On the Banks of Plum Creek

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in environment, summer, Unmowed Blog | 3 comments

I almost didn’t go to Plum Creek. I knew it was gone. I knew the creek as described in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic book must have been swamped by the tide of progress. There’d be a trickle of polluted water, a Wal-mart on one side, a used car dealership on the other, and a small rusty historical marker saying Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived near here.

But we drove through the rain-drenched Minnesota farmland for miles, immense green fields and lonely farms. Then turned down a dirt track by a tidy, white-porched, deserted house. Put $5 in a small metal box on a post (honor system) and drove on a dirt road another half mile. And there it was.on the banks of plum creek

A dense tangle of plum thickets and willows on the banks of a wide, shallow, brown creek. And all around the creek, both sides, was prairie. A strip of restored prairie. Sunflowers, purple blazing stars, bluestem grass, coneflowers. And as quiet as it was back in Laura’s day. No highway drone or lawnmowers, no sound but the grasses rustling, the birds twittering, and (as she put it) the creek talking to itself.

And the rain pouring down. That’s okay. The prairie is still beautiful in the rain.

There’s a sign, all right, a big wooden signboard marking the spot of the little dugout house that Laura loved but Ma hated because it was so hard to sweep a dirt floor. You can see the dip in the ground where the roof caved in long ago, and the remnants of the path Laura took to the creek. dugout plum creek

And all around the banks are the plums. Small as your thumb, still hard and green with only hints of purple yet. The plums are one reason Plum Creek is still here.

Dense roots and vigorous sprouts hold the soil of the creek bank in place, keeping it from being eroded away when floods scour the banks. Without the plums, and the willows and the prairie grasses holding the land in place, this would be a muddy crumble of erosion, silt and mud.

Plums and prairie songbirds, and the rain pattering in the creek. Sunflower-studded grasses. It’s easy to glimpse a little girl with straight brown hair and a pinafore playing in the clear water. plums on plum creek

3 Comments

  1. Fascinating! I can still picture the cover of our copy of “On the Banks of Plum Creek!” It’s pretty neat to know that the site is still there. I remember seeing a map of the Ingalls’ travels a few years back, and it surprised me how far east they were. When I was a kid, I thought they were wayyy out west–but the frontier was where the frontier was, I suppose! I’m sure the TV show had a lot to do with it. Minnesota, for example, doesn’t scream prairie and encounters with natives to me.

  2. Oh wow, thanks for sharing this story! I would not have guessed that it’s still there in any shape or form. Loved reading those books!

  3. Wonderful!

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