I’m a voracious reader, always have been. Just ask my mom, she’ll happily tell you about any number of occasions where she had to call my name multiple times to get my nose out of a book and do my chores when I was a kid, and I can honestly say all these years later, not much has changed. Sometimes I read fast, sometimes I go slowly, savoring every word. Recently, I read something written in a style that I’d not tried before, and wow, what an experience it was.
For Christmas this year, I told my husband I wanted “Pioneer Girl”, which is an autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder edited by Pamela Smith Hill, and more specifically, it’s an annotated autobiography. Having never read something annotated before, I didn’t really understand what precisely, that meant.
Now, I’m rather curious and inquisitive by nature. I love learning things, solving puzzles, and am quite certain that I was a child that said “why” far too many times and probably drove my mother crazy. You’d think that reading something annotated would be right up my alley, right? Well yes – and no, and I’ll tell you why.
If you’ve never cracked open a book that is annotated, I’ll tell you what makes it unique. Rather than having the footnotes at the end of the book, they are included throughout the entire text, so that the reader has the additional information about that particular thing that has a notation attached to it, right when you’re reading it. This is good, in that you have the benefit of more context at that moment in time. It’s also bad, because if you’re like me, it can be a little distracting, like when you’re trying to look for a butterfly, and then suddenly I yell “squirrel!!” and all of a sudden, I’m off down the proverbial rabbit trail. Here’s a great example.
One morning I started reading about the family’s move back to De Smet, SD, in 1879. As I saw some maps and photos, I got to wondering how different it looked today as compared to then, and what might still be around, because of course I wasn’t just content to read the book and annotations. Nope, I had to ALSO open Google maps, pull up De Smet on the map, put it in satellite view and start zooming in, then put the little yellow man on the streets and walk around. I had to zoom out again and find the Big Slough, Silver Lake, find out where the Ingalls homestead was, was anything still there? Where was Almanzo’s homestead, is there a marker there? Zoom in, zoom out, fiddle around. Search Google for historical De Smet photos, find ones from the period, was Pa Ingalls store on there? Is it still around? Good grief!!
I’ve done the same thing with other historical places. I think it’s wonderful to be able to find these old photos on the internet, and see what used to be, and how things have changed. I even caught myself doing it again yesterday when we finished watching a wonderful documentary from Ken Burns on the Great Plains in the time of the dust bowl. In the show was narration from a book written by Caroline Henderson, who had purchased land and homesteaded in the early 1900’s before she married (what a woman!). She then married, and she and her husband lived on that land and farmed in the heart of the dust bowl, and she wrote about life during that time. Of course, at the end of the documentary, there I am on Google maps, searching for the Henderson homestead in Oklahoma. Yes, it’s still there but unfortunately, it’s just far enough off main roads that the Google camera hasn’t photographed it.
Did you also know that you can get a “what was there” view using Google Earth Pro? It won’t work with regular Google Maps, you need to use the Google Earth Pro app. Once you find an address, you can use the imagery date slider bar to go back in time to see earlier satellite images of the area. Or course, the older they are, the poorer the imagery is because they didn’t have high resolution satellite photography years ago. You also can’t drop the little yellow Google guy on the street for a street view of yesteryear – it will change to a street view of the most current year’s image. But it’s still fun. I’ve also gotten lost in our state historical society’s online photographic collection, Facebook’s Old Minneapolis page, and a site called Minnesota Reflections. I find that as I dig around one site, I will stumble on something else, and then another and another and suddenly I’ve killed an entire morning, my eyes are blurry from staring at the computer screen and I can’t feel my rear end because I’ve sat for too long. But dang, I sure had fun!