A tussle over a historical story
It has been a great week with some of our folks going outside. Some remember hearing of talk about a winter like this long ago, but don't know what year.
Now and then I spend an hour thinking back over the many interesting residents who lived under our big roof over the years. Names sometimes elude me, but I will never forget their stories. The generation of folks who were aged in 1969, when I went on the payroll, are gone. Only their stories remain, as important and interesting as ever. There were so many folks, and I loved them all.
One of the first treasures I met that summer day was a tiny little lady named Bell. She was nearing 100 with total recall. Bell was delicate, with a mane of shoulder-length white hair nurses pulled into a ponytail on top of her head, tied with a pink ribbon.
Bell was raised in the log cabin her father built for his family in Walnut Grove, near the cabin of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. Their daughter, Laura, and Bell walked together part of the way to school.
Bell remembered the little girls spoke of their lunches, carried in identical syrup pails. If they found the same kind of sandwiches in their lunch several days in a row, they traded. Some days Laura's sandwich filling was baked beans, not one of Bell's favorites, but she ate them anyhow and Laura was pleased with the swap.
Laura liked sleeping at Bell's cabin best because her father made a way to the loft from inside the warm cabin. At the Ingalls' cabin the only way to the loft was from the outside, not nice for little girls in nighties in a Minnesota winter.
At that time I was writing stories for Webb Publishing. A few days after Bell's story was published I got a call from a frantic editor. HELP! NOW! He had received a very stern letter from the lawyers of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Foundation threatening lawsuit forthwith unless writer Pearson could prove to their satisfaction what she had written as fact. They had never heard about Laura's lunch or sleepovers.
Poor editor. He was spastic.
After a long minute, I said "Hang loose. I got the information from the little lady who was Laura's schoolmate."
His relief was such I sensed it over the telephone, like WHEWWW!
A few days later I got a call from a Wilder Foundation representative. He was one of the friendliest, nicest, down home sort of fellers you'd ever want to meet. He knew just how to relate to those hicks stuck in the middle of Minnesota. Enjoyed talkin' to me, he did, before I'd uttered more than hello.
All he wanted, he said, was a little favor. We writers had to stick together, yessireee, you bet. Now, if I would just tell him the little lady's name, address, and when she could be reached it would make his day, is what it would. Why, when he came down to talk to her, we'd go out for coffee, by golly!
I told him I had no authority to give information to anyone. I gave him her daughter's number. Her daughter said, "No way! I don't want nosey strangers calling on and upsetting my little mom."
The Wilder Foundation ended up humbly asking my editor and was given permission to use what I wrote, as long as I got credit. That was one of my first stories for Shady Lane Nursing Home.