Is My Town Like Walnut Grove? January 9, 2013

One of my all-time favorite shows has got to be Little House on the Prairie. I loved watching the adventures of the Ingalls family. Pa was always so strong and wise; Ma was calm and reassuring; Mary was smart and pretty; and Laura was a feisty tomboy who eventually wins the heart of the hottest farmer in town. Karri was just sort of there, all messy and babbly, while dumping Ma’s clean laundry all over the dirt ground.

By the way, does anyone know what happened to Grace? She was a toddler and then she just kind of disappeared. She must have done something shameful…or maybe she was just too boring? Back then there was nothing like Real Housewives to show those people how to drum up some drama for their characters. Grace could have learned something from those ladies; then maybe she would have become a more prominent member of Walnut Grove society. Who knows, maybe that drug addiction story line would have gone to her instead of that Ingalls family wannabe, Albert.

But getting back to the show. I loved rooting for the Ingalls family. Would Pa’s crops be ruined, therefore forcing him to take a dangerous job out of town in order to support the family? What kind of nasty trick would Nellie Oleson pull this week? Would Laura then get her revenge on Nellie, and would Ma tell her to instead turn the other cheek? Personally I always liked it when Ma would suddenly go ballistic and give someone like Mrs. Oleson a good tongue lashing. Ah, those were sweet episodes.

And then there was the little white school house. Not only was it a school, but it was also a church, a town council meeting place and a roller rink on Saturday nights.

So it got me thinking: My town of Ripon has a very similar little white schoolhouse (where the first meetings of the Republican Party were held) ,plus we’re also a small Midwestern town. But do the similarities stop there? Just how much is Ripon like Walnut Grove?

I’m sure this would make a fascinating (and unnecessary) case study. For one thing, just how warmhearted is Ripon? Do neighbors help each other out like they do in Walnut Grove?  If some seedy stranger came to town, would we all meet at the Little White Schoolhouse to discuss how to drive him out of town so he’s never seen in another episode…er…Village Green concert? Would we make a special shoe for Olga with the short leg, or would we just sit back and watch her run funny? I for one believe we would do the right thing. How do I know this? Because just the other week I witnessed a very noble act among our townspeople.

The scene: a local watering hole. (What, you were expecting church?)

My friends and I notice that not only is the place pretty packed, but there is only one bartender. This guy is sweating like crazy to keep up, and we feel pretty bad for him. Yet there is nothing we can do, since we are mere thirsty townsfolk without bartending licenses.

But then…as fast as schoolchildren can help a pregnant Mrs. Wilder after she collapses from heat stroke in the fields…in walks a bartender from another bar. Sweet relief! A few minutes later it happens again. Another bartender that we recognize from another local bar comes in the door, rolls up her sleeves and starts taking drink orders like she owns the place. We were saved! If we were in an 80’s movie, someone would have started a slow clap.

I wasn’t sure how this happened, but I imagined it was some sort of universal bartending distress call. A giant mug of beer projected in the sky, perhaps? Whatever it was, this guy got the instant help he needed.  That’s not something you see every day, and it would probably be unheard of in larger cities.

Okay so maybe Mr. Ingalls wouldn’t have been too impressed, but I’ve got to believe that fun-loving Mr. Edwards would appreciate our spirit.

We are so like Walnut Grove.



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