We were fortunate to visit during the museum's Summer Pioneer Apprentice Camp for youth ages 8 to 14. There was a large number of kids spread out over the site, involved in multiple activities, and just generally having fun. Oh by the way, they were learning a lot, too.
Immediately in front of the museum entrance was an encampment, complete with tents and wooden rifles. Don't think the wooden rifles were not historic; it was not uncommon for revolutionary soldiers to drill with wooden rifles because of a shortage of weapons. There were always rifles to redistribute after a battle.
The first activity was Indian fighting. These militiamen had to get their powder, shot, and wadding; load, tamp down, and fire their rifles at imaginary Indians.
Then it was drop the single-shot rifle and charge the Indians.
Throw their tomahawk at an Indian and then take out their hunting knife and engage in hand-to-hand combat.
All while being timed by the instructor. Twenty-four seconds was the best time while I watched. Speed and accuracy could make the difference between living and dying on the frontier.
In the nearby blacksmith shop a young man was learning to make a knife from a worn-out file.
Down by the smoke house they were shooting BB guns.
When I was up at the kitchen I was treated to a piece of homemade maple-flavored candy. After slaving in a hot kitchen, the young ladies cooled off in this small stream. Unaccustomed to long dresses in summer, they lifted their skirts to get cool. One enterprising young lady stuffed her skirt into the top of the shorts she wore underneath, producing a cool, if unflattering, result.
Over at the archery class a couple of young ladies shed their pioneer dresses all together. That's the dresses on the ground between them.
There was a folk dance class going on next to this derelict wagon.
It looked to me like The Virginia Reel we danced when I was in elementary school.
The Pioneer Apprentice program not only teaches history in a fun way. It also is how the museum develops the next generation of volunteers who will keep the non-profit educational corporation successful. Come back in twenty years; you'll find some of these same young people grown up and greeting you when you arrive.
If you're ever in the area of the Crab Orchard Museum, be sure to drop in. To learn more, visit their web site here.