Living history comes to an end

It’s officially the end of demonstration season here at the park which means that I’ve basically retired my living history clothes.  With the exception of October 27 when I’ll get them back out again for the “Ghosts in the Tunnel” tour that we do that evening.  I have really enjoyed my time doing the demonstrations not only because it was a challenge to learn the techniques required and to actually be able to pull them off, but also because it gave me a really stress free way to spend the day.  Many a summer day I spent outside, dressed in what most people think of as very odd clothes and I would sit underneath a tree reading until some people came along.  When people did come up I got to chat for a bit and then launch into either doing the Log Hewing demo or the Stone Cutting one.  Both of them required me to do a fair amount of physical work.  Both programs lasted about twenty minutes and on a warm day I’d build up a good sweat doing it.  You have to love when part of your day is also a good workout.   Funny thing about how my life has changed this past year though is that even on a day that I did the program a number of times it still wasn’t something that I would consider very hard and I would be ready to head into the gym for a couple hours of hard work.  Doing the programs though were a welcome change from the normal pace of my interactions with visitors.  There’s just something about being dressed very oddly that makes people want to come and talk to you, and seems to dispel apprehension that they may have.  I had many times this summer when the visitors and I  would talk for a long time about more than just what I had done but about the railroad, and life for the people that worked on it, how that it changed the area, and how that I came to work for the Park Service doing a job like this.  Overall I think as the summer comes to a close and I head back to Illinois this is one of the parts of the job that I will miss the most.  Spending the morning or afternoon outdoors, enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods as I set up along the trail and just waiting for people to walk by.  Learning from those times in the woods I have become a more thoughtful person, those hours spent in the beauty of nature let me think.  I got to put the experiences of my day into the larger framework of my life, I got to think about friendships and about those people that I think are most important to me.  Also I got to think about events from the past and how they have come to shape the person that I am today.  Those days in the woods meant a lot to me developing a better understanding of who I am, and why I am the person that I am today.  Without those days swinging the axe or hammer I wouldn’t have come as far as I have today.  I can’t say for sure, but the time spent building up a sweat may have been the less important part of my time doing demonstrations.  The real impact may have been the experience of solitude and the sights and sounds of nature.

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