Friday, September 14, 2012

The Celebratory First Fire

From Julie H., historical interpreter:

We're back again to Settlement! Last you saw us, we had daubed up pretty high on the chimney, but hadn't quite finished it yet. When we left off, Andy was still down low enough that I could hand him up globules of mud, while standing on our bench. One rung higher, and I wouldn't be able to reach him. When we started out this past Wednesday morning, we knew that one of us got to be on the ladder. The other would be forced into an uncomfortable and painful position.

As Andy climbs up the ladder, he considers sitting on the roof. But he would have to lean his body too far forward to reach the chimney top. So he sandwiches himself between the house and the chimney. Not comfortable. I climb up and down the ladder to hand him mud, filler sticks, and the wood. Our usual mud stomper isn't there, but another coworker literally jumps in to help.

Our new mud mixer determines that consistency of mud is key, and develops a method of mixing mud together. I won't give away all of his trade secrets, but here is FW making his batch of the "local special."
Hey, what's worse than being caught between a rock and a hard place?
And with that last photo, the chimney is finished! We briefly pause to admire our work, but can barely contain ourselves before dashing inside to celebrate with an appropriate gesture. Andy lights the fire. We've started hundreds upon hundreds of fires at the Frontier Culture Museum, but never with such anticipation, joy, fear, and satisfaction.
 As it starts to catch, a giddy anticipation hangs thick in the air. It is the desperate hope that we aren't going to freeze this winter!
The fire burns, and though it is high 70s outside, we sit around the fire, admiring man's ability to build for himself the most basic of life's necessities: shelter. In an era of modern machines and technology, of computer calculation and laser-guided precision, we can still pick up ax and froe, and use own our body strength to make a home which our ancestors' lives depended upon centuries ago in the wilderness. To us, it is a symbolic celebratory first fire; to our ancestors, it was an essential victory in the name of survival.
Despite the cracks in our daubing and the holes between the shingles of our roof, the fire still spreads a warmth across our humble cabin. (And it didn't catch on fire- a good sign!)

Now, if we can just figure out how to make that front door and keep all that heat in...

We urge you all to come visit us this fall! There are so many other exciting projects around the museum. We'll take a break from Settlement, and in the upcoming posts, we'll check out the thatching in Ireland and see how the flax is doing, see some baking in England, meet some of our animals, check up on our progress with the new American Indian exhibit, and host a grand Oktoberfest in Germany. And don't worry, there'll be plenty of yams too! Until next time.

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