Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Historical Magic

Guest blog entry by Kayla Heiserman    
Kayla (left) and her grandmother (right) with a young cousin
Landis Valley Museum has been my home away from home since I was small enough to toddle under the fence. My grandmother has been an employee and volunteer for many years, and when I was four she started bringing me with her to share in the historical magic. My pre-school was 100 acres of handmade penny rugs, warped glass windows, and draft horses pulling jingling wagons of people.

When I was that young, my job was simply to run around and look authentic. My Gram sewed me a chemise, pantaloons, a dress and a bonnet, and I ran around barefoot and smiled at visitors. I visited Tanya the Turkey (below) in the barnyard and marveled at the exhibits in the Visitor's Center. The craftsmen came to know me by name and gave me small things that they'd made.
One craftsman who came to know me well was Mr. Clair Garman, a carpenter at Landis Valley. He would invite me in under the ropes blocking off his work area to show me what he was working on. He gave me three small wooden houses he had made, which I painted and returned to him as a gift. He tells me every time I see him that he keeps those houses on his bedside table, even a decade later.

Every summer, Landis Valley hosts a Civil War encampment. Men come dressed as Union soldiers in their stuffy wool uniforms under the even more oppressive July heat. When I was 6 or 7, Gram was volunteering at the entrance tent, selling tickets, and I was running around, as per usual. One visitor in particular caught my attention. He walked in bedecked in Confederate grey, with a broad brimmed hat, and a handlebar mustache. I had been versed in Civil War etiquette for the past year or so, so I knew what this situation called for. Panic. The enemy was here. Here, above the Confederate high water mark! How? He looked like a general. He probably had troops just waiting to blow cannonballs through my beloved Landis Valley. I had to act. I ran to my grandmother. Flushed, I tugged on the leg of her capris and beckoned her closer. I whispered in her ear that there was a Confederate soldier underfoot, and we had to do something quickly. She chuckled and I scolded her crossly. This was definitely not my idea of a laughing matter. Clearly, Gram could not or would not help, so I ran to the Union. I ran to the nearest "soldier" and told him the crisis. He giggled, and told me they knew his motives and were planning to take care of it. I sighed with relief and, satisfied with that, ran to the barnyard where I'd be safe with Tanya the Turkey.

As I grew older, around the age of eight or so, I had to buy boots to wear because in the 19th century, I would have been too old for bare feet and loose hair out of my bonnet. I stayed inside The Weathervane (now the Landis Valley Museum Store) with my grandmother and played with the puppets or rearranged the farm animal figurines on a shelf. The summer of 2006, I went to summer camp at Landis Valley. I went to "school" at the schoolhouse, boys on the left, girls on the right. I sat in a desk with 200-year-old petrified gum stuck on the edge. We played "graces" and dipped candles in the yard of the Henry Landis house. We cut Scherenschnitte (scissor cuttings) and went on a scavenger hunt in the General Store. I made friends who loved history as much as I did (or at least their parents did).

When I was fourteen, I was old enough to actually volunteer. Every spring, I help out at the Landis Valley Auction and the  Herb and Garden Faire. This past year I worked at the "plant sitting" tent where shoppers could drop off their plants while they shop for more. Every autumn, I volunteer at the pumpkin patch during Harvest Days and every December I go to the Bonfire, see the Belsnickel and have hot apple cider in the Yellow Barn.

Landis Valley has been a part of my life and close to my heart for as long as I can remember, and will be for the rest of my life. I hope to have my wedding here, bring my children here, and volunteer for as long as my able-bodied life will allow.