Watching my favorite childhood television show as an adult is an eye-opening experience. Years later, I’m still in love with Little House on the Prairie, but for reasons that would have totally and completely eluded me as a kid.
Like in the very first episode of Season One, Pa breaks his ribs falling from a tree. Good old Doc Baker comes out to Plum Creek to tend to him, and while he’s wrapping Pa’s bare torso in long strips of cloth, it occurred to me:
Holy shit. Charles Ingalls is freaking hot.
Long hours of driving a team of oxen and working at the mill made Pa one cut, burly guy. But it’s not just the working man’s chiseled chest and well-defined arms that make him so rarrr. Oh, no.
Pa is also a total sap. But not in a momma’s boy kind of way, of course. He knows when to play the hardass, but he also knows when to get warm and fuzzy. I can’t help but get a bit choked up when he goes all weepy over a lost wheat crop, or when he’s overcome with pride for Half Pint and Mary. This is a man who’s in touch with his feelings.
Pa loves his wife. He flirts and flatters and grabs her by the bonnet to plant big, prairie kisses on her. And when Ma gets upset, he can’t help but crack a smile. It’s as though it no-so-secretly delights him to see her give up that small measure of control that it requires to get her flustered. Which might be exasperating if it weren’t totally charming.
“Time spent being angry with you is such as waste,” Ma says to Pa one night in bed. But I can’t help but get the feeling that they both enjoy it. Just a little bit.
Pa is a man who knows how to do things. From fiddle playin’ to plowing a field and shingling a roof, Charles Ingalls is a guy with practical skills. It’s the same kind of competence that makes me so giddy over MacGyver and Thomas Magnum. There is nothing sexier than know-how.
And when it’s combined with a fine physique and emotional availability? Well, I’m suddenly a girl with some serious Pa issues.