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Why Melissa Gilbert Said Meeting Her ‘Scary-Looking’ Neighbor Was Like Something out of a ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Episode



Melissa Gilbert and husband Timothy Busfield bought a fixer-upper cabin in the Catskills in 2019. One day, as they were getting settled in and doing some work on their new home, a man they’d never seen before pulled up in a truck. It was the couple’s new neighbor, and he was not what they’d expected. 

A stranger pulled up to Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield’s new home

One December day, as Gilbert was doing some work in the kitchen, she heard a truck pull up in front of the house. She wasn’t expecting anyone so she looked out the window to inspect who it was. 

“The truck was decorated with all sorts of doodads, metal figurines, and signs, including one that read IF YOU LOOT, WE SHOOT,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Back to the Prairie. “It also had a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer head fastened to its grille. Kind of incongruous, until I saw the driver circle around his truck.”

Who walked out was a character Gilbert had never seen before. She braced herself.  

“He was built like Hulk Hogan, with long white hair pulled back in a ponytail, a Fu Manchu mustache and goatee, more beads and dangling necklaces than Jack Sparrow, moccasins, a leather vest, feather earrings, and a pearl-handled revolver in a holster on his thigh,” wrote Gilbert. “I clutched the counter and yelled for Tim.” 

“Um, honey … I think this is our neighbor!” she called to him. 


Gilbert and Busfield’s neighbor, Pete Traina

And that’s exactly who it was, Gilbert and Busfield’s new neighbor had come over to introduce himself. His name was Pete Traina—”actor, stuntman, bodyguard, and sweetheart,” according to Gilbert. 

The Laura Ingalls actor says Traina is proof you can’t judge a book by its cover. 

“He arrived bearing welcome gifts, including a freshly baked apple pie,” wrote Gilbert. “He also gave us herbs to boil to cleanse the spirit of the house, sage to smudge with, dried apples and other goodies, a book on the local history, and maps of the area.”

It was such a wholesome lesson to relearn—to not judge a book by its cover—that Gilbert couldn’t help but compare it to a Little House on the Prairie episode.  

“It was like the end of the first act of a Little House episode: Scary-looking guy shows up and turns out to be an angel in disguise,” she wrote. 

Why Gilbert and Busfield moved to the Catskills

Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield photographed in their former home.

Gilbert and Busfield initially wanted a second home in the Catskills (though now the cabin is their main place of residence). They wanted a peaceful place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of New York City but still be close enough for work. 

After a long renovation process, Gilbert and Busfield have found themselves quite happy in their new home. 

“Real satisfaction and meaning, for me, at fifty-six years old, came from canning tomatoes and cleaning the chicken coop rather than implants and hair color and other efforts to stop time from marching across my face,” wrote Gilbert.


If the Laura Ingalls actor could sum up the past few years in one word it would be “simplification.” She’s much happier living a simpler life.

“This is what I’ve always wanted,” Gilbert told People of her new life. “I’m finally happy in my own skin. I’m so grateful and relieved and so much happier.”

Source: Cheat Sheet

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