And with the ceremonial blast of the conch shell, so began another New Harmony Heritage Week. For over 25 years, New Harmony has been hosting the areas’ school children to experience what life was like in early America by highlighting different artisans from throughout the Midwest and their craft.
I have only been participating for 6 years but Marion, pictured, has been here for all of them. The children rotate from trade to trade to hear the stories, (some are actually true), from the 18th and early 19th centuries. My wife and I were fortunate this year to be moved to the double log cabin, which was like moving to the upper east side for The Jeffersons! We, in the past, had been in a nice cabin, but it had a dirt floor, a small window and no fireplace. So when we moved in last week next door to Marion and his wife Polly, we had a wood floor, THREE windows and a fireplace. I could feel the joy of someone from that time period who would have experienced what we did. Back to the conch…Marion actually watches for the giant yellow time machines that drop the children in to the Atheneum. When they start down the stairs to the orchard, Marion bellows out the blast signalling to all of us who are from an earlier time that our visitors have arrived. All of the folks that demonstrate are fantastic. I have learned so much myself from their stories, (did I mention some are actually true); but more than the stories you hear is what you see; their truly amazing skills! I can’t highlight everyone, you’ll have to visit New Harmony next year to see all of them yourself, but I thought I would mention our neighborhood around the cabin.
With me, in my room of the cabin, was my wife demonstrating the musical instrument , the Scheitholt. It is the German ancestor of our American mountain or lap dulcimer. So having music, and a wood floor, and more light and a fireplace was really, really good. No, GREAT! We also had our friend Diana play on the days when my wife could not be there. And then there is Polly. Polly has “vision” like no one I know. She takes a pair of scissors, a small piece of folded paper and, zip, zip, zip, zip, cut, cut, zip, zip , cut and Voila! she’d have a cut foldout picture of 8 dancing bunnies, or deer in the forest or birds in trees. Incredible!
I should mention too that Marion is a great band box maker, who weaves stories into his demonstration as well as he weaves the laces that hold his wooden treasures together. (I think all of his stories are actually true).
And then, right outside my window, was the continual joy and laughter of children coming from watching Deb explain about her lye soap making process. Using her grandmother’s cast iron kettle and recipe brought from Scotland, Deb holds their attention with her wit and periodic singing, (she has a great voice), and playing of spoons. I picture all of the children that night at dinner trying to play spoons around the table. I think I actually heard a loud collective rhythmic clanging coming from Evansville Wednesday night. (did I mention some of the stories are true?)
And like any pioneers moving on to new frontiers, we obviously left good neighbors behind. We did periodically get to visit and share some stories, laughs and food, just as people in early America would when gathering at markets or the rendezvous. Even though Pat was not our neighbor this year, she has been in the past and what a blessed neighbor she is. Her knowledge of the Earth, dry foods, and Native American first people crafts and skills is the best. and I’m 100% sure she’s giving you the straight scoop. She’s my “go to” person for reenactment and period advice.
So, the children came, the demonstrators displayed their skills and told their stories and then the children went back to the 21st century. Hopefully, some will be inspired to learn these crafts and twist “yarns” of their own. Some, I imagine, may even be true.