We got to go to New Harmony's Heritage Days yesterday with some other homeschoolers. I know the kids were thinking I was crazy when we had to stand in the parking lot for a half hour waiting for everyone to arrive (so we could get the group discount), but once we got started they had so much fun.

First, we went into the Atheneum and up some ramps, to watch a nine minute film about New Harmony. One of the moms in our group was a fetus in her mother's belly during the filming of the movie, so we know it's about 32 years old. It wasn't terribly interesting, but it was fun to be in the theater. Then we went back down the ramps (there were lots of strollers in our group) and outside.

There were oxen hanging out just out the back door of the Atheneum. More on that later.

The band leader (on the right) spoke to us for awhile about Civil War stuff. We learned that there was a 9 year old boy who enlisted in the Civil War and served for three years as a drummer boy. He was from Evansville and is buried in Oak Hill cemetery. (He also mentioned that cemeteries were set up as botanical gardens, and so that cemetery has lots of varieties of trees, all labeled - good to know for future reference.) They demonstrated different drum beats and horn...blows? whatever... that would signal different things to the troops, then they did a few short songs. 

Then we got to listen to Yul Brenner tell us about his oxen. (Okay he wasn't really Yul Brenner, but he was a dead ringer.) This turned out to be a big hit. These two are named Charlie and William. William is the whiter one on the left. He's a teenager and Charlie is a bit older, so he's learning how to operate in a yoke from Charlie. The most fascinating part of this is what the handler told us about the oxen's emotions. He said that another of his oxen, George, had a partner ox who died. When the handler came out to that morning and saw the dead partner, George was standing beside him with tears rolling out of his eyes, and he refused to leave his partner. It was very moving. He said often when a handler dies, the oxen will die soon thereafter. He said his friend, who was an ox handler, died last September, and by Christmas all four of his oxen had died as well. They form bonds with each other and with their human handlers that last a lifetime. Now I feel kind of bad eating beef. Why do they have to be so delicious?

Penny just couldn't keep her hands off William. They were very gentle animals and seemed to like the children petting them.

Afterwards we had a picnic in a grassy area under the bridge to Illinois at the Wabash river. Lucy took this picture of the sun through the clouds. It was an extremely fun day. 


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