Jason’s note: This is the second of two parts of our “Little House” trip to Minnesota.
If the 1980s taught us anything it’s that nerds are nerds, jocks are jocks, cheerleaders are cheerleaders, gearheads are gearheads and each group is as separate from one another as Marvel and DC.
The ’80s were wrong about a lot of things. Hacky sack, parachute pants, Don Johnson’s shirts and Urkel. The ’80s were also wrong about American scholastic social classes – everyone’s a nerd, even those who play sports. That’s why St. Expedite, the patron saint of nerds, created fantasy football, so jocks could have Dungeons and Dragons, too.
So, I was surprised my wife, a well-read librarian, didn’t know she was a nerd until we attended the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder look-alike contest in Walnut Creek, Minnesota. We were in Walnut Creek for my wife’s birthday, specifically for the fact that Wilder’s family once lived there.
What she didn’t understand, after a childhood of wanting to be Laura and an adulthood traveling to all the places Laura lived, is that she is a “Little House” nerd in exactly the same way that I’m a “Star Trek” nerd. She thought her adoration-bordering-on-obsession for the Ingalls family was normal, something every girl went through; she was just a “fan.”
We walked through the Walnut Grove City Park, past vendors, food tents (we stopped to get a funnel cake) and pioneer demonstrators toward our destination – the contest.
“You sure you don’t want to enter?” I asked because it wasn’t just a look-alike contest; the contestants had to answer “Little House” trivia questions and I’m sure my wife could easily destroy every 8-year-old there. “That booth over there is selling bonnets.”
“No,” she said, then pointed at a girl walking toward the contest in a blue period costume. “That’s not right. Laura wore red calico. Mary wore blue. Geez.”
“You know, that’s as bad as me pointing out when Mr. Spock went from Lt. Commander to Commander because of the braids on his sleeves, right?”
Her eyes, at that point, may or may not have glowed red.
“No it is not. It’s not the same thing at all.”
I was beginning to get frightened.
“If we lived here,” she said, her voice hard as steel. “I’d be on the judging committee for this contest. I’d get an air horn and disqualify that girl before the contest even started.” She sat on a park bench, ate her funnel cake and fumed.
This is a transcript of what would happen if my wife lived in Walnut Grove, Minnesota:
Emcee: Good afternoon, and welcome to the annual ...
My wife, Judge No. 4 (blasting air horn): *Fwwaaaa.* Get on with it. (Pointing at contestant No. 27). *Fwwaaa.* Her doll’s too expensive; Laura had a rag doll. Authenticity failure. Get her out of here.
Contestant No. 27: (Bursts into tears; her mother escorts her away).
Emcee: OK then, let’s move to the trivia round. Contestant No. 12 ...
My wife: *Fwwaaa.* Let’s just save some time right now. Contestants 1-11, your hair’s all wrong. Contestant 12, you’re 47 years old. Contestants 13-26, WRONG SHOES. Contestant 27, you know what your problem is. And 28 through 34? You call that the look of optimistic despair a 10-year-old would have? A 10-year-old who had to keep her sisters’ spirits up while their parents were lost in a blizzard? While their crop was destroyed by grasshoppers? While Pa had to leave home to find work and donated his last dollars to the church bell fund instead of buying new boots and then Mary goes blind and … And you can’t even put in enough effort to get the color of the hair ribbons right? I don’t think so. *Fwwaaa.*
“We should never move to Walnut Grove,” I said as we left the look-alike contest and walked to our car.
She nodded. “Yeah, probably a good idea.”
– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.