The last fort trip to Richardson and Belknap just might have been the most exciting of the four excursions. After a wrong turn down a curvy road and a stop to take care of carsickness related to said road, we arrived at Fort Richardson.
The sedate entrance gave little indication of the fun that was to come. After receiving our parking sticker, we pulled around to the main parking lot into…
…a swarm of elementary students!
Eight hundred kids joined us on our adventure into Richardson, and what an adventure it was! Our first stop included tents filled with old-school items for sale, like bonnets, old buttons and wooden rifles. Men and women dressed in character, complete with top hats and hoop skirts, managed each location. Editor Ana Wraight and I tried on bonnets, tried out silk fans and admired 19th century garb for sale.
It’s always fun to talk to kids. Over by the ruins of the “guard house,” or prison, a bunch of students, as they stood where the jail cells were, regaled me with their stories of how they ended up in prison. One little guy proudly proclaimed killing a guy for his horse.
And that wasn’t even the best part!
I loved interviewing the in-character actors. I remember when I was younger and went to historical locations like these. There were actors who spoke as if they were really those characters – and would never break character to talk with me! I wanted to know about them! How do you become a character actor? What do you think of this place? Speak to me!
These actors were awesome! Not only did they act for me on camera, but they had real conversations with me (mayhap it was because I’m an adult now?). One woman put on a show of being a nurse, complete with complaints about how messy the soldiers were and all the blood and guts she had to clean up after a surgery.
Another lady told me about women soldiers in the Civil War – they would dress up in disguise as men. Some were even officers! The lone horsemen on the site galloped his horse toward my camera. Belle, the horse, had one beautiful blue eye and a green mouth, probably from his late-morning snack. The cavalry man told us about Belle and his job riding her around in the midst of reenacted cannon shots and gunfire.
There was so much action going on, it was a shame to leave the fort. But we were hungry. After a quick picture with an infantryman and his gun, we had a great home-cooked buffet meal at The Green Frog, recommended by one of the period actresses.
On to Fort Belknap!
Though people were not swarming the grounds of Belknap, it was still a very interesting fort to end our tour. We drove up to one of the barracks, where there was a garage sale going on! Not your typical fort activity.
The garage-salers informed us that people use the old barracks now for family reunions and various other activities. In what used to be the commissary, we perused the museum of items stored there. It included a great deal of historical artifacts from around the mid-1800s. We saw old dentist equipment, medicine bottles with some medicine still in them, diaries of Newcastle settlers and various pictures and newspaper clippings. It was quite the history lesson.
The most beautiful part of the fort was a large picnic area completely covered by a grapevine arbor. When you walked into the area, the twisted, intertwined vines obscured the sky and provided a great deal of shade, especially on those hot Texas days like we had this summer. You could spend an entire day just looking at the intricacy of the vines!
I will always remember our four fort trips, not just for the education, but for the timeless beauty of old things restored.
Be looking for our Texas Forts Trail book set to come out in the fall of 2012! You won’t want to miss it!