Sunday, August 5, 2007

Happiness is Wet AND Dry!

Overindulging? Who ME?

OK, I admit it; this isn't even hardly relevent, but I have never taken a picture of Evangeline's tongue before, and this clearly shows my Elegant Soiled Dove of a cat in one of her few seedy moments. Having consumed two or three leaves of fresh catnip, she fell onto this well-rubbed mouse with great delight....I think I should've cut her off before she reached this stage. Lucky for me she doesn't read blogs. Yet.

Thursday last (backtracking in a feeble attempt to maintain my alleged caught-up-edness) we went to a dinner at the Museum, featuring a presentation by our Costume and Textile Curator entitled "Hoops and Bustles". She discussed the evolution of ladies' fashions during the 19th century in a very clever way. The girl is authority, conservator, and general whiz on the subject of all things textile, and I've had the pleasure of both hearing and assisting her at various other programs. I helped her with one on quilts at a Senior Center and came away downright inspired. But THIS - this clearly is her passion, and she admitted having a particular fondness for Victorian underlinens. Her enthusiasm spilled over and it's an understatement to say "A good time was had by all." And the food was good too....I have a sort of abiding love for and interest in...well, let's say "cuisine". In my mind, eats are an enhancement to almost every event, and I always want to hear about what was served at a wedding or party or historical event. I admit it openly and baldly here. I've said it. (But I thought "Cats, Sticks, Books and PLATES" was a little cumbersome.)

Friday we did our bit by representing the Museum at a big outdoor event sponsored by Public Television for the kiddies. There were LOTS of them - the population of Madison seems to be burgeoning, and I have to say, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful bouquet than the array of sweet little faces of every color human beings can come in. Our display included a lot of our Fur Trade stuff (and we were "dressed"...Mr. Dearling as a voyageur, I as his Metis wife - good preparation for our upcoming annual journey, about which more later). He stuck with the trade goods and I manned (is there another word for that?) a display of things to advertise our current exhibit on the World Series. I got a lot of interest with my cut-open baseball and T-Ball; I venture to say that the daycare crowd may not be up on the 1957 World Series, but they were intriqued by "what's inside of a baseball".

Today's heading refers to yesterday, though - Saturday. We went to a major Civil War reenactment in Boscobel, about an hour away. Our good friend Joe is Provost Marshall and had invited us. I venture to say that, wherever YOU are, there are Civil War reenactors (possible exception being, I think they're more sparse out west). Now, we are NOT CW reenactors. But since I have a beautiful 1857 gown made for me for a Museum gig, I look for any excuse to trot it out. And besides that, I do love hoop skirts. Admittedly they make driving a challenge in this squish-yourself-under-a-steering-wheel age, but it can be done. Mr. Dearling, who has decided he'd like a mid-19th century suit of clothes so we can do things together, just went in his usual naturalist vest and shorts; we prefer doing it right or not doing it at all.

The "wet" part was a periodic rain which varied between a light misting and a decent shower. Strolling around in grass in a rain is less enchanting in hoops than otherwise, and I was damp to the knees pretty quickly. But the rain let up for The Battle. This next requires you to dust off your imagination and "suspend disbelief".

The Battle was AMAZING! It was held on a very large field and narrated by an eloquent observer, and apparently replicated a major battle at Cold Springs. The Confederates took the day, big-time (but the replica battle that was being held today would spell a Union victory - the reenactors are very fair).

Imagine the large field, filled with cannon on both sides, soldiers forming up, firing, falling back - and through it all, Cavalry! Now, I'm largely a peacenik, but this was nothing short of a wonder. We didn't take a camera (millions of people do, and Mr. Dearling could've gotten away with it, in modern dress as he was, but we just kinda don't like to use cameras at historical events, call us weird {many do}). But there are mental pictures stored away that surpass anything; I'll just have to share them with you by written word:

The air is filled with the white smoke of cannon, and the horsemen gallop down the field, falling into single file and firing their pistols at the enemy. The ranks of foot soldiers advance, the whole line firing at once, the report shaking the ground on which we, some distance away, stood. Two men standing at opposite ends of the field wave signal flags through the haze. Men carry a fallen comrade to the back of the field (right in front of us) and the medical corps try to calm him as they wrap his leg. There is shouting, galloping, whinnying - and shooting and cannon fire.....

At the end, Grant orders his men forward; the narrator says "Keep your eye on the American flag" - and we watch as the ranks are fired upon by the Confederate soldiers behind their earthworks, and the flag bearer is soon the only one standing, and he keeps walking forward...until ordered back sternly. The battle is over, many are fallen, and the Confederate soldiers shout their praise to the Union flag bearer for his bravery.

The narrator ended with some words I found so moving, they literally brought tears to my eyes: it was about how they are not glorifying war but remembering our history, and we honor our soldiers throughout time while regretting the war. I don't remember the whole bit, but can report with authority that it was concise, brief, not preachy or political, but wise and thoughtful - all in all a perfect footnote to the reenactment of a major battle of our Civil War.
And the rain resumed.

Lastly, a touch of elegance quite foreign to me as an 18th century reenactor of the "we're out in the wilderness" persuasion: there was a Ladies' Garden Party and Tea! Karin and I went (we took the shuttle, a mini-van - try to imagine the ladies in hoops squoze into a van). It's apparently an annual event also, although Karin hadn't been before.

It was a very nice house just a few blocks from the park. When we arrived there were already quite a few ladies there. We were greeted and ushered through the garage where "maids" in long black skirts and crisp white aprons stood at the long table (they had small white caps with neat black bows too). The white cotton napkins were arranged in a basket and the forks arranged in neat rows. There were very atttractive china cups in saucers holding lemonade, and small china plates with a choice of cherry or blueberry cobbler. We made our selection and proceeded through a door where a dapper gentleman stood to assist us .. "hand us down".. the steps into the back garden.

Because of the weather, there was a large canopy under which we found small round tables with chairs; on a back screened porch there were four charming young people playing beautiful pieces on violin. A lady emerged from the house to remind us (!) that, when finished, we were to take our cups and saucers to a table where three ladies stood prepared to wash, dry and pack them, so that we might carry them away as souvenirs of the afternoon. I repeat, (!)

The cobbler was delicious, the lemonade a perfect complement, and we were joined at our table by a most gracious lady accompanied by two quiet and well-behaved young girls under her care for the afternoon. After a pleasant introduction, I learned that this lady was, like myself, an ex-patriot Minnesotan. Furthermore, she went to my same high school, just a few years later, and I in fact attended that institution with one of her brothers, a young man of my very acquaintance! This being, actually, 2007, we exchanged e-mail addresses. 'Twas a very unlikely and absolutely serendipitous meeting, and yet another enhancement to as elegant an event as I had attended in some time. My gown was entirely satisfied with my behavior....and is dried and much refreshed this morning, I happily report.

(And in case my treasured friend Jennie should see this - my gown was commented on, admired, downright fussed over at times, but ladies who ARE Civil War reenactors and who know about such things. Thank you again for making it for me, Jen!)

The rain dampened no spirits as all recognized how desperately it was needed, and none begrudged damp hems or dripping manes and tails.

OH! And I did in fact alternate knitting a cotton dishcloth (always useful at one's sink) and a stout woolen sock, the first of a pair destined for friend Joe, Provost Marshall.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Oh, it looks like you had a wonderful time at the Civil War reinactment. They do that a lot around here. Once a year, they have the big encampment on Kennesaw Mountain and then stage the fight. I've never seen it, but Jim and I have visited the memorial there. It's quite touching to see the big and little momuments to the Northern and Southern units, the trenches, gun emplacements, and the lone grave of a Confederate soldier, surrounded by a little fence alongside the path. Even more moving, some of the pine trees still carry the scars of miniballs.