Sunday, October 02, 2005

Pioneer Day


We just attended an annual Pioneer Day for the homeschoolers of the area. It took place on a farm, with a barn full of fresh hay.

Almost everyone was in costume: the girls and ladies with their pioneer dresses and bonnets, and the boys with their cowboy hats, suspenders, bows and arrows. In one field, bow and arrow lessons were taught, in another, filberts (hazelnuts) were gathered, and in another area, corn was shucked for the evening meal.

My job was to present a children's pioneer craft, so I chose a simple toy made from a button and a piece of string, which used to amuse children for hours. Put the string through a button hole, tie both ends securely, and wind it up til you can't wind it anymore. Then pull tightly at both ends with your hands, and it makes a whirring, singing noise. The motion of the colorful button on the string is most delightful to children, as well as the pretty sound. I saw several of the children sitting in the barn in the hay, playing with their old time "buzz saw." You can read more about pioneer toys and other things here http://library.thinkquest.org/6400/toys.htm

I'll try to post pictures of this event, soon, including my daughter and I in full costume, down to the boots, and her little men in their overalls with straw hats. The day began with pioneer foods, then games for the children. There were a lot of chores to be done, including feeding the animals, washing the dishes and clothes outdoors, cutting wood and bringing it in to load on a stack, building a fire, and preparing supper.

When it began to get really dark, families had to go home, and the little boys cried because they had to leave the hay bales and the barn, where they were just beginning to really play and enjoy one another.

I must comment on what a nice atmosphere was there, and what a different feeling it was to be with over 100 people of all ages, all in agreement about education and family. The children and adults interacted together most normally, and the children were kind and loving to their parents. I liked this non-tense feeling of enjoying one another. Three girls, triplets, dressed in pink, blue and yellow, began to follow my daughter and I around, and asked us many questions. One of them invited Lillibeth, who is the mother of three pioneer boys, to the barn and urged her to climb up on a hay bale. "It is alright if fine ladies do this!" she said. We were both quite amused by this.

The highlight for my three grandsons was the corn-grinding. One of them must have grinded the wheel from the time he got there til evening. Later, the meal was used for the most delicious corn bread, with the butter they churned, that I have ever tasted. The name of the cake used to be "Journey Cake" which was eaten on the Oregon Trail when people came out in covered wagons, but through slurring speech, eventually became "Johnny Cakes."

The covered wagons were not a mystery. They were just a more primitive type of motor home or recreational vehicle.

The party did not go unnoticed by passers-by on the nearby highway. Many of them slowed down, honked and waved at the ladies walking through the fields in their long dresses and bonnets.

As time allows, I'll post more about my thoughts and observations of the Pioneer Era, and why I think people want to re-enact it. On this particular day, I felt that a certain respect was being shown to their forebearers for opening up this beautiful land to be settled and enjoyed. It wasn't easy for them, but they had a spirit of endurance and faith. They could not easily retreat, and had to make the best of it. Many of them are unsung heroes, for the sacrifices they made. Their optimism was contagious upon the next generations, who were great inventors. Our children skipped back over several eras and settled upon the Pioneer era of the 1800's for their interest in study. This was an era that fully fascinated them and inspired them.

1 comment:

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

There are plenty of pioneer costume patterns for children, at the fabric store. Just look at the tab in the Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls, etc. catalogs in the store and find them. For a few days, patterns at Joann fabrics are $1.99. However if there is no time to sew, here are some ideas for dressing for pioneer day.

Just find a long skirt at Goodwill or use one of your own. Add a white blouse with long sleeves. Over that put a shawl. You can easily make a shawl by using a round table cloth folded in half, or a square table cloth folded in a triangle. Or just cut a length of fabric. The 60" fabric only requires half a yard. The 45 inch fabric needs more. Just wrap it around you in the store, to determine what you need.

If you do not have a pioneer bonnet, just take a garden hat and put a scarf over the top and tie it under the chin or off to the side.

Vests work well with the skirt and blouse, and you can get those at goodwill. Boys pioneer outfits are easier because mens costume has not really changed that much. Just add suspenders to their jeans and get them a cowboy hat and some boots.

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