Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like to hear about a harrowing tale of a catastrophe that was narrowly avoided? Well, the Little House on the Prairie narrowly escaped disaster during the shooting of its pilot episode.
The producer of the iconic show was Kent McCray. For cinephiles and fans of the show, the first episode, which was a straight-to-television movie, was amazing. It was a beautiful way to tell the world about the story of Laura Ingalls. For those who have seen the episode, you’ll know that it took place amongst deep snow.
Dean Butler got the chance to sit down with Kent McCray to talk about Little House on the Prairie. In late 2017, the legendary producer talked about the difficulties of shooting the pilot episode. His description of how the shooting went details how close the show came to not being able to film the episode.
“I looked out the window, and it was snowing and pretty good,” McCray said. “So, I got on the phone and called a gentleman, who was a teamster, [and] I knew had a four-wheel-drive pickup. A guy by the name of Jim.”
He continued to talk about the first episode. “I said, ‘Jim, I’ve got to go look at the location, which was outside of Columbia, California called Yankee Hill. So we drove up there,” the Little House on the Prairie producer recalled. “The roads were a good foot deep at that time because it had been snowing a lot harder up there than what I had seen.”
Filming the First Episode of “Little House on the Prairie” Was a Challenging Feat
McCray remembered how incredibly challenging the snowstorm made filming the episode. The show’s producer talked about what they had to do to make it possible to film.
“So, through Jim, he knew the people at the city plow department. He got four trucks to go up and start plowing out the roads,” McCray said. “We got most of the camera trucks in, a lot of the [other] trucks we did not get in because they didn’t have tome to plow it all out.”
He then described the difficulty of filming one scene in particular. “There was a scene where they get in the wagon and go away. They came out of the cabin,” McCray shared in the interview. “We all shoveled snow, and they plowed out where the boom could go forward or backward and the leads would go forward. It looked like the distance was greater than it actually was. That was our first day of shooting on Little House on the Prairie.”
Thankfully, he and the rest of the crew were able to pull off filming the episode. His perseverance in filming the pilot episode paved the way for the rest of the incredible show.