American history – written and rewritten

We came from Branson, Missouri, this morning, which was really an experience, just as we expected. Imagine Las Vegas scrubbed squeaky clean, and without even a beer in sight. Believe it or not, it wasn’t half as kitsch as Pigeon Forge TN, but the some of the headliners here probably all cried at Ed Sullivan’s passing – and likely were at the funeral in 1974.

Last night we went full throttle on the various Branson attractions, and selected Dolly Parton’s “Dixie Stampede.” This dinner show has been running for 20 years, and it’s fresh as Dolly herself. (We’ve been tight with her since we visited Dollywood last fall.)

You can’t beat this event for spectacle and patriotism, and its lightning fast overview of American history. But it was the trained buffalo segment that knocked our socks off. The fog machine goes into overdrive and six bison (to be more accurate) come into the arena and work the room. Loved it! Buffalo Bill is the granddaddy of this show, and he would have been right proud.  We couldn’t photograph the show itself, but loved the staged contests between the North and South sides of the hall. We sat with all the Yankees, where we belonged. That Dolly knows what she is doing. We saw decades of history where nobody died or lost their lands and everyone behaved like ladies and gentlemen.

And then onto something equally gentle, but perhaps a tad more realistic. A tad. As the final segment of our Laura Ingalls Wilder pilgrimage, we came to Laura’s final home, where she lived with her husband and daughter and wrote her “Little House” books. There were actually two houses at this location – one that Laura and Almanzo built in stages till it was completed in 1913, and a stone house on the same land that their daughter built as a retirement gift for them. They actually preferred the old farmhouse and moved back into it after a few years.

She wrote her books in both homes, and the number of other pilgrims to this little town of Mansfield MO is amazing – about 40,000 a year. The cult is strong and seems to be sustained with lots of new young members, so the Laura legend will carry on. Though there was some death and destruction in her books, we manage to deal with them as the Ingalls family did – as a part of life that must be endured.

She and Dolly would have gotten along just fine.

 

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