Saturday, November 29, 2008

Living in the Past

With everything that has been happening lately in the world, it is tempting sometimes to wish we could go back to the Good Old Days. A time without I-pods, and cell phones, and Wiis, and 52 inch flat screen HD plasma TVs, and even blogs! There was a time when writing meant using a pen and paper and entrusting our mail to the pony express. Black Friday meant run for the storm shelter and the only time a bank needed a bail out was after the river rose too high. We could tell the good guys from the bad guys because the bandits wore bandannas over their faces.

Big Jim and I climbed out of our Winnebago time machine last May and found our selves in a South Dakota town stuck in 1880 . Oddly enough, it was called 1880 Town and we spent the entire summer there.

I worked in the barn most of the time but it was amazing how many people went through there on the way into town. I met people from almost every country in Europe as well as many visitors from Asian and African countries. Someone from every state in the Union purchased a ticket as well as every Canadian province. I enjoyed watching families enter, dragging a reluctant child or teen with them who were certain this would be a boring stop on the way to Mt.Rushmore. An hour or so later they had to drag them away to continue their journies. These children of the electronic age had suddenly experienced the world of imagination. They had gone to the costume shop and dressed in period clothing. Even the adults got a kick out of playing dress-up.

They visited the animals, wandered around the town, and even helped the sheriff capture bank robbers.

The Sheriff? That was Big Jim.He kept us all safe and never lacked for deputies when the children arrived. In that time of common sense, good values went a long way. Even the most famous bandits sometimes were rehabilitated and changed their ways.

But there was very little crime in 1880 Town so Big Jim took a second job. He was also one of the two saloon keepers, serving sarsaparilla to one and all. In 1880 this was perfectly acceptable. Now I think they call it conflict of interest.

The people who inhabited 1880 town were hard workers, creative spirits, and fun loving folks. Several lived nearby in the modern world and passed through the doorway into the past each morning. Scott was the resident artist responsible for much of the magic that had restored the town to it's authentic appearance. Jodie, the best darned cook in the Dakotas, was also a rodeo rider of wide fame. Joy , Mary ,and Lois kept everyone happily playing dress-up . Grace Trish and Kayla entertained in the saloon and also helped "tend bar".

Linda and Eddie kept the gas station running. Most wore more than one hat. Sassy Sonia, the second bar keep, was also a reporter in the modern world. She always seemed to know which hombres to interview.

Everyone worked hard but had great fun doing it. Each had an important job to oversee. One fellow we were delighted to meet was Don. Don has been at 1880 Town for 20 years. He comes every year from Nevada. He has no assigned position anymore. He simply is the guy we called whenever we needed help in any department. He hangs out in the station or at the diner. He occasionally drives a disabled person around town on a short tour. But like each of us he did have one particular responsibility.

Don was in charge of checking the swing.

Margie spent an entire summer cleaning every item on view. She polished jewelry and even vacuumed a long horn steer. Tom was the fix it guy. Extremely camera shy, there were not too many things he wouldn't attempt to fix. His wife Alberta, made sure we all got paid on time. Jake and Dotty, and James and Shirley were old hands who had been coming to 1880 town for years. We were certainly glad they were there to help all of us newbies learn the ropes.

Jerry and Peach were new Workampers like us. Jerry actually wore three hats. He worked in the station, led us in prayer and helped us keep focused, and even led a band of jolly bank robbers as the Laughing Bandit.

Peggy and Jerry, who were also new this summer, worked in the 1950s in the train diner with young, Joya and Gabe (who caused a commotion when he suddenly was transformed from the tall blond young man we all got to know into a dark haired teen overnight). Peggy kept everyone informed with the incredible amount of information she gleaned about the town, the train, and the entire area. Now, I don't want to single anyone out but you have to give a hand to a gal who went out of her way to pull more than her own weight.
We had a wonderful summer at 1880 town, thanks in part to all of these people . But we couldn't have made our trip back in time without Richard and Clarence and their ladies Anne Marie and Earline. Their vision is what made the town come alive . Their amazing antique collections are what they offer to people searching for a respite from the overwhelming technology that sometimes makes us long for a simpler time.

See ya down the road,

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