Family vacation: Finally, we’re going home

offutt_06Author’s note: This is the last in a short series about summer trips.

There comes a point in every family vacation when you hit a wall. The feeling that you can’t drive another mile or hear “how much further?” one more time before going mad and strapping the family to the roof of the car. You’ve all been there.

I hit my wall in De Smet, South Dakota.

If you’ve never heard of De Smet, then you’ve never read the “Little House on the Prairie” books. You’d also be me. The books were written by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, or Laura Ingalls Wilder or James Earl Jones. I don’t know, someone with three names. And they depict what life was like growing up before running water, Woodrow Wilson and the pyramids. There may have also been mastodons. I’m not sure.

De Smet is a small town far away from everything. Seriously, everything except corn.

We stayed at a beautiful downtown bed and breakfast that used to be a bank where Pa kept what little money he had. Either Pa wasn’t his real name or envelopes were much easier to address back then.

After checking in we scoped out the downtown area, which consists of an espresso shop, a few bars (none of which were open on a Sunday night), and the “Little House on the Prairie” attractions a couple blocks off Main Street.

“I’m going to walk back to the bed and breakfast,” my wife said after we’d checked out the historical sites for our tour the next morning. “I want to see if I can find where Pa built his storefront.”

I can’t comment much on De Smet in regards to “Little House on the Prairie” because I have no context. But my wife had a great time.

“This is where Silver Lake was,” she said at one point. “And this is where Pa planted the trees,” she said at another.

She also played with a pig’s bladder blown up like a ball. I was envious. The closest I’d ever gotten to something that shaped my childhood was seeing the model of the U.S.S. Enterprise displayed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

“You’re a ‘Little House on the Prairie’ nerd,” I told her as we walked toward the Surveyor’s House for a tour (again, I had no context, but my wife was excited).

“I am not a nerd,” she said, defending herself. “Nerds like ‘Star Trek.’”


“What would you call me if I was getting this excited for Robert E. Howard’s boyhood home?”

“Who’s that?”

What? Who’s that? One of the greatest writer’s of the pulp fiction era and she asks who’s that?

“He wrote the Conan the Barbarian stories.”

“I’d call you a nerd.”

I thought I’d made my point, but as with many other times during any given day, apparently I was wrong.

Although I hit my wall in De Smet, we still had to get through Iowa and the traps it has laid for tourists. It took two days.

Man, I need a vacation.

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