Yesterday, I got a chance to revisit my childhood. It was an… altered experience.
Went up to Crossroad Village, in Flint, Michigan. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s kind of like Greenfield Village (a city of historical reenactments) set in the mid to late 1800’s. This time of year is specifically interesting there because they break period-character a bit and deck the entire place up in quite a lot of Christmas lights.
When I was a wee lad, it was just crazy to go to a village in the middle of nowhere and see people who still live just like they had 100 years prior. I would take the train ride out into the country and wave to Santa, who would have, of course, been kind enough to grace us, and only us, with his presence as we rode the tracks, listening to the most traditional, old-timey of Christmas carols (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).
Now the illusion is a bit lost on me, but that’s not to say the experience is not enjoyable – far from it. In my current mentality of “if there’s something I can learn, you best be sure I’m gonna learn it,” the magic of the holiday spirit has been replaced by super-fascinating historical facts. As an example: The train you can ride (on the Huckleberry Railroad) is actually a real-life coal-burning engine from the late 1800s, pulling a dozen cars from the same period. This, of course, is quite an accomplishment, since people have had to maintain the machines in working and aesthetic order for over a century.
A little side fact: Reindeer are ticklish… let me explain. In the spirit of all things festive, a reindeer had been brought in from a local farm for photo opportunities. As you enter the barn, there is a sign near the entrance instructing you not to touch the reindeer as it is “too ticklish” to them. Being a reasonable adult, I deduced that the comment was a friendly, whimsical way of keeping children from taking an antler to the face. Of course, if I were to wait for the impressionable youth to leave I could have an adult conversation with the reindeer’s handler and explain that I would very much like to pet the reindeer and that I would not do something stupid like hang my coat on it. She informed me the sign wasn’t actually a joke and demonstrated by VERY VERY LIGHTLY petting the reindeer. If the reindeer could have spoken it would have said something akin to, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?! Get away from me.” In conclusion, reindeer do not like to be petted.
While the antique train and the reindeer with personal space issues were fascinating, the clear winners of my trip were the historical actors. It wasn’t so much the convincing illusion (they didn’t wear Wolverine work boots back then) but the nerdy factoids these folks had in their heads. I got to see a 100-year old typesetting machine printing a news article, found out that frontier towns sprang up based explicitly on the vicinity to the blacksmith, and learned how to use a straight razor (which I was just recently gifted).
And, OF COURSE, there were some pretty nifty photo opportunities. Here are a few of my favorites.