Though I’m not nearly so rote as the legions of super fans that will deluge Mankato on Thursday for the three-day Laurapalooza, I know a bit about “Little House on the Prairie.”
I was among those children whose day care providers foisted the show upon our impressionable minds by telling us that watching such a wholesome family drama was “good for us.” I know now what that meant, but at the time I remember being upset that we couldn’t watch “Dino-Riders.”
Nonetheless, we held our young noses and took our medicine, consuming our daily, 60-minute “Little House” regiment with a hefty dose of ridicule.
But secretly (very secretly) I loved Nellie Oleson.
Though I was only 7, I wasn’t too young to know I favored her brand of wickedly deceitful charm over the more placid pleasures offered by the Ingalls family. Plus, Nellie looked a bit like Angie Dalen, the pretty little lass who sat next to me in second grade and declined my offer to partner with me for the annual square-dancing unit in gym class.
Though Angie refused (somewhat) politely, I often wonder how Nellie Oleson might have responded to my request.
Perhaps I’ll have the chance to ask the real-life Nellie Olson when Alison Arngrim performs her one-woman show, “Confessions of a Prairie B*tch” on Friday.
Arngrim’s appearance during Laurapalooza is only one of several interesting events during the festival that celebrates Laura Ingalls Wilder, her best-selling “Little House” series and its association with southern Minnesota.
Among the speakers are: “Little House Cookbook” author Barbara Walker; Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer William Anderson; and Barbara Mayes Boustead, of the National Weather Service, who has researched the weather of the period for her doctoral dissertation.
But could any of them really be as fascinating as the real-life Nellie Oleson? I doubt any of the aforementioned have ever applied a steak to their eye after getting punched in the face by Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura Ingalls); and I doubt any of them ran screaming from a schoolhouse while being assaulted with their own jacket.
Coincidentally, Arngrim said in an interview once that she wasn’t acting during that scene. After cheating on a test by writing answers on the inside of her jacket, Nellie is chased from the schoolhouse by her mother, who is swinging the jacket at Nellie as she runs.
In the interview, Arngrim said the jacket was supposed to be folded so she wasn’t hurt by its metal buttons. But sometime during the scene, the jacket came undone. The buttons left red welts all over her back.
In the same interview, Arngrim also discloses that Gilbert, though her mortal enemy on screen, is “practically like a baby sister” and a close friend to this day.
Personally, I think I like the wicked Nellie better.