Yesteryear's lifestyles displayed at state park

Monday, September 28, 2009

CHAPEL HILL - With jambalaya cooking over an open fire at sunset on Saturday in Henry Horton State Park, one of the rangers said, "It's been a blast" during the annual Step Back in Time reenactments.

Jacob Ingram, 26, lives in the park and, as a "seasonal interpretive ranger," he was "paid to ride a horse, shoot a gun, eat old-timey food and listen to all kinds of music," officials said. And it was all part of the show for 3,000 people at the park.

Rain dampened attendance this year, Chief Ranger T. Shane Petty said. Last year, the event attracted a crowd estimated at 5,000.

"This is our sixth year," Petty said Saturday evening around the cook fire. "We really knew it was taking off last year... This year, we missed out on about half our vendors."

Outlasting the seven inches of rain in three days, including the two-day event, was Robert "Gator" Grissom, 62, of "Downtown Verona" who said, "This is supposed to be like an 1800s get-up deal. It's called a Mountain Man Trader-man era between the 1700s period and the Civil War."

Grissom spoke at his tent where several pelts hung on display. He'd caught and skinned the animals this year.

"I send them off to a furrier and have them tanned," he said. "Then when I go to the Rendezvous (gathering elsewhere) I'll sell them. Like this Bobcat here, I might get $50 for it now, but when I get them tanned for $17, I could get $200."

Across the broad lawn near the park's swimming pool, there was a big red tractor that was obviously manufactured well after the Civil War. Donald Swader of the Decatur, Ala. Parks and Recreation Department admired the tractor with a man who declined to give his name, but said, "It's a tractor man's tractor."

Back near the cook fire were Doug Lowery of Cornersville who strummed his guitar and Troy Hasty of Tullahoma who picked the banjo. Both played blue grass music.

"Friday was our school day," Ingram said, reporting the attendance of children from Oak Grove Elementary School.

How to use a sorghum press was demonstrated and when Decatur Parrish of Huntsville, Ala., sat in a folding chair by the fire with her father, Carl, the 17-year-old daughter was asked if she learned about the hardships faced by pioneers.

Her 48-year-old father replied: "No. I think she liked to play with the bunnies and other critters for sale."

Sarah didn't buy one, "Because Daddy said 'No.'"

The event made memories even if some visitors didn't go home with mementoes.