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These ‘Little House On The Prairie’ Episodes Eerily Foreshadow Coronavirus

Two episodes of “Little House On The Prairie” are eerily appropriate for what we are currently facing during the coronavirus pandemic. The similarities of “Plague” and “Quarantine” are pretty telling and highlight the importance of social distancing as Pa is separated from his family because of his exposure to the deadly virus. 

“Little House On The Prairie” was a family staple from 1974 to 1983. Many Americans watched this show religiously every week.

This historical family drama highlighted the importance of family and the difficulties the settlers encountered as they established roots in Minnesota.

Life was hard but there was a lot of love and support. That support was critical when everything shut down because of a pandemic, much like we are experiencing today. 

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“Plague” Hits ‘Little House On The Prairie’

In “Plague” typhus sweeps across the prairie. Charles “Pa” Ingalls (played by Michael Landon) and Reverend Alden (played by Dabbs Greeg) set up a makeshift hospital and morgue at the church.

Together with Doc Baker (played by Kevin Hagen), they work to the point of exhaustion. The trio care for and quarantine with the ill of Walnut Grove as not to infect others.

These three were today’s versions of front line workers. They were unconcerned with their own safety as they tended to the sick and dying in this very emotional episode.

Ma (played by Karen Grassle) left food out for Charles. They could only talk at a distance in order to keep the home free of typhus.

When the ill come in droves from neighboring towns for help, Pa and Rev. Alden head out in search of what is causing this severe outbreak of typhus. 

“Little House On The Prairie” Flattens The Curve

Pandemics have occurred throughout history, but this episode from the first season of “Little House” shows that how we flatten the curve remains the same. We have to maintain our space from others. Another similarity is the cause of the outbreak.

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Pa ventures out to find out what is fueling the typhus.

It ended up being cornmeal that was tainted by rats, much like it is suspected that coronavirus began with someone eating a bat. The cheap cornmeal appeared to be a blessing to poor families on the prairie, but it costed some their lives. 

Melissa Gilbert Reflects On Modern Parallels

Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, spoke with The New York Post [8] about how this episode reflects modern life: 

“Even on that tiny scale, so much of what they were doing is now applicable,” Gilbert says. “The town mitigated the situation by getting everyone to quarantine at home, putting the sick in one place and trying to find the source.”

The episode starts with an ominous soundtrack playing over images of a cornmeal warehouse. Rats scurry around sacks of flour unseen by the warehouse’s owner, Mr. Peterson, as he undercuts the price of other suppliers such as Mr. Hansen, the employer of Laura’s dad.

While viewers are immediately aware this is a potentially disastrous situation, it takes dozens of heartbreaking deaths before the Ingalls family and others catch on to the notion that the polluted cornmeal is behind the outbreak.

Take the poverty-stricken Boulton family. The trio is first shown thanking God for the cheap cornmeal that allows their matriarch to make not just one but two loaves of bread for a change. Within 24 hours, their young boy has developed a scalding fever and needs to be packed like a carp in ice by Doc Baker.

In two desperately sad scenes — which live up to “Little House’s” reputation as one of the most morbid series on TV — we see Mrs. Boulton perish from typhus before the illness claims her son.

Homeschooling During Quarantine

In “Quarantine, [9]” Mr. Edwards (played by Victor French) carries Mountain Fever back home to Walnut Grove and infects his daughter. He had gone with Doc Baker to a neighboring town to help out with outbreak of the virus.

Mr. Edwards believed he developed an immunity to Mountain Fever when it took the life of his first wife and daughter. But, he was still somehow brought it home with him. 

Much like today, schools were cancelled and people stayed home.

As you can see in the video clip below, Laura was excited when school was closed, but Ma then had to deal with homeschooling. 

Look familiar?

Editor’s Note: There we two additional videos in this post that were no longer available and they were removed.