In a record-breaking hot summer, my youth volunteers have had to adapt their activities so they can entertain the guests but not overheat in their period costumes.
Why do they subject themselves to extra sweat and hard work when they could be spending their summer vacations relaxing on the couch in the AC? I asked my youth this as they gathered together in a lively Youth Lounge during their lunch break.
“Because I didn’t know it was going to be so hot when I signed up!” joked Claire, age 12.
Natalie, age 16, said, “Yeah, it’s hot, but I know people are counting on me here. And it’s fun to work with my friends even in hot weather.”
Sabrina, age 16, added, “And there’s always that one guest who asks great questions and makes it all worth it.” For instance, Sabrina spent one day last week rolling muddies (clay marbles) with guests in the shade of the Prairietown
crossroads. “One young girl stayed with me an hour making muddies. Every 20 minutes or so, she’d say to her grandma, ‘just a couple more.’”
Graces, a toss-and-catch game with a beribboned hoop, is also a low-perspiration choice.
But the most popular hot weather pastimes are water games.
, with its water cannons, is a standard part of any summer 1863 Civil War Journey
visit. My Prairietown youth have their own water games. One of these is a period guessing game in which incorrect answers earn you a thimble of water in the face. Some young ladies improve their posture by walking with cups of water balanced on their heads. This often turns into a team race, where the wet losers are actually the winners.
On 100-degree days, my youth lurk around corners with water buckets, waiting to ambush each other. Guests are often enlisted to join in the fray. During Glorious Fourth, the ultimate water battle broke out between Prairietown and Civil War Journey. Guests joined costumed facilitators on both sides of the timeline as they drilled, armed themselves with water guns and an arsenal of water balloons, and went on the attack.
“We used some period-correct military maneuvers,” said Sabrina. “The White River Guard taught us militia drills and marched us to the covered bridge. Then we lined up in military formation with the front row kneeling. The back row aimed water guns between our shoulders.”
The new recruits also followed commands like, “Fire, hold fire, forward march,” and the most important one at the end of the battle, when everyone was soaked, “Surrender your weapon, solider.” Other period military tactics included the use of a barricade.
“We played until my shoes squelched,” said Sabrina.
Strict historians may point out that there is no way 1836 militia men could fight 1863 Union soldiers. Despite my own worries such an event would rip the time-space continuum, just one look at the guests’ reanimated faces told me the fun and relief from the heat outweighed any historic stretching. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that mischievous children through the centuries have enjoyed having water fights.
As the drought has worsened, the water fights have simply moved to our parched gardens.
“They may trample a flower or two,” said our Prairietown garden specialist, “but the water fights save more plants than they lose.”
Such are the necessary casualties of war.