Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Signature Event

The title is a link.

My parents showed up with little advance notice on Friday. Very good to see them; thankfully I had recently cleaned the guest room and made up the bed! No one had spent any time in there since my friend Suzanne and six of her kids were here for a soccer tournament in June.
Saturday was a kite festival. Photos to come. My dad spent the day with my brother who lives in the same town as I do, and my mom went with the kids and me to the soccer field to fly kites. The wind was in fits and starts, but did blow tollerably enough to get the kites to the ends of their strings a few times. Even the pros were having trouble, so we didn't have to feel bad about it. Naturally, the kite I bought for a dollar at least 5 years ago was the best flyer. The worst looking after so much use, but easiest to get up. The weather was incredibly hot, and has been for weeks now. (I think we had a few days in the 80s, but July has simply been simmering overall. ) Thankfully I had the presence of mind to buy a shade umbrella (the kind that screws into the soil or sand) earlier in the year at a yard sale. It was a lifesaver and we could not have stayed as long as we did without it.

We went to mass Saturday evening and Sunday we visited with my parents a little longer and they left for home. I toyed with the idea of going back for the second day of kite flying, but as there didn't seem to be any more wind than there was the day before, we opted for home and toys and movies. I do believe this was the beginning of my semi-obsessive immersion in the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. More on that in another post.

Sunday evening I read an email from a fellow homeschooler extolling the merits of the exhibits at Pompeys Pillar. "A homeschooler's dream," she said. How could I pass it up? It took most of Monday morning to motivate myself and the kids, but we finally got ourselves out the door and on our way. Because the check engine light was on in our van, we stopped by my husband's office and exchanged the van for the car. We only had a couple of hours to enjoy the various tents before strong winds threatened and everyone started closing up shop, as it were. I was disappointed because I had had hopes of going on the bird walk at 6pm, but the kids and I voted to call it a day since there weren't many exibits still open, and come back the next day. The time we did have there on Monday was well spent. The boys were given Lewis and Clark Junior Ranger Notebooks from the National Park Service. They had to fill out five pages and earn five stamps by visiting various exhibits, and then could be sworn in as Junior Rangers and recieve a badge. So we managed two or three pages before the storm came. The man in buckskin at the dug-out canoe exhibit had actually made the canoe himself and told us all about it and the tools he used. (So that's what an adze is for! And a broad axe.) It took him 100 man-hours to carve, he estimated. He gave us detailed instructions on making charcloth and a wonderful demonstration of lighting a fire with a flint and steel and we were all impressed. He let my eldest make some sparks. I'm glad we were there on Monday because the crowds had been much bigger over the weekend. We had him almost to ourselves and were able to ask many questions. He also had parched corn for us to taste. It was good! I always thought of parched corn as something bland, but it was more like Corn Nuts.

Next to the dugout canoe tent was a tent under which was a half-size scale model of the keel boat. You could walk up a ramp and go on board and talk to the rangers who would answer your questions so you could fill out your booklet page and get a stamp. The lids of the benches along the sides of the boat lifted to show displays of tools and trade goods, etc. We had seen something similar before at the rest area off I-90 near Chamberlain, SD.

In another part of the grounds was the encampment of The Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo. These reenactors have traveled the entire route and the man playing Capt. Clark is the actual great-great-great-grandson of the man himself. In another place was a tent where a man showed us an atlatl.

When we went back on Tuesday we had just missed the Parade of Crow People, but did see some of the men in warbonnets ride away on their horses. It was so hot even at 10 AM I'm not surprised they weren't hanging around. In another area there were several tipis, one for each Montana tribe. Near there we saw a presentation about the medicine and medical tools that the Corps had on their trip, and then we had a hands-on look at some of the peace medal replicas (did you know they carried three sizes?) and met "Pvt. John Colter" who is actually a father and history teacher from TX. He gave me his card and said he would be happy to share lesson plans he had written from his experiences. We had another display of a flint and steel, except this time it was a lesson in early firearms. Did you know the musket is faster to load than the rifle, but not as accurate? Rifles need to be loaded with a bit of cloth to help the bullet travel the spiral grooves inside the barrel. The resulting spin is what gives it better accuracy. So we learned about "half-cocked", "flash in the pan", and "lock, stock and barrel" . That flash in the pan is no joke. Don't stand next to someone firing a musket or besides the noise you'll get your ear burned or start your hair on fire!

The local post office had a tent where kids could pick out several cancelled postage stamps from the US and various other countries for free. They were promoting a contest where you use the pictures on the stamps to illustrate a story. The winner last year was "Genesis" and there was a color copy of the story which was very well done, using space stamps and plants, animals, etc. to go along with the bible story. One of my kids chose to look for animal stamps, one chose machines, and one chose whatever looked good to him. We'll see what they come up with.

There were tents for the BLM, FWP, FS, and NPS. We were given many free posters and pencils, bandanas, pins. A man came up to us and gave us five cards with two nickles on each card - as a gift. There is a return address sticker on the back of each, so I will make sure to send him a thank-you note. I'm thinking he probably had a table in the vending area where he sold these. I'm not sure what it is about my kids but things like that have happened to us before, where strangers come out of nowhere and give us things. There are some generous people out there. Isn't that nice to know?

Later we saw some of the closing ceremonies where the Clark descendants got on stage and were recognized. Then "Capt. Clark" reenacted the carving of his name on a piece of sandstone, exactly what had been happening there on that very day 200 years ago. Oooo. A nice bronze bust of Clark was uncovered. After that there were some military speeches and recognition of veterans. The kids were hot and tired and so was I by then, so we decided to leave before the main of the crowd and therefore missed the American Indian presentations and the music and the flyover by two military helicopters. We saw the helicopters after we were a few miles down the road, but at the time I thought they were going to fight a grass fire we had just passed. I saw later in the newspaper they were for the ceremony. We also gave up the bird walk, and didn't even climb the steps to see the actual signature on the pillar. We can go back another day and pay the $3 to do that, and get a more proper look at the visitor's center.

We got home late and tired and dirty from the dust, but satisfied. Then we ordered pizza and turned on the a/c.
What a great day.

1 comment:

Ali said...

That idea about using stamps to illustrate a story is just great - will dig through my pile and try that one with my eldest this summer.

Sounds like a great day (days). And I'm not surprised that your kids were given a load of stuff - there is nothing more gratifying than an interested child when you are trying to share your passion with people.