Monday, November 06, 2006
Lewis and Clark Return
The Falls of the Ohio are always an adventure in time travel. This weekend we didn't go back millions of years but only 200 years. Nov 4-6 was the celebration for the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition to Kentucky after their three year journey through the west. Historical reenactors camped out at the George Rogers Clark cabin, with costumes, tools and activities authentic to the period. http://www.lewisandclark.net/index.htm is the official website for the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, with wonderful photos and details of the trip. The sun peeked briefly through the clouds on this chill November morning, and everyone dressed warmly. Women wore shawls, fingerless gloves and many petticoats as they worked around the cabin, spinning wool or cooking over the open fire. Frontiersmen sauntered around in buckskins or coats that look like wool blankets. The blacksmith at his forge seemed to be the warmest person around. At least it wasn't raining although there were puddles to avoid. In 1806 there would have been no paved roads or parking lots at all, but lots of puddles for all travelers. A team of oxen were hitched to a wagon, and the drover used only oral commands to drive around the encampment. A group of nuns had traveled in a flatboat to their convent, and the boat was onshore for visitors to examine. I was surprised at how small it was. The cabin was hardly big enough to walk through, but provided sleeping/eating/living space for four or five nuns. The captain slept on deck. One of their biggest dangers was fire. A cooking fire was built in a lined fireplace on deck, but sparks would often blow out and set the boat on fire. Many communities along the river were founded simply because that's where they were when the boat burned. The militia groups wore various costumes, some looking like you would expect a soldier of the Napoleonic period to look like, and others wearing cloth fringes on their jackets. Boys like playing soldier, and used wooden guns to practice drilling. The older "boys", however, used their real muskets, but they too had trouble learning how to follow the commands, turn around and handle the guns in unison. One militia group brought their brass cannon, and it took a team of five to load and fire the gun each time. We may have imagined the splash of a cannonball in the river. Little girls standing nearby knew to cover their ears when the gun fired. What a wonderful activity to do with your children! I wondered how these authentic characters could exist in the 21st Century. Their beards and buckskins looked so natural that I can't imagine them wearing a suit in the board room. I have known a few people who seemed out of place in modern times. I always visualized one woman in Lexington wearing a snood around her hair, black lace fingerless gloves and a hoop skirt. Another woman was even more of a pioneer, and I imagined her in buckskins paddling a canoe down the river each time I saw her. James Alexander Thom writes historical books about this era, and was signing them at the next booth over from ours. I bought Long Knife, his story about George Rogers Clark, since I can use the background information. I started reading it on the bus this morning, and almost wept right there, just reading about the end of his days in the cabin when he lost his leg. I hope there will be a flashback to some happier times, but fear that happiness was something George Rogers Clark saw little of in his life.