Museum hosts fine day of frolicking

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2011

By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY — First things first. Let’s talk about this word “frolic.”
“That’s a Kaye word,” acknowledged Kaye Brown Hirst, executive director of Rowan Museum Inc.
Officials with the Old Stone House wanted to celebrate spring, a season of colored eggs, lambs, children running barefoot in the grass — you get the drift.
But folks from Rowan Museum also looked to usher in the season in Colonial style, given that the Old Stone House, the oldest in Rowan County, dates to 1766.
So people were invited Saturday to the “Colonial Spring Frolic.”
And there was a whole lot of frolicking going on, considering the dancing, spinning, musket-firing, candle-making and open-fire cooking.
Kids especially had fun in playing Colonial games, jumping over the flat rocks next to the creek campsite, coloring eggs with natural dyes and eating the exotic “scrag end ham soup,” which included several handfuls of chopped dandelions.
Umm, good.
“It’s a great way to herald in the spring,” said Hirst, dressed in her Colonial period costume, as were all the volunteers helping on site Saturday.
Seth and April Furr of Albemarle made it a morning adventure with their children, Justin, 9, and Mallory, 6.
“My son really enjoys history,” April Furr said. “We knew he would like this. … And it’s better to be outside than inside.”
The natural dyes used to color hard-boiled eggs included Mason jars filled with cooked down onion skins, violets, mixed greens and pokeberries (which grow out of the Old Stone House’s compost piles).
Rebecca Walters, 6, chose the pokeberries for her dye.
“I like pink,” she said.
Mallory Furr also went for the pokeberries. Justin Furr wanted a light blue egg, so he soaked his in the violets.
Then it was on to the candlemaking, supervised by Riley Jones, a sophomore student from Carson High School who routinely helps Rowan Museum Inc. at its events and summer history camps.
By constantly dipping a string suspended from a stick first into melted beeswax then into water, the children soon had their own candles. They could dip as long as they wanted.
“Once you get going, it really depends on how big you want your candles,” Jones said.
Amy Brown, Kaye’s sister from Greenville, S.C., was supervising both the egg coloring and the scrag end ham soup, corn bread and fatback being made over a fire.
Scrag end soup, Kaye Brown Hirst explained, is a “spring” soup that people from the18th century would have made, using what was left in their cellar from over the winter. Plus, they would have been excited to add fresh greens to the soup, such as the dandelions she had collected, chopped and threw into the mix that morning, because they ate few greens during the winter.
The Carolina Colonial Dancers, based out of Greensboro, performed frequently Saturday in the lawn in front of the Old Stone House. The eight dancers twirled, stepped and clapped their way to music that would have been equally at home on the lawn of President Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Todd Southard said the group dances at several events over the year, and the performers — when resting between numbers — keep in character by doing things such as playing card games or hand-sewing on garments.
Southard said he tries to interpret, for example, a Colonial tailor.
Ron Willis of Churchland brought his collection of period tools to display on one side of the Old Stone House. Through the years, he has picked them up at gatherings, such as primitive rendezvous events, “from here to Pennsylvania,” he said.
Willis was showing off things such as hand saws, drills, picks, planes, a leather vice and corn shucker.
He also is an accomplished artist and woodcarver. He specializes in intricately painting on turkey feathers. “Just a hobby,” he said.
Down at the creek, Robbie Cochran established a comfortable campsite at a place where members of the Michael Braun family probably washed their clothes and played in the cool waters of what is thought to be a middle fork of Crane Creek.
Cochran has been doing things and helping around the Old Stone House for 27 years.
Close to lunch, Cochran was cooking some marinated pork over the coals of his wood fire — good for roasting and stewing. He offered a piece of bread and “stinky” cheese to one of his visitors, 5-year-old Ava Whitaker, who walked down with her grandfather, Bob.
Ava climbed over the rocks and bravely went to the water’s edge. Later, Cochran prepared to fire his long, smooth-bore Fowler gun, which he built himself.
The gun’s “Ka-boom” vibrated through the chests of visitors and echoed across the woods. Cochran invited Ava to take in the sulfur-like smell of the blast by putting her nose at the end of the barrel. “Ewww,” Ava said, taking a whiff.
Who knew a spring frolic could smell so good.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.