Sunday, June 27, 2010
Real Living History at Waterloo Farms
For the last two years I have written in this blog about a living history Civil War-oriented event that consistently becomes my favorite event of the year:
(Self-Hypnosis + Authenticity + 1st person = Time-Travel
To summarize, at Waterloo Farms there is a log house, a bake house, an icehouse, a granary, and a mid-19th century farmhouse (among a few other buildings) help to show what farm life was like in Michigan 150 years ago, all located in a very rural part of Michigan. Throughout the year the Waterloo Area Historical Society that runs the museum holds various events, including pioneer days, log cabin days, and a Christmas gathering.
My favorite spot on the farm is the farmhouse, which is filled with accurate period furnishings that give the homestead a very authentic feel.
So imagine my surprise when I was told that we in the the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society (MSAS) - the other civilian reenacting group I belong to - were to set ourselves up in the house as if it were our own and present ourselves as family and friends living there during the Civil War! A dream come true! To me that is 'hardcore' - or 'progressive' in the least. For a civilian, to have a period house to reenact in doesn't get any better!
After a bit of careful rearranging of furniture, we settled ourselves in for a Saturday afternoon at the farm, enjoying each other's company. The younger set played checkers for most of the afternoon, and the ladies sewed various items. Now, understand that had this been 1863, I most likely would not have been sitting and visiting on a Saturday afternoon. There would have been too much work to do! Of course, the period dressed docent who sporadically lead the tour groups through the house made a few comments here and there about the fact that we were not working, that she was doing all the work. I reminded this young lady that I am the employer and that if she wanted to continue to receive pay then she would continue to do her daily chores as required. She and I bantered back and forth like this throughout the day, much to the felight of those present, and this was not inconsistent with the unhappy domestics who actually lived back in the 1860's. There are letters and journal entries of employers whose domestics spoke rudely to them, knowing full well that there was not much they could do, seeing that good help was hard to find. So the two of us played that situation up quite well. The tour groups thoroughly enjoyed the bantering, by the way.
Unfortunately, it was a very hot and muggy day and by early afternoon we, like good Victorians, took ourselves outside under the shade of a large tree, leaving our domestic to finish her work inside.
Such a good employer am I!
Out on the front porch, and then later in the barn, a band of Rebel musicians performed and sang period tunes by way of fiddle, bones, and banjo.
They must've been prisoners for I saw no muskets, and the Union army was camped out back, marching and drilling.
And this, in a nutshell, is why I enjoy Waterloo Farms so much. It gives us the opportunity to practice living history as it might have been, inside accurate surroundings, and even outside surrounded by all of the wonderful period buildings. It's one of those "am I really there?" events - or, rather I should say, I am really there!" - because I sometimes have to, unfortunately, pinch myself to remind me that, no, I am still stuck in the 21st century.
I would like to thank the Waterloo Area Historical Society for all of their hard work and especially for giving us the opportunity to time travel in a way that camping in a tent simply cannot match!