The Man Behind the Television Almanzo, Part 3

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Dr. Dale Cockrell was a professor of musicology when he began to read the Little House series to his young son. As a musicologist, he became fascinated with the 127 songs Laura mentions in her books. His interest inspired him to write a 425-page reference book on the Little House songs and seven books of sheet music.

Wanting to bring Pa’s music to modern listeners, Cockrell founded Pa’s Fiddle Recordings, LLC and began to produce recordings of these songs of the pioneers. Cockrell’s first CD was “Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder.” I have happy memories of that CD playing over and over in our kitchen and of hearing John play songs from Cockrell’s Happy Land Companion Songbook on the piano.

Cockrell went on to produce “Arkansas Traveler: Music from Little House on the Prairie” and “Pa’s Fiddle: Charles Ingalls — American Fiddler.” I was privileged to meet Dr. Cockrell at the Middle Tennessee Home Education Association convention in Nashville several years ago where he had a display of his CDs. One year we gave away copies of “Happy Land” at our conventions. A mother told us recently that after receiving “Happy Land,” she purchased the others as well. I don’t blame her; they are American music treasures.

Little House in the Big Woods -- Charlene
In 2011 Ray and I made it to the Ingalls family homestead near Pepin, Wisconsin. This is where Laura first heard Pa’s fiddle.
Little House in the Big Woods -- Ray
We stand in front of the reconstructed Little House in the Big Woods. The Big Woods have been cleared for miles and miles of farmland.

Dean Butler first heard about Laura’s musical legacy when he attended a lecture by Dr. Cockrell. In 2012 Butler and Cockrell collaborated on a PBS special entitled “Pa’s Fiddle: The Music of America.” The special was filmed before a live audience at the Loveless Barn in Franklin, Tennessee, one of Nashville’s premier small music venues. The performers were Randy Travis, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie Milsap, Ashton Shepherd, The Roys, Natalie Grant, and a group called Committed, who were champions of an NBC Sing Off. The soloists were accompanied by a band led by Randy Scruggs, son of Earl Scruggs, banjo player of the Flatt and Scruggs duo, two of the most famous performers in early country music. The audio recordings of this concert are on a CD, also called “Pa’s Fiddle: The Music of America.”

This may sound like a commercial, but it is not. I wanted you to know about all of this because:

  • I am thankful that Dr. Dale Cockrell and Dean Butler have worked together to help others know about the stories, music, and values of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • I thought you might like to know about this amazing music.

I have told you before about my friend who told our Bethany not to let her childhood go by without reading Little Women. I hope you won’t let your homeschool years go by without reading the Little House books aloud with your children. Reading them aloud is one of my favorite memories of our homeschooling experience. The stories are real and teach much about our heritage. The lessons I learned about mothering from Ma were priceless to me.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote Bible references in her Bible which lay on the table near her rocker. At the bottom of the list, she wrote, “And make Psalm 51 your prayer.”

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:6-7



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One comment

  1. Oh, my. My wish list at Amazon is growing, growing, growing! So many lovely resources to look forward to receiving!:-)

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