We set up camp at one end of the wildlife refuge, then trecked to the other side for the opening ceremony. Then we hiked back to camp where our first challenge was to make dinner. We'd been given two chickens, and the boys had to slaughter, scald, pluck, clean out, cut up, and cook them. Quite the learning experience for all of us.
In the course of removing the final feathers, Chandler (in red) squoze his chicken. "It squeeked! Hey, does your chicken squeek?" Casey (in grey) discovered that his chicken also, would squeek upon squeezing. They squeeked their chickens for a bit, and went back to plucking. This may not have been in the best taste, but you know what? It was doggone funny.
After a dinner that was delish, (the cornbread was devine if you left the bottom layer in the dutch oven, the cowboy potatoes were excuisite, and the chicken were as tough as leather. Not even kidding.) we headed down to the dance. We learned three and a half new dances. I danced with every boy there, but this one was my favorite! Just look at him shake it!
After we wore ourselves out at the dance, Chad told us all some bedtime stories about the pioneers who settled this valley. That was to be the theme of the weekend. We learned much about the brave, stalwart men and women who came here before airconditioning and store-bought-bread. Many experiences were provided in which we got to participate in activities that the pioneers would have engaged in in daily life. After sleeping, for starters, under the cold stars, on the hard ground, we had a breakfast of ash cakes and leftovers (thank goodness), and headed out. Our first activity was at the pioneer cemetery. We heard about the local communities, and then removed garbage bags full of weeds from the gravesites. Next, we hiked back in time to...
...get to listen to Loyd Marshall. He is a legend around here when it comes to farming and gardening. Even in a place where anyone who can create a successful garden achieves legend status, he is ultra-legend. He holds in his hand a small scythe that he used to cut down corn stalks when he was a youth . Behind him is a hand-forged plow brought across the plains in pieces, as each wagon was only allowed so many pounds. Many different wagons carried a piece, and the wood was left behind, to be replaced upon arrival. (Looks like they found a piece.) In front of him, is an old yoke.
Brother Marshall gave the youth the opportunity to try out a few of his farming implements. It looked like HARD work!
No pictures of our next stop, the wheat-grinding, bread-making station. A picture wouldn't have done it justice anyway. I would have to learn how to imbed a BITE for you. YUM! Especially when topped with what some other youth had made earlier at THIS station, the soap-candles-BUTTER stop.
These were a few of the candles made early on in the day. By late afternoon, there were many, many more. Aren't they PRETTY!
We did so many more things that I didn't get pictures of. We made and "whipped" rope, learned to yodel, and shoot a bow and arrow. A friend, Josh, was helping with the archery station, and he saved me a bow and a fist-full of arrows, and set up my own personal target so I would have a chance to see how Amazon-esque I really am. I hit the target two out of five times. Sounds pretty good, till I tell you that the target was about 10 feet away. But THANK YOU Josh! I felt accomplished. I now know HOW to work on my aim.
Throughout the day, we learned some more pretty amazing things. Did you know that you can make wilderness water drinkable just by putting it in a clear bottle and letting it sit in the sun for six hours? Did you know that green cattail heads taste like asparagus when you steam them? Were you aware that you can eat cottonwood buds when they're new, and if you cook them in sugar water, they taste just like peas. You can also make tea out of absolutely any kind of grass (except cheat grass) and it will be wonderfully good for you. An "infusion" of pine needles is chock full of vitamin C. Tumble weeds, young, are a delicasy in Russia, and dried and ground into flour, they make great crackers. I am dying to try that one out.
I so enjoyed this weekend of learning the crafts that the pioneers used to feed their families, light their way, and enrich their lives. It was wonderful learning to live with the things we've been given. We had a great group of boys who I think enjoyed it too, and kept us laughing at any rate. Who knew sleeping on lumpy dirt, and working in the hot sun could be so rejuvenating!