Living History

My family and I have been historical reenactors for many years, and I delight in visiting living history farms wherever I am traveling. This summer on our trip through Texas, we happened upon the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historical site.

The farm was originally settled by the Sauer-Beckmann family in 1900. This turn-of-the-century Texas-German farm family went on to have ten children, one of whom served as midwife at the birth of President Johnson. The family sold the farm to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and it was opened to visitors in 1975.

Costumed interpreters carry out the day-to-day activities of an early 1900’s farm by feeding animals, gathering eggs, cooking meals, tending the garden, canning and butchering. Although I have visited many sites like this farm, I always find I still learn something new.

Here is what I learned:
  • If you put a small ball of cotton on a string and tie it to the top of the screen door, the bounce of the cotton will keep the flies off the screen and discourage them from coming in the house.
  • It is important to work smarter and not harder, especially when you have ten kids. (These ten kids, by the way, had their own bunk house away from the main house.)
  • Filling pin cushions with hair from a lady’s brush helps keeps the steel pins lubricated and keeps them from rusting.
  • You can store meat for up to a year if you submerge it in lard.
  • If the lard goes rancid, you can use it to make soap.
  • Use EVERYTHING! Turkey feathers make a good broom.
  • Beauty is important. Put up blue wall paper in the parlor if you can.  
  • After all the hard work is through, it is still important to remember where your help comes from.

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  

Psalm 121.1


Waco – A Transforming Experience

A dear friend of mine moved to Waco, Texas, three years ago. I really did not know much about Waco except for a vague recollection that there had been an odd cult there, a factory explosion and perhaps some UFOs. (Wait, maybe that was in New Mexico.)

My interest in Texas increased in February when my son moved to Dallas to begin a new career. While looking for ways to learn more about Texas, I came across the HDTV show Fixer Upper. In the show, Chip and Joanna Gains help people choose a house, and then they help them fix it up into a lovely, welcoming home. In addition to home design, they have opened a community gathering spot in downtown Waco that includes a store, bakery and gourmet food trucks. They have created a historic Bed and Breakfast and have a restaurant opening soon.

I visited Waco last month, and the “Can Do” mentality of the people there surprised me. I live in California where the prevalent culture is that everyone is entitled to more and more from the government, schools and community. But here, I witnessed individuals counting on themselves to make the difference.

Walking along the river that runs through town one sunny morning, I discovered that it used to be a place filled with crime and drug deals, but through a concerted effort of the community to clean up the area, along with the partnership of the local law enforcement, the river trail is now full of walking mothers, biking teens and jogging athletes enjoying the shady paths. As we took our walk, we came across a Waco police officer – on horseback! He greeted us with his slow, Texas drawl, spoke with us a moment and then plodded along to make sure all was well and safe.

I visited Antioch Church while in Waco and discovered that members of the church go out into the schools each week to read with the students. This has caused a significant improvement in testing scores in the Waco schools while providing the students with friendship and mentorship too.

We went to breakfast in the worst part of town one morning and ate at Lula Jane’s. The bakery is owned and operated by Nancy Grayson, whom I had the delightful opportunity to meet. She excitedly told us that she was building small, ecologically sound homes in the depressed neighborhood surrounding the bakery and selling them for what they cost her so that she can take the money and build more, providing improved housing in the neighborhood which encourages others to fix up the area too. While she is not busy cooking, baking and building homes, she works with the students Rapoport Academy Charter School which she founded.

My friend told me that a longtime Waco resident she knows has observed the positive influence of a community coming together to transform Texas into a better place, and she said, “I can finally say I am proud to be from Waco.”

My son wants us to move to Texas. With two daughters and many friends still in California, I am not sure I am ready to consider that possibility yet. However, it was exciting to visit a community that believes that the Waco citizens have the power and resources to transform their own community for the better.

Community Connections

I am currently reading The Benedict Option by Rod Drecher, a book given to me by my daughter for Mother’s Day. One of the chapters in the book discusses the importance of building community ties to stand against the tide of modernity.

For hundreds of years of history, one of the ways people celebrated the joy of being part of a community was through dance.

Today, many people are lonely. They think they have “friends” because they have received a lot of “likes” on Facebook, but what they are missing through social media is the ability to work together with others to create something of great beauty and lasting memories.
Creating large group dance patterns with other people of various ages and backgrounds seems impossible. But it is not when you have a dance caller who teaches each dance before the music begins and then calls out the steps as the dance progresses.

I have been a Victorian Era dance caller for eleven years, and last weekend I asked the families at the San Luis Obispo History Day how many of them had been part of a social dance before. Only a couple of people raised their hands. And yet, 300 people stood up to give it a try and were delightfully successful in making new connections and happy memories with old and new friends.

For Information on how you can host a community building event like this, go to!