This year has been a first for us at Fort Frederica National Monument: the rangers do living history with us. For the previous five years, just the RV volunteers have done living history. Which sometimes means just Tom and I. Tom and I would be the only ones doing living history this year, except that the rangers have been out there every Saturday doing living history with us.
Ranger Phil, our boss, likes to stand out in the breezeway in historic dress and greet people. Phil is very extroverted and he loves to talk to folks. Phil also loves to fire a musket. On days when he is able to do living history, he likes all the guys to dress as soldiers and do musket firing demonstrations.
Ranger Bob has been working on a dugout canoe. He builds a fire in the canoe, lets it burn, and then uses an adze to chop out the burned wood. It is a very slow process because he is only out there, at best, one day a week. I think he is averaging an inch a week, which means it will be a long time before the dugout canoe is finished. I don’t think it will be done before Tom and I leave. It is, however, starting to look like a canoe and Bob is enjoying the challenge.
Ranger Jamieson has been splitting the cooking duties with me. Jamieson has plenty of cooking experience. She made a cock-a-leekie soup and made so much of it that she used it again on two subsequent cooking days. The second day she made a chicken pot pie that was really good. So far I have made soup with rolls or cornbread and a cake or pie for dessert. Whoever cooks also does the dishes. I tease Jamieson about it because she likes to use every dish we have when she cooks. I don’t like to scrub all those pots and pans, so I only use what I have to.
One Saturday, Ranger Jamieson was sick when she was supposed to cook. I don’t have room in the Leprechaun to store lots of things in my pantry. It was too late to get rolls out of the freezer. But I found a box of cornbread mix in the pantry and I had a dozen eggs. So I made cornbread in the baking kettle and an egg frittata in the spider. It must have been good enough because it was all gone at the end of lunch.
Intern Sierra also comes out to do living history on Saturdays. Ranger Michael is her boss and she assists with the archaeology program. She offered to help Jamieson cook one day and decided she wanted to learn to use the spinning wheel. So she has been coming out to help every week. We are glad to have her.
Tom has done a variety of living history things so far. He has only done blacksmithing one day. Usually he is busy tending the fire and doing a variety of other tasks. Ranger Phil wanted to use the bake oven, so Tom and Sierra spent a morning feeding that fire and using the bellows to get it up to the right temperature.
The palmetto hut needed to be rethatched, so everyone pitched in to work on it one Saturday. We got all the old palmettos off and about half of the new ones on in one day. Rangers Phil and Bob did most of it. Tom figured that one of the rangers needed to know how to thatch the hut because we might not be here when it needs to be done again. After the initial thatch settled, Tom and I spent another afternoon filling in holes and getting the thatch closed on the top. We still need one more layer at the cap of the hut to finish it.
Sometimes we have extra helpers. Ranger Michael was leading an archaeology group on a recent weekend. His two daughters came along to the park and decided they wanted to help with living history. They were adorable and very good at talking to visitors. They demonstrated the toaster and cautioned the other children not to touch the fire or the items cooking on it.
It has rained one day every weekend since we have been here and on those days we do “living history light.” We chose one activity each and set it up on the breezeway. Last Saturday, when it rained two inches, I spent the morning weaving while Sierra used the spinning wheel. Tom gave his soldier talk and Ranger Phil talked about muskets. In the afternoon Ranger Jamieson did weaving while I spun. It got a little loud when all four of us were talking at once, but it was fun to still be able to do our demonstrations.
We have enjoyed having the rangers do living history with us. Having them actively participate makes us feel like the living history program is valued and established at Fort Frederica.