How Melissa Gilbert Rescued her Little House on the Prairie Pigtails



For a lot of kids, they have one job: to just be a kid. Run around, make friends, get messy and listen to your parents (unless a moment of mischief proves too tempting).

In the case of Melissa Gilbert, she had a different job as a kid: to star as Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie,” one of the most loved and influential series to ever grace our television screens. From 1974-83, Gilbert starred in an impressive 205 episodes, quite the sizeable workload for someone also tasked with growing up and learning about the world around her.

“The most formative years of my life — from the time I was nine until I was 19 — were spent on that set,” said Gilbert during a 2017 interview with Parade. “I tell people sometimes that I didn’t grow up in the 1970s. I grew up in the 1870s. It’s who I am. That experience shaped me in a huge way as a professional, certainly, but also as a person. I don’t know who I would have been if I hadn’t had that show.

Of course, when you spend as much time on a series as Gilbert did on “Little House on the Prairie,” you’re bound to gain memories that last a lifetime. For Gilbert, these included playing on set with the likes of Frisbees, footballs, board games, cards and other such activities designed to allow child cast members to “let some steam off.”

During one of these recreational experiences, some unexpected witty banter knocked Gilbert right on her keaster.

“There was one day I was sitting in a rickety nylon folding chair — not a director’s chair — it was a cross-panel, old, nylon folding chairs,” recalled Gilbert. “I was sitting in the chair and playing cards at the edge of the creek. I was in wardrobe. Someone said something funny, and I leaned back in my chair laughing. My chair toppled over into the water and I just went head over heels. I landed on my butt in the pond, but I was holding up my pigtails and they didn’t get wet.” 

She continued: “I didn’t get hurt at all. I just remember landing and it’s so odd that my first instinct was to not ruin my hairdo. I tumbled in and managed to hold my hair up out of the water.”

Gilbert’s wardrobe was ruined, but thankfully her trademark pigtails made it out unscathed!

-Adam Grant

Little House on the Prairie” can be seen weekdays at 4pm ET/1pm PT on VisionTV!”

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