Where it’s Christmas all year, but never snows

We had an opportunity to hit the road and visit a Florida landmark with our homeschool group this week.  Our destination was Fort Christmas Historical Park, located in Christmas, Florida.  I know a lot of people travel far and wide just to mail their Christmas cards at the local post office.

Not our family, of course.  Since my blog murdered my need to send out the annual Christmas letter.  By Christmas, there’s really nothing left to say.

This particular historical park features a replica of an original fort, built in 1837 during the Seminole Indian War.  The 25-acre park also features a number of rebuilt pioneer homes, a sugar cane mill, and historical farming equipment.  It was wonderful to step back in time to see how early settlers lived in Florida.

There were a number of themes that we could have chosen when planning this field trip.  My sister-in-law wisely did the planning, and the children were told when they arrived that the theme was CHORES of the 1800’s.

When this was announced to them, there were 21 crest fallen children’s faces, while the mothers on the sidelines whooped and hollered.  SURPRISE!  The children were then taken through chores that children likely had to perform early in life.  Such as pumping water for the laundry, scrubbing the laundry on a washboard with homemade soap, rinsing, wringing, and finally hanging the clothes on the line.

I wish I could say that this made a difference in my own children’s appreciation of what their mother goes through as she slaves over her 5 speed General Electric Washer and Dryer, but that would be a lie.

They also learned about making soap, butter, and what is involved in the care and raising of the chickens.  Not only did these early pioneers have to grow their own corn, but then strip the kernels, and grind them up, just to feed the chickens.  I was exhausted just thinking about it.

It’s not like they could have gone to WalMart for some Chicken Chow.

As a child, I remembered my own grandmother’s stories of how she was one of 18 children, and her job was to wring the chicken’s neck on Sunday afternoon for the weekly fried chicken dinner.  And then I was treated to nightmares of headless chickens running amuck in the yard.

When I was growing up, we tried to raise animals for slaughter, but made our first mistake when we named all the animals that we came into contact with.  Which meant that Gorgeous George, the rooster, and his harem of 21 hens were all safe.  As were Maria the pig, and Sambo and Red, the calves.

I was a very skinny little kid.

I enjoyed this field trip because I was able to traipse through old wooden houses.  I could just imagine large families crowded under these tiny roofs, and I wondered if they had any issues with bickering children.  What with the close quarters and all.  With one look at the resident outhouse and the subsequent basket of corn cobs located therein, I realized I wouldn’t have lasted a day in times of old.

I have a feeling though, judging from all the stories I remember from my grandmother, that all the children crowded together, living, working, and growing, were having the time of their lives.

Hard times, to be sure.  But to live so much more simply, and to succeed solely by the sweat of your brow.  I am just a bit envious of those that came before me.

Not enough to go out and beat our clothes against a rock, but still.

Have a fantastic weekend, my friends.

2 Responses to Where it’s Christmas all year, but never snows

  • But beating the clothes against a rock is so much more fun than washing them in a machine! It is practically like swimming–there you are, in the river, with a load of dirty clothes. You soap them up, and beat them on the warm rocks while the cool river water swirls around your legs. Then you lay them out in the water and hang on while the current carries all the soap away. Wring and lay out on the rocks to dry while you swim some more. What could be better?

  • My husband’s father is a retired farmer. Until a few months ago he always had a large herd of cows and whenever we were home visiting I always liked riding with him when he “checked the cows” in the afternoons. Early on I started naming the calves sort of as a joke, and then David told me that I was going to have to stop doing that. Apparently, if one of the family members named a cow, Mr. French couldn’t bring himself to sell it. By the time we’d been married two years, I’d named about a fourth of the herd.