Friday, August 22, 2008

Jackson This Weekend

What are you doing this weekend? Jackson is hosting its 24th annual Civil War Muster at Cascades Park. It was maybe five years ago that we went for the first time, following the shaking ground and heart squeezing booms of cannon fire. By the time we squeezed into a parking space and followed the crowd to the center of the action, we had missed the battle. The bowl of Cascades hill was left smoldering in the smoke of spent powder and littered with hoof prints and wads of white paper.

Another year we made it to the park in time to catch the tail end of the battle, and we chanced to stand next to a veteran observer of this Civil War muster. He told us that each re-enactor has researched his character in the battle, so he knows where the man probably stood, shot and (maybe) fell in the battle. The officers led the charge on horses glistening with sweat, and occasionally through the ear-numbing battering of cannon blasts and gunfire, we could hear a trumpet signaling movement for the troops in blue or gray. I should say here, if you didn’t already suspect it, that they don’t fire REAL guns or shoot REAL cannon balls at each other. The guys who “die” fall with varying degrees of drama or grace to the ground, and pretty soon after, they prop themselves on an elbow to watch the rest of the fight. Apparently, we’re all spectators.

After the battle, we wandered around and sampled some of the wares of the food carts, mostly typical carnival fare. Clint, though, seemed to thoroughly enjoy burning off a few thousand taste buds with jambalaya (extra hot) from the Cajun Wagon. Ice cream, lemonade, popcorn, pizza, hot dogs: all these are also available for those less daring (foolish?).

The kids (and me too, I admit) enjoyed strolling through the white canvas tents set up to house the wares available for sale. Here you can buy clothing and accessories for a realistic Civil War era costume. You can browse through antiques and reproduction goods that take you back to the 1860s. I’m pretty sure Jonah’s going to beg for a cork gun again, even though he has one from last time. And Lauren will probably settle for some maple sugar candy or a sugar stick. The coolest part for me, though, is that many of the people walking and shopping along with us are already dressed in full costume, men in uniform and women in dresses almost as wide as their spread arms. Kids too, sometimes, barefoot with straw hats and overalls or simple cotton dresses. Yeah, I always secretly want to buy a dress for myself, along with a pair of gloves and a hat and about ten thousand petticoats.

Did I mention that this year’s Muster starts tomorrow? Yeah, it lasts through Sunday. I checked out the weather forecast, and I think Sunday’s our day. 83 and partly sunny. Sounds perfect. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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