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Editorial Views

As a web news service the editors of The Pioneer Times often have editorial opinions on the news and events that we cover. We also accept guest editorials from our readers.

Snow, snow, snow.... and which are the simpler times?

By Kathy Cummings

As I looked out my window and contemplated the six inches of snow on the ground in Kentucky it got me to thinking. I thought of the pioneers that had no way to predict snow falls. Of course old farmers were pretty knowledgeable about weather conditions. Maybe they could feel a storm brewin’, could tell by signs from the farm animals. There are plenty of old wives tales that are supposed to indicate the weather. We talk about the “hard winters in early Kentucky”. But did the settlers know it was going to be a hard winter - or did it get that name years later.

Today they predict the weather for us. This particular snow fall they were pretty accurate. The national weather service told us when it was going to start, how much accumulation there would be, what time it would taper off and what we could expect the road conditions to be based on predicted temperatures. Pretty simple. And we have choices. Weather on the internet, weather on the radio, weather on TV, weather on your cell phone, weather on your Blackberry, weather by email. Weather warnings that can be texted to your phone. Could it get any simpler?

But then again - we skipped several events in the last few weeks because of real or expected bad weather conditions. Just didn’t want to fool with the weather. Didn’t want to get out and have car trouble or slide into a tree.

But once in a while wouldn’t it be nice not to know what was coming. As a child we never got off of school for snow. Everybody in the school lived within walking distance. It would never have occurred to us to even worry about it. The wonder of waking up to a suddenly white wonderland was an unexpected delight. We didn’t set our alarms early to tune in to find out what the county school system’s decision was at 4AM.

So which is simpler. Not knowing? Or being inundated with electronic devices screaming warnings at you. All these devices are supposed to make our life simpler. But do they really? Or do they complicate our lives. The jarring ring of a cell phone, a weather radio that is designed to turn itself on in case of severe weather.

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I can remember in 1963 when the Ohio River froze and people walked across it. I remember in 1994 when we got 22 inches of snow. I remember in 2009 when the ice storm came and the power left. It was the same year that storms in Kentucky following a hurricane left us without power for a week. And the mid Atlantic is now getting it’s second major storm in a week with near blizzard like conditions.

And what can I do about it? Nothing. Can’t change it. So I’m turning off the radio. Don’t leave me a text message about the weather. I’m going to ignore it all. It may be simpler to know the weather today, or maybe it was simpler not to know the weather 200 years ago. Either way I think I’ll go out and enjoy the snow!

Suppose they gave a reenactment
 and no spectators came?

By Charles Hayes

Suppose they gave a reenactment and no spectators came? What if 100 serious, dedicated re-enactors showed up with clothing and accoutrements that they had invested hundreds of hours of research and work into and there was no one to see it but other re-enactors?

I know some re-enactors who salivate at the thought of restricted events. I will go so far as to say that I have attended several such events and have tried to keep pictures period-authentic when there were spectators. I had a wonderful time at restricted events.  The fact that I had a wonderful time, however, means nothing. I had a wonderful time living in a tent two miles from Balikasher, Turkey.  I have a better time when I am simultaneously living in yesterday and touching tomorrow. 

Like good teachers, re-enactors can profoundly affect young people.  We can (and do) demonstrate a lifestyle that their video games and mall experiences cannot touch.  The smart alecky sixth grader I knew from a middle school was in absolute awe of the re-enactors at the 2006 Battle of Blue Licks event. He asked more questions and displayed more curiosity than I had ever seen him display in a classroom at Bryan Station Middle School. He wasn’t worried about appearing “cool” or disinterested. His interest shined like a lighthouse beacon in the darkest night and he was amazed that the basis of our knowledge was books. 

We re-enactors have had a mission thrust upon us. In a world when many educators and politicians use the shield of political correctness to protect them from reality, we are historically correct. I will emphasize that most of us are historically correct and proud of it.  We, and our interaction with spectators, may be the deciding factor in bringing an interest in history to a young person.  

This occurred in one of my classes while I was student teaching in May, 1999.  The subject was world civilization and the topic was the American Revolution. I took my Continental Army uniform and several accoutrements to the classroom. After the students examined the items, a young man asked to wear the coat. I let him wear the coat and began the lesson. His hand was constantly in the air when I asked questions. This C student began making A’s in world civilization.

At re-enactments, we are a strong opposition to the segment of education and society that is attempting to eradicate history and tradition from American life and American education ------ and we have our work cut out for us. The Berea community school system stopped having Christmas Parties and began having holiday parties several years ago.  I was informed by the principal that Christmas is not compatible with cultural diversity.

The diluting of American history in the school setting is meant to spread diversity and adhere to political correctness rather than to teach history to tradition and celebrate our democracy.  Anyone who thinks that I am exaggerating need only look to the Enola Gay exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum.  Before Veterans’ groups became involved, the exhibit was anti-American. It focused on the theory that the United States started the war with Japan and unnecessarily used atomic weapons on Japan. When public pressure changed the exhibit, the history PhD assembling the original exhibit stated that the change did not matter because he, and those who think like him, were writing the textbooks and the standardized tests.

Another motivation re-enactors have for leaving spectators smiling is that many of our re-enactments are supported by the state and if no spectators come, the state has no reason to continue support. I have been to re-enactments that have state support and many that didn’t. Re-enactments with state support are more affordable.

Ways that we re-enactors can counter this influence are:

  • Bring extra hats and accoutrements to events and allow young people to wear or hold them while having their picture taken.
     
  • Pose with spectators ---- If someone is taking your picture, ask them to join you or your group and have someone else take the picture with them in the picture.
  • Answer questions
  • Take a little time to meet them. This doesn’t have to be anything formal or time consuming. I like to walk down the line of spectators before an event starts.  This gives them a chance to take pictures and ask questions. 
  • Listen as the spectators reveal they are the direct descendant of Pocahontas.  Rather than contradict them, suggest they might like to read a biography (which will show she died childless).
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Hayes poses with a spectator at Fort Boonesborough.

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This German hausfrau fires a rifle (a flintlock) for the first time, near Rhodenbach, Germany.

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Re-enactors at the opening of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, October 1996.

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  • Make yourself available at schools and activities in your own community.

Re-enactors can profoundly affect young people.  Let’s do it.

If they take your picture or ask to take your picture, invite them to get in the picture with you.

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Social interaction with spectators pays big dividends.  We were invited back to this fest.

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Three Air force personnel go over the notes, for their first living history presentation, with MSgt. Hayes

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Introduce others to re-enacting. Only two in this group had re-enacting experience.

Charles Hayes is a frequent re-enactor at the Battle of Blue Licks where he portrayed Hugh McGary in 2007 and at the Siege of Fort Boonesborough.

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He also has contributed photos to this site from Fort Boonesborough’s Woodsman’s Weekend and on the Guest Gallery - of both Civil War and Revolutionary War era events.

24 Years in the Air Force didn’t stop Hayes from Re-Enacting - it simply gave him more venues.

On What Makes a Good Event?

by Kathy Cummings

I think all events have the potential of being great events? But I do think re-enactors can make or break an event by their comments. ``Did you hear that ......"

And frankly being on the organizing end of several events - it's a scary proposition. Let's face it - like all folks re-enactors have their cliques, their special friends, groups that are ``more PC" than other groups. But the bottom line is why are we re-enactors. If it is for the love of history and our goal is to educate the public - can't we be a little kinder to each other.

How many times have you heard...."we're not going there because last year so and so didn't ......" and on and on. Let's face it. Most events are put on by strictly volunteer groups. Everybody gives freely of their time and energy. And some times people get cross. Patience wears thin and the next thing you know an event is no longer on the ``must attend list."

I also think as re-enacting becomes more and more popular  - new events spring up. One look at Smoke and Fire will assure you that you could be on the move every weekend. So folks do pick and choose - coordinate family and work schedules and see what they can attend. And organizers move events and change plans to try and get a weekend that doesn't conflict with another event.

But I am asking LET’S ALL BE FAIR TO ONE ANOTHER. Look at your schedule, coordinate your plans and attend what and where you can. But let's not bad mouth (and in essence boycott) events because someone spoke out of turn. Or because you couldn't pitch your tent in the spot you wanted. Planning events is a tricky business. It takes many, many volunteer hours. If you have an issue with an event - talk to the event coordinators. Tell them of your concerns. Ask for changes. And most of all give them a second chance. But don't go around encouraging all your cronies to skip an event because things didn't go your way.

Till the next event... (I hear it's going to be great!)

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