I spent my Saturday at Washington Crossing State Park. This was for the annual New Jersey State History Fair. I was there to represent Howell Farm, along with two of the horses and a handful of farming colleagues.
I was bedecked in the clothes of a late nineteenth century farmer, meaning I was wearing pants with suspenders that pulled up to about my belly button, maybe higher. All around me were a mash of historical figures – Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War soldiers, singing pirates, and pretty ladies in those Victorian dresses that make their waists look like toothpicks.
One impression I was left with was that that children's games of yesteryear were poor at best. At the games exhibition, kids were left to beat a hula-hoop-shaped ring with a stick to see how far they could get it to roll. That was it; that was the game.
At another exhibit, however, kids could get their hands on a wooden rifle and go through drills with a Continental officer, everything from fake loading to fake firing to fake charging the enemy. Comparing these good times to the hula-hoop game, I understand now why the Continentals were so eager for a fight.
I think Howell had a good showing as well. Out in a nearby field, kids lined up behind the horses and took turns steering the plow for a few yards. I think the best moment was when Abraham Lincoln himself walked up and showed us peasants how it's done.