When he was a swinging single – you know, one of those wild party animals – J really went over the edge and bought the first six seasons of Little House On The Prairie on DVD.
I know. Who would’ve guessed such crazy behavior from a quiet, shy geek?
Anyway, a few months ago – probably closer to a year; I’ve been living in a perimenopausal Twilight Zone-ish time warp for the past couple of years – we started to watch the series. We’ve been watching it one episode at a time during supper.
And we’ve been enjoying it.
I’m a native of Minnesota. That’s number one. Number two, I’m a novelist and so very particular that characters and plot lines remain consistent throughout a story. And of course, I’m all grown up and so can’t help catching the many discrepancies on the show.
Sometimes, they drive me crazy.
And I’m not talking about the obvious ones, like there never was an Albert or Adam Kendall (Mary Ingalls died an old maid). I’m talking about…well, let me get my list going.
Problem #1: There are no mountains in Minnesota.
One of my sisters lives less than an hour away from Walnut Grove, and the land there is flat as a pancake. Hello, that’s why it makes such good farming land!
But the series was filmed in Nevada, near the Rocky Mountains, making it plausible that Laura would climb a mountain to get closer to God or that Almanzo would have steep hills to climb that one time he tried to beat Charles to Sleepy Eye with a wagonload of goods.
Except that there are no mountains in Minnesota. Now, there are some hilly areas around the state, especially around the rivers. But that’s as high as the land gets.
Problem #2: Southern rednecks, anyone?
When we watched the first episode with Houston in it, where Laura talks him into letting Mary and Adam rent the old courthouse as a school for blind children, I rolled my eyes for the thousandth time during the watching of the series, and for the thousandth time proclaimed, “Don’t nobody talk like that in Minnesota!” (Read that previous sentence in a Southern accent.)
I said, “He’s from one of the eastern Southern states, like Virginia.”
I went online and did a search on the actor, Dub Taylor, and guess where he’s from? West Virginia! Now, I’m sure that a few Southerners ended up North back in those days, but not as many as we seem to encounter on the show.
Not that they were supposed to be from the South, but here’s the thing: eighty percent of the time the show’s writers created a redneck character, the person had a Southern accent. I pointed this out repeatedly to my Loiusiana-born-and-raised husband. I think he got tired of it after a while, but it was true! How to make a character look ignorant? Give them a Southern accent!
Which leads me to…
Problem #3: Small Minnesotan towns don’t have black churches.
I want to say that Minnesota doesn’t have black churches, period, but I’m not positive. There may be a church here and there that consists of mostly black congregants, but once again, Minnesota is about as far away from the South as a state can get.
I’m specifically referring to the episode where Hester Sue (a teacher at the school for the blind) almost marries her funeral director man-friend. The place where the service occurs is obviously a black church.
In Sleepy Eye, Minnesota? I don’t think so. Especially not back in those days.
Problem #4: Minnesotans don’t say “fixin’ to”.
Related to the Southern redneck thing is the Southern lingo the show’s writers repeatedly gave the regular characters. In one of his first episodes of the series, Albert uses the exclusively-Southern phrase “fixin’ to.”
I lived in Minnesota until the age of twenty-three, and I never, ever heard anybody say “fixin’ to” until I moved to Texas! And I thought it was the strangest thing I’d ever heard.
Of course, now I say it, too, but I try not to and it’s all J’s fault if I do.
“Dadburnit” and “dadgummit” are also Southern, but they were frequently used as euphemized cuss words on the show.
Then there was “reckon.” I used to think that was a totally Southern redneck word until I read it in a novel with British characters.
But my point here is, Minnesotans don’t say “reckon.” Again, I never heard that word come out of anybody’s mouth in real life until I moved to Texas.
For some reason, the show’s city-living writers thought that everybody who lived in a rural area spoke Southern.
Well, and so they do…in the South.
Problem #5: Writers forgot characterizations.
Harriet Oleson cooked for her family in the beginning. Then all of a sudden during season six, she couldn’t cook beans (literally and figuratively). Nels was the family cook.
A few episodes later, Harriet was cooking again.
Early in the series, Doc Baker performed an appendectomy on Mrs. Oleson. Four seasons later, he didn’t know how to do that operation so the writers could make sure a boy would die of appendicitis so the producers of the show could malign the healing ministries that they didn’t understand.
Percival, Nellie’s eventual husband, announced on the day he proposed that he was Jewish. Remember? Harriet reacted in her usual prejudiced way, but Nels consoled her with, “Harriet, he wants to marry our daughter.”
And then Harriet was fine with Percival being a Jew.
But a few episodes later, the Oleson’s were shocked to discover that Percival had Jewish parents and that Percival had been hiding not only his religion and ethnicity, but also his real name.
So, was the marriage between Nellie and Percival even valid, since he’d used a fake name?
Mothers don’t leave their babies to take long trips. Mothers don’t leave their small children alone for a cause. Mothers don’t forget about their babies when their house is burning down. Men back in those days always, always carried a gun – especially when they knew they were walking into potentially dangerous situations. (Hollywood’s anti-second amendment agenda pasted on top of the stories was ludricrous.) Most families back then had more than one child. Why did a town as big as Walnut Grove not have a sheriff?
And so on.
“Shut up and let me watch!”
I know I’m missing several discrepancies here. I know because I’ve complained about them as often as Harriet complained on the show.
Okay, maybe not quite that often. But, often. I’m waiting for the day when B turns to me and says, “Will you shut up and just let me watch the show?!”
If he ever does, it’ll serve me right.
It is, was, and will continue to be an entertaining show, despite its many discrepancies.
And especially with all those Southern rednecks who apparently infiltrated central Minnesota back in the late 1800’s.