Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Do It?

So now that I have confessed my sordid past of being a card carrying member of the Microsoft geek squad, many of you are thinking, "Why?"  Why would I give up a lucrative career to eventually end up working as an interpreter at Conner Prairie

On Wednesday of this week, I was working in the Animal Encounters barn. It was ridiculously hot and humid that day, the heat index above 100. A father, son and grandson approached me to meet the newborn lamb I was holding. The young boy was particularly interested in the animal's horns. I showed him how the horn had hair growing on it and explained that horns really were just that, hair, only very dense just like a fingernail.  As our conversation continued eventually the grandfather looked right at me and asked, "Christine, why do you do this?" He gestured as if to add, "under these extreme conditions." 

The quick answer would have been to say, "Hello, cute baby animals, what's not to love?" However, I could tell the man was sincere, and he really wanted to know why I would stand around all day, sweat dripping down my face and back, so I could explain to a five year old that horns are really just hair. My answer instead was this:

"I was lucky enough to grow up  on a farm right here in Indiana. I made mud pies in the garden, squeezed chicken manure through my toes and watched the circle of life unfold in the barnyard every season. My Dad took me tracking, trapping and fishing. I had a section of the garden to tend and call my own. I learned more before fifth grade about what is really important in life than most people learn in a lifetime. I had the best childhood a person could ask for. I can't take all of these kids fishing, but I can teach them about the animals and share a glimpse of the circle of life and I firmly believe they'll be better for it."

His smile broadened as he said, "I'm glad you're here. I brought my son here when he was a child and now I'm bringing my grandson for the same experience. Thank you for doing this."

DSC 2126

Of course, my answer really only scratched the surface. My own family history is another great motivator for me. I have an ancestor, Fanny Brooks, that raised sheep and took in spinning and weaving to support her seven children after her husband was killed. Her family followed and settled near the Wabash River instead of the White, but they were here in Indiana during the same time period as William Conner and so the stories are similar. I have record of her sending her sons out to herd the sheep to the livestock markets in Cincinnati the same as the Conner's did. I guess I could say I feel pride of ownership. I feel that I am somehow honoring my ancestors for all the work they did to settle and organize this state. Prairietown is a good representation of my ancestor's lives as there were farmers, blacksmiths and businessmen alike. 

Then, of course, the new Civil War Journey Raid on Indiana exhibit represents a long forgotten family feud. Theodore F. Hinton, my third great grandfather enlisted in the 7th Indiana Calvary immediately following Morgan's raid to defend his home and farm. It just so happens his first cousin, Benjamin Butler, had been one of Morgan's men doing the raiding. After Benjamin's capture in Ohio, the Butler's were never really heard from much again and were certainly never invited to the family reunions. 

While my connections to Conner Prairie's history runs deep, the future of the organization draws me to it as well. Playing a part in reestablishing an extinct breed of livestock, getting children excited about the science of agriculture and helping to fill the gaps in a failing public education system to me is far, far more important and will have more of a lasting impact than helping some CIO somewhere figure out how to slash his telecommunications costs. 

I guess my answer to, "Why?", could really be summed up in four words. I believe in it. That's why I do it.

 

 

14 comments:

Michelle said...

And in this you are one of the most blessed people on earth -- for having that background, knowing that background, treasuring that background, and passing on what you can to others.

Tombstone Livestock said...

and you get to cuddle the baby animals .........

Theresa said...

:-)

Florida Farm Girl said...

Can we get an "amen" to that!!! And, the sound of lots of hands clapping!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ditto - Florida Farm Girl!

Jean - MN

Elaine said...

I heard the advertisement for Connor Prairie again yesterday on my radio (Chicago) so someone is hearing them. Hopefully they will go!!

pastorjosh said...

Thanks for all you are doing at CP, I know the animals that we have gotten from them are great and I can tell they have been cared for. Thanks!

Milah Frost said...

"I believe in it" - Great answer! Obviously you are in touch with what's important. Too many have careers based on salary or prestige and wonder where your satisfaction comes from. Interesting that he brings his son back with his grandson. Obviously he's drawn to the simplicity of farm/pioneer life, but probably not willing to give up his worldly lifestyle just yet. :)

Meggie said...

Great Post....I love reading about the history of our ancesters!

Anonymous said...

Our genes run deep and sometimes we have those that you do which allow (maybe demand) you to follow what went before us. Wonderful for you.linda

MilkMaid09 said...

Christine, I'm so glad you do it too. I drag my husband (even though he was a history major in college!) and my kids to these places because the history is important. You seriously have my dream job and I'd do it more for the personal reward than the money. Not too many people know their own history anymore. Like you, I've taken the time and interest to memorize stories like yours about my own ancestors and those of my husband (since he won't remember to tell the kids). My parents didn't care to pass these stories on. The only way I know them is from talking with my grandpa and from spending an entire summer researching my family tree. It's sad, but I hope my kids appreciate places like this and their own history as much as I do. 'Course living in the 100+ yr old family homestead helps. ;}

Stephanie said...

I have a question! Are you the one who spins, weaves & is the leader of the kids that go to state fair? If so, I met you & didn't realize it! I read your blog every once in a while & have for a while now. How funny if I met you irl! If it was you, you showed me last month how to use a drop spindle! I have one & was having a hard time with it. It was my first visit to conner prairie! I loved & and can't wait to make another trip!

Stephanie said...

Well, I looked at the video I took of "you" showing me how to spin & it was not you! It was Sue (I read her name tag!).

scholarpon said...

Your school Need a fundraiser? check out scholarpon.com