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Rep. Mel Watt visits Rowan History Camp

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., commanded a grub hoe Thursday morning and said the work reminded him of his childhood.
ěIím pretty much home doing this kind of stuff,î Watt said. ěIíve been here before.î
Watt was visiting the Bank Street property of Salisbury artist Clyde Overcash. There, children participating in Rowan Museumís Summer History Camp 2008 were learning some of the chores that occupied young people of the 1800s.
The children peeled apples and weeded a garden.
And they hoed and sweated.
ěWe call this the dirtiest camp in town,î said Kaye Hirst, executive director of Rowan Museum.
Watt, in his eighth term as congressman for North Carolinaís 12th District, peeled down to a white T-shirt as he prepared for the work. He hung his long-sleeve dress shirt nearby.
ěThatís the biggest challenge,î Watt said, ěbeing dressed appropriately for all the places I have to visit.î
This week, Watt has visited about 20 work sites within the 12th District, learning some of the tasks that keep his constituents busy.
ěI want to see what people in my district do,î Watt told the children at the camp. ěI peeled potatoes at a food bank.î
Hirst interrupted the congressman, telling him he didnít have anything on her campers, who had themselves peeled potatoes Wednesday.
Watt said he grew up in Mecklenburg County, in the country outside Charlotte. As a boy, he did a variety of gardening tasks, he said.
The property that campers visited Thursday belongs to Overcash, a popular Salisbury artist. One of the houses at the site was part of the Confederate Prison, where thousands of Union soldiers died during the Civil War.
Overcash maintains the property ó including a variety of old houses ó much as it would have looked during the mid 1800s.
Hirst said the setting was appropriate for the campersí lessons.
ěWeíre trying to teach them all kinds of tasks that kids their ages would have had 100 or more years ago,î she said.
Overcash seemed to enjoy it all, reminding students the ground they were tilling had once been part of the Confederate Prison.
ěWe may find something from the Civil War,î Overcash told the children as they hacked at the ground. ěWe may find something from the prison.î

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