Searching for Salt Pork


Finishing up my second night in De Smet, South Dakota. Population 1,098. People greet each other in the stores, walking on the street, passing in their cars. Anonymity is hard to find.

It’s now the low tourist season, but I’ve been surprised by the number of families with children. Why aren’t they in school? I asked one mom and it turns out that September is when homeschooling families take vacation!

This visit to De Smet is my second pilgrimage to a “Laura” site. The last four books (from “Silver Lake” on) are set here. I’m staying on Calumet Avenue — which may as well be called Main Street — in a converted bank and office building where Ma had a bank account. Across the street is the site where Pa had a store. I took a short walk this evening and each storefront is labeled with the store or facility it used to house, all recognizable from the books. Loftus Store and its next door annex (once Mary Powers’ family tailoring business) are the only original structures from that time.

Today I learned that Big Slough is pronounced Big Sloo. That Silver Lake was drained (!) in the 1920s and that no one sells salt pork. A very nice lady, Diane, at the Ingalls Homestead, called around to various people she knew inquiring if they sold it and nobody did. There’s definitely a new business opportunity for anyone in De Smet who can put together a tasting menu of food items as described in the books. That’s partly why I read them over and over … the yummy descriptions of their meals.