Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bull Run

Giddy with the success of last week's outing into the wilds of D.C, I thought we'd keep the momentum rolling with another Educational (shhh!) Field Trip. This time we braved great hardship--summer heat, tired legs, Northern Virginia traffic (GRRR! a special version of Hell...)--to visit Manassas, site of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run during the Civil War.

Derek is old enough at this point to really appreciate--and maybe even be a little bit awed by--the fact that we were standing on exactly the same spot that the fighting occurred 150 years ago. Each time we paused to study the historical markers, I could see him trying to picture the wartime scene in his head. I wonder if it seemed as unreal to him as it did to me, that the peaceful green fields, covered with gently-waving grass, were once overrun in a violent, thunderous melee of rifle-bearing soldiers, mounted generals, and cannons. Growing up in relative safety and prosperity in modern-day U.S.A., Derek may not fully grasp what life was like in the 1800s, but after a few hours of tromping around dusty dirt paths in the afternoon sun, he remarked with a grin, "Whew, I am SO grateful for air-conditioning!" I couldn't help pointing out that while he was counting his blessings, he should also give thanks for: his clean, practically-new cotton shorts and t-shirt (rather than filthy, tattered, woolen uniform); sturdy sneakers (as opposed to holey boots, or feet wrapped in rags); and most of all, the cooler full of fresh snacks and cool drinks (best not to think of the alternative)! Oh, and did I forget to mention "not being shot at"? Or "being able to sit down in the shade and rest"? (While it's true that we were there in August, the same month that both Bull Run clashes occurred, clearly the resemblance ends there!)

While Derek's logical left-brain was busy focusing on the tactical aspects, Riley found the buildings and people to be the most interesting part. He enjoyed examining how things looked in the "old days", and reading about what everyday life was like back then. The furnishings, the utensils, the descriptions of how things were made and used--this is what fascinated him. His eyes roamed the recreated rooms of Stone House and Brawner Farm, taking in details like the uneven wood floors, the brick fireplaces utilized for warmth and cooking, and the candles that provided light. ("No electricity"? His eyes widened in shock at that one. Surprisingly, but fortunately, he neglected to inquire about...ahem...restroom facilities in the 19th century!) These discussions centered around the more "sociological aspects" of the War Between the States...such as the Plantation Lifestyle the South was so desperate to preserve, the utterly heinous practice of keeping human beings as slaves, and the inspiring courage of people like Harriet Tubman, assisting others to gain freedom.

It's no wonder, then, that when we were finished with all of our marching and chatting, our brains felt as exhausted as our feet! History is awesome, especially up-close and personal like this, but as we pulled into McDonald's for an icy soda to soothe our parched throats on the drive back to Maryland, sweaty, drooping Derek summed it up for us: "When we get home, I'm going to lie on the couch and watch a little TV" (spoken with a weary sigh). And so, back to the Modern World we happily return!

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