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PIONEER DAYS: Museum takes guest back to frontier times

The idea of time travel is thought to be ridiculous but on Friday, both young people and adults were transported back in time during Pioneer Days at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama. And, the window of opportunity to time travel will again be open today at the museum just north of Troy. The gates of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama will open today at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m.

Pioneer Days are fun, educational days for the entire family. Today’s demonstrations and hands-on events will include woodworking, cotton spinning, chair caning, weaving and singing in the Log Church. Historical presentations will feature a Native American, Davy Crockett, a long hunter and a French grenadier.

“A blacksmith will be at work and the Montgomery Area Dulcimer Players will perform at 10:30 a.m.” said Barbara Tatom, museum director. “Forrest Dilmore’s chuck wagon is at Pioneer Days for the first time and the students and adults enjoyed a sampling of the peach cobbler cooked over open fire just the way it was on cattle drives back during the Old West. But, if the response to Pioneer Days on Friday is indication, Pioneer Days is fun from beginning to end.”

Students from Morris Slingluff Elementary School in Dothan gave Pioneer Days two thumbs up and their teachers and chaperons gave the annual field trip five stars.

Morris Slingluff teacher Diane Ard said Pioneer Days has been a field trip destination for the school’s fourth grade students for four years and counting.

“It’s a hands-on field trip and the students really like that,” Ard said. “Pioneer Days provides them with real-life experiences. We study about pioneer life but there is no substitute for actually experiencing it. We look forward to Pioneer Days every year.”

Ard said the chuck wagon was a great addition to Pioneer Days and the cobbler was a real treat.

For those who have an interest in the Old West, Dilmore’s chuck wagon is like stepping back in time.

Dilmore said the chuck wagon is something he does aside from his fulltime job but, when he retires, it will occupy much more of his time. He enjoys it that much.

“I wanted a chuck wagon and left home knowing that I would not come back without one,” he said. “There were five wagons that I was going to look at in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. I first looked at the one in Texas then I went to Oklahoma. When I saw this wagon, I didn’t look any farther.”

Dilmore said he paid an arm and leg for the wagon and then paid the other arm and leg to outfit the wagon.

Al Bouler from Old Alabama Town in Montgomery portrays Davy Crockett. He told the students about the first time he grinned down a possum. To prove he did just what he said, he had the possum’s pelt to show for it.

Crockett taught the kids the possum-down grin and almost guaranteed them they would have the makings of Tennessee possum stew if they grinned just right.

Native American Tamatha Latham shared interesting facts about the clothing of Native American women.

“Most of their clothing was linen because cotton was too expensive,” she said. “Cotton came from Europe and was more expensive than silk.”

Latham showed the children the beads that were a part of Lewis and Clark’s attempt to reach the Pacific Ocean.

Paul Sexton, a long gunman, told the students that tomatoes were first used only as decoration. It was later that the pioneers discovered that the tomato was good to eat.

The students had a chance to watch Wayne Brunson’s skill with the drawing knife and sing old-time hymns with Rev. Ed Shirley and learn about circuit riders.

They visited with Conductor Roy Nelson on the steam-driven train and covered their ears when Mike McCreedy shot his long-gun.

Ricky and Naomi Higby came from Montgomery with their two-year-old son to get a feel for pioneer life. Ricky will play “Paw” in a Christmas production of “Little House” at the Wetumpka Depot Theater in December.

He left with a greater understanding of pioneer life and appreciation for an outstanding museum dedicated to those who pioneered Alabama.

Tatom expressed appreciation to the demonstrators, historical interpreters and volunteers who are making Pioneer Days possible and to all visitors to Pioneer Days.