Cherie Langlois
October 6, 2010

Photo by Cherie Langlois
Kelsey tries her hand at the forge.

The log cabin, dimly lit by oil lamps and a few small windows, bustles with activity: girls dressed in matching aprons and bonnets (and a few boys, definitely not in aprons and bonnets) kneading bread dough, churning cream and grinding corn.  I’ve been transported back more than 100 years, right into a scene from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little House on the Prairie—that is, until the sight of my modernly-dressed daughter among the bonneted girls returns me rudely to the present. At 18, Kelsey has deemed herself too old to dress up, but I’m happy to note she hasn’t outgrown the fun of playing pioneer for an afternoon. And neither have I.

Horseback riding
Photo by Cherie Langlois
Sami goes for a ride.

We’ve loved time-traveling at nearby Pioneer Farm Museum since Kelsey was little, and today we bring my cousin, his wife and their two young daughters, Gracie and Sami, along for the ride, too. Our tour starts with a short lecture inside authentic Stubbs Cabin, built in 1888, then takes us to the activity cabin where we sample chores like grinding coffee and cleaning clothes in a washtub. 

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Next, we walk to a cluster of outbuildings—barn, blacksmith’s shop and carpenter’s workshop—where our crusty guide gives us instructions, then turns everybody loose to try milking a cow, collecting eggs, wielding a bucksaw and more. 

Milking a cow
Photo by Cherie Langlois
Gracie tries milking a cow.

In the blacksmith’s shop, amidst the acrid scent of burning coal, Kelsey and I take turns stoking the forge and pounding on a glowing horseshoe. Gracie and Sami are all smiles as they leap into a fluffy pile of straw and go for a horse ride. We finish up our tour by investigating the replica of a one-room pioneer school house, where I pause to read the list of punishments (in lashings!) posted on the wall. 

Back home, I reflect on how modern life has made our lives easier but also brought us some unpleasant complications. Sure, we have things like electric coffeemakers and lights, computers and cars, but we also have factory farms, cell-phone rudeness, road rage and climate change. Sometimes I just can’t help wishing for simpler times. 

~ Cherie  

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