Two little German farm boys edged up to a Union soldier at the edge of their camp. The young soldier was glad to tell them about his musket and bayonet. The boys were too bashful to say much but the young soldier, standing tall and straight in his blue wool uniform, filled in the gaps. His bayonet, by the way, worked out pretty well for roasting corn over a camp fire. That got the boys to laugh and ask more questions.
The freckle-faced boys and the rest of the family were actually visitors from the year 2011.
Our family took a trip to Conner Prairie this summer. While the kids saw a lot of Indiana history re-enacted, my writer's mind raced.
Living history events fascinate me. I so enjoy seeing period details brought to life. For instance, the young soldier was about 20, about the same age as many Civil War soldiers. He showed the kids percussion caps and heavy lead Minie ball bullets, then pointed out a surgeon's operating room in a farm out-building. Nearby, a lady store keeper struggled to sound calm as she described Confederate raiders plundering through her shelves and burning their store house. I couldn't help noticing the pretty shape that hoops gave to her calico dress, how her hair was done and how the store was set up.
We were able to go back a generation earlier in the 1836 Prairie Town settlement and restored Conner House. Mr. Conner balanced between two worlds, Indian and white, in his many adventures. A fur trader and scout, he married an Indian and had several children with her, but lost her when she took the children and moved West with her tribe. A lot of drama there. What did his second wife think of all that?
In the kitchen one of the volunteers told us all about cooking over the huge fireplace and using the beehive oven next to it. A Dutch oven sat on the hearth and she let me use a pot hook to take the lid off and move the crane around. How would an 1830s house wife prepare a Sunday dinner? We talked about that as well as the dangers of fire to women and children.
All of this suggested bits and pieces for my work-in-progress, set in Indiana during the Civil War.
For a burst of ideas, for me a living history event is an excellent source.