ages 9 to 3 – and the new one coming, but to “lose” the whole older family has got to be difficult!
Okay, meeting people was over – time for the event to happen. We had many visitors that came from all over the US and Canada to be at the LIW happening. There is a “look-alike” contest, a fiddler’s contest, a story-telling contest, a parade, a bus tour of the area and the reproduction cabin; there is also a quilt show at the cabin. We at the park are in our white canvas tents, our old-time costumes and are doing our old-time crafts. It’s quite a big event for a little town on the edge of Lake Pepin.
“Lake Pepin” is actually a very wide spot in the Mississippi. If you have read “Little House in the Big Woods,” Laura talks about crossing over the “lake” at thawing time and how they listened to the ice cracking while they rode the wagons from Wisconsin to Minnesota.
We began tearing down about 4:30 or 5:00 on Sunday. After tear-down, it was good-bye time for another long time. I ordered some of Cindy’s fantastic goat-milk soap and some votive beeswax candles. This year, for the first time, Norm said we could meet at Tom L’s for pizza and a final goodbye. I sat between Sherri and Cindy and enjoyed talking over (or under) the noise of the men before saying goodbye. Some we will see at Big Island in October, some we may see in July at Decorah and some we won’t see again until next September. Wish we lived closer than the 5 hours we have to travel from home.
Home about 12:30 midnight, take the cooler out and fall into bed. Unpacking will happen the next day.
So, now I’m caught up with my travels. Thank you for bearing with me. It was a beautiful weekend. You have a beautiful day.