We made a trip this week to Conner Prairie and took an incredible adventure back in time.
Affiliated with the Smithsonian, this museum-park leads you through a meandering journey of pioneer life in Indiana before and around the time it became a state in 1816.
Lulu and I practiced tomahawk throwing with a real descendant from the Lenape, or Delaware, Indians who lived in this area before and during the fur-trading days of the early 1800s.
Down the lane, real-life historians, artisans and craftspeople recreate a pioneer village from 1836. They never break character as they demonstrate their handiwork and weave delightful stories about the goings-on in the town.
Before entering “Prairietown, Lulu spun a wheel which determined she would be a local artist in the village. As such, she had certain tasks to perform and answers she needed to discover by asking questions of the other villagers.
We had to ask those questions in present tense and never let on that we were really visitors from the future. (I asked “Mrs. Zimmerman” at the Golden Eagle Inn, for example, if I could take her picture with my “brand new camera contraption” and she pulled out a large wooden box with a lens on the front and a mirror inside that projected a reflected image on a piece of paper that could then be copied in pencil as the newest camera she had recently received from her brother in Europe. )
Lulu smiled with her from behind the Inn’s bar.
Lulu was given the chore to wash some vegetables at the Inn.
She also patiently learned how to hand-dip a beeswax candle.
She sang folk tunes with “Mrs. Campbell” and her “Sister Laura who is visiting from the big city of Lexington and doesn’t like this little town at all.”
She rolled dough and cut out noodles with the spinster lady (at the ripe old age of 27!) who lived at a cabin with a dozen or so real young turkeys wandering in the backyard.
And Lulu spent about 15 full minutes creating her own custom stencil designs. I didn’t mind. The magic wheel had designated her an Artist after all.
Although we lived for the past three years in Italy, that inspiring land of the Renaissance where history reaches out to you from every street in art and architecture, our experience exploring Conner Prairie was an exhilarating hands-on event.
The idea of role-playing with the pioneers obviously resonated with Lulu who didn’t want to leave the “land of the olden times.”
And for me, it was an important opportunity to be reminded how proud I am of something I never earned. It was simply bestowed upon me the day I was born. Something that could too easily be taken for granted while I was encompassed by the grand history of Italy. Something that my forefathers worked hard to create and died to protect: My Hoosier and American heritage.
Thank you, Mom, for taking Lulu and me to Conner Prairie.
P.S. What’s your heritage? What makes you proud? What makes you appreciate other cultures?