2017 Aug 15 – Branson (Mansfield), MO

We spent the morning lazing around in our condo unit, made up some sandwiches for our lunch and then took off for Mansfield.  Mansfield is located north and east of Branson.  If you take the freeway north to Springfield and then go east you can get to Mansfield in just over an hour.  It took us over two hours to travel our backroads route.

John likes the Missouri backroads.  They have regular series of roller coaster hills where you literally go up and down short steep hills one after another for three or four dips.  There are also a lot of nice corners and twists.  I need to remind him every now and again that he is not on his motorcycle even though Poppy goes through the turns well.

Rural Missouri roads (a lot of them anyway) have no names.  They have all been assigned a letter of the alphabet, beginning with A and going through to Z, then beginning with AA and going to ZZ.  I do not know if all of the letters are represented nor if they are all repeated in the double sequence but it is quite strange to see a direction sign that only has an arrow and a big U or K or B.  Crossroads signs will point you to C going north and K going south.  There does not appear to be a geographical pattern to the lettering either.  Early alphabet letters and end-of the alphabet letters can be quite close together.

We drove up to Mansfield to see the Laura and Almanzo Wilder houses.  In De Smet, ND we had toured the buildings of Laura Ingalls’ childhood and the home her parents lived in but some years after she married Manly Wilder they moved from De Smet, North Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri. Their first house was a one room shack but a few years later they decided to build a proper house on the hillside of their Rocky Ridge Farm.  They dragged the one-room to the location of new house and added on another room. Over the next few years they added on one room at a time as they could afford it, doing most of the building themselves.  The house we saw had a kitchen (original one room shack), diningroom, bedroom, bathroom (that originally was the wood storage room for the stove and fireplace), a small room where Laura had a desk and wrote her “Little House” books, a front room (livingroom/parlour) that had a small library nook and a music room off to the side.  There was a guest room, daughter Rose’s room, and a storage room upstairs.

Virtually all of the furnishings, decor and contents of the farm house were original, including the linoleum on some of the floors.  The only people that lived in the house were Laura and Almanzo Wilder and, for a period, their daughter Rose.  Almanzo died in 1949 and Laura and Rose, over the next few years, discussed turning the house and farm over to a museum, so when Laura died in 1957 that is what Rose did. We also toured the new museum building that displayed many personal items of Laura and Almanzo Wilder including dresses made and worn by Laura (with beautiful hand crocheted lace), shoes made and worn by Almanzo, household items, letters and books, and many other treasures.  No photography was permitted inside the museum or the houses so I can’t show you any of the beautiful and interesting things we saw.About a half a mile down the road on the other edge of Rocky Ridge Farm was the Rock House.  The Rock House was a gift to Laura and Almanzo from their daughter Rose who was a newspaper reporter that travelled around the world extensively, and was also a successful novelist.  She purchased the retirement house for her parents from the earnings of one of her stories that was serialized in the Country Gentleman magazine; for which she was paid $10,000.  The house plans were ordered from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog and Rose hired an architect from Springfield to oversee construction.

Rock House was built between August and December 1928 and Rose presented the keys to her parents for Christmas.  They lived in the house for about seven and a half years, during which time Laura wrote the first four Little House books.  Rose lived in the old farm house and paid rent to her parents.  When she moved out Laura and Almanzo moved back into the farm house and kept Rock House as a rental property until they sold it in 1943. The serialzied book that Rose Wilder wrote was called “Cindy” and it was about a pioneer girl.  After writing the story she began to think that someone who had actually experienced being an early pioneer would be better able to tell what it was like.  She encouraged her mother to write about her childhood and early adulthood as a homesteader in North Dakota and Missouri.  Hence the Little House books began.  Laura Ingalls Wilder was 63 when she began to write the books which made her famous and inspired the popular 1970’s  TV series starring Michael Landon as Pa Ingalls.

It was after five before we left the museum complex and we drove through town to the cemetary where Laura and Almanzo Wilder and their daughter Rose Wilder Lane were buried. I have noticed at other cemetaries we have passed or stopped at to find a geocache that there are always lots of flowers and flags on gravestones; even very old ones.  The cemetary at Mansfield was very typical in this way and many of the markers had beautiful silk flower arrangements that looked fresh and new. We took a different route back to Branson and stopped at a few places along the way to find some geocaches.  The weather was supposed to be thunderstorms and clouds today but it was a lovely sunny/cloudy day with warm enough temperatures that we drove both ways with the top down on Poppy.  Of course, the minute you stopped moving the 80% humidity made you feel very warm and sticky.

This youngster was quite intriqued by our presence near his/her field while we looked for a goecache.One of the caches we found was called “Witness Tree.”  We had to walk the edge of the Roberts Cemetary (which contained gravesmarkers for a lot of Roberts, plus some others,) to a large tree in the back corner.  There was a tag on the tree saying Do Not Destroy.  Witness Tree.  I looked the term up when we got back to Branson and Witness Trees are used as a reference mark to locate permanent federal survey markers.  The bearing and distance to the survey marker is sometimes stamped into the tag on the tree.  See, you can learn something new every day. It was a large tree.

Our quieter secondary road connected to the #65 freeway that comes south out of Springfield and goes straight down to Branson.  I can stand to be on the less congested freeways in the west and mid-west but I do all I can to avoid the ones going into and out of large cities.  The speed limit on the freeways out here is 75mph (just over 120 kmph), which John and Poppy liked and I just ignored as best I could. It was after 7 by the time we got back to Branson and almost 9 by the time we were doing our dinner dishes.  Photos, blog and bed followed.

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