Saturday, March 30, 2019

What's appeal of historic rural homesteads?

pioneer log cabin (screengrab from Cracker Country video)
Screengrab of log cabin at Cracker Country in Tampa.
Photo credit: City of Tampa video
Sometimes I wonder why I'm so interested in rural pioneer life. My posts often veer toward country-living topics rather than city doings. Yet both deserve equal attention.

I grew up in New York City when it was the most populous city in the country. My grandparents had a rustic summer bungalow about a two-hour (in those days) drive from the loud, crowded neighborhoods I and my extended family called home. And I mean rustic. The bungalow had no running water, no electricity, and no bathroom. It was small, with exposed ceiling beams.

I thought it the height of fun to run across the narrow lane and get water from an old-fashioned iron pump. At night, I'd fall asleep in a room crowded with siblings and cousins, listening to the adults talking and playing cards on the porch in the glow of kerosene lamplight.

Very nostalgic. Very not me. I lead a simple life in a midsize town with all the modern conveniences needed and wanted. In younger adulthood, I loved to tent camp in Florida forests and parks with family and friends. But I couldn't live in pioneer conditions unless my survival depended on it. Not then, not now. Kill and pluck a chicken? Yikes.

Yet my interest in that era and way of life persists. I'm not alone, either. I continually find evidence of re-created rural homesteads the more I research Florida pioneer history. They appear to be popular with visitors young and old. The older ones remember the good parts of the past, the way I've enshrined memories of  my bungalow vacations. The younger ones learn of a time before smart phones and the Internet.

As an aside, I think these museums need to step up programming to include more about the lives of marginalized peoples of earlier times. Many places are starting to incorporate such history, but more details need to emerge.

My time in the old country bungalow was brief - weekends and short summer stays - but full of relatives and laughter. Most of all, full of love. And maybe that's what I and everyone else really grasp from these portraits of the past. The human connection is what matters most.

Here's another tourist-oriented rural homestead to visit: Cracker Country on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. I haven't been there yet, but will visit when possible. Am especially intrigued by the Carlton family connection.  I used to work at Stetson University, which was Doyle Carlton Sr.'s alma mater and to which he donated generously as an alumnus. The student union, popularly called the CUB, is actually named Carlton Student Union.

Thank you, readers, for letting me ramble in this post. I'll get back to basics next month!

Cracker Country in Tampa: