Historic Words and Fibers

History resonates in every Fort Umpqua Days celebration as people come from many places to share a glance back to the early days of Elkton, Oregon. The reconstructed British Hudson’s Bay Company fort provides a centerpiece for the gathering. This year a number of reenactors came to give the fort even more authenticity.

Reenactor Karen “Many Voices” Haas spinning

In the above photo reenactor Karen Haas, who describes herself as a weaver of words and fibers, spins yarn on a drop spindle while wearing period dress, such as you might have seen in the days of the original Fort Umpqua.

This is the period of my two published books, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds. But the drop spindle is a device so ancient that I describe a character using one in an upcoming book that goes back roughly 3,500 years. I was glad to watch Karen spin with a drop spindle so I could see how she made it spin. This will help me describe how my ancient character spins with hers. More than one of my characters can be called weavers of story and thread. I think they share an affinity with Karen “Many Voices” Haas.

I had a chance to visit with Karen Sunday afternoon when she stopped at my booth where I was selling my books. After I closed up shop I went down to the fort with my daughter Carisa to see some of the reenactors, and there was Karen outside a Hudson’s Bay Company tent (it must have been an HBC tent because they were waving an HBC flag). And she was spinning. We recognized each other and it took me a moment to realize what exactly she was doing. But there it was. She was working a drop spindle. Every once in a while she would put the spindle against her billowy skirt and stroke her hand across it to keep it turning. Then she would reach up again and make sure the yarn was coming out in an even thread. An amazing process. So ancient. So elegant in its simplicity, yet no doubt requiring considerable skill and practice.

With that we wrapped up another Fort Umpqua Days enjoying a delightful glimpse into our past. Thanks to Karen for showing us one significant thread of that story.

History Lived in Old Oakland

Oakland’s first Living History Day echoed with laughter and story as folks stepped back more than a century for a little taste of the good old days. That’s the historic town of Oakland, Oregon, where the echoes never quite stop. Today as we vendors and exhibitors set up our booths the stage rolled in.

oak-15Oh-oh! Shotgun just had to check his cell phone.

oak-8He did what?

He’s checking his cell. Doesn’t he know? We’re in the 19th century now.

Snort. He’s not quite in uniform yet. Like us.










Ah! And like Mr. Tim Mitchell who showed up in an authentic frock coat with genuine beaver hat. Quite dapper.

But wait! Something’s going on down at the Hokey Pokey Jail. There’s a distinguished-looking couple. Why, it’s Mr. and Mrs. Forbes, Lynn and Gordon.

But the sheriff looks downright nervous. Watch out, Deputy. Something might be amiss.

oak-9No. Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. The President and First Lady are here. I did promise, didn’t I? Abe and Mary. Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. What a handsome pair.

oak-12Don’t look now, but the can-can ladies have just sashayed over to the Hokey Pokey Jail and they might have to dance the hokey pokey and turn themselves in–around, that is.

oak-13My daughter Carisa Cegavske snapped this photo of me when she stopped by my booth while covering this rollicking event for The News-Review. I’m happily displaying my books The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own.

oak-11oak-18Next to me, in the Pavilion, spinners spun. That’s Chris Gorecki at left and Jana Cunningham below.

Note the old treadle sewing machine behind Jana.

My booth was in the Oakland City Park, so that narrowed my view to only those activities in the park.

Beyond the park, booths lined the streets around town with fur bedecked teepees and a feed grinder at work, a blacksmith, and much much more. The DAR rang their bells and mountain men made loud noises with their muzzleloaders, although given the fire danger they weren’t allowed to create the necessary spark to oak-19fire the rifles.

After hours of clip-clopping around the streets of Oakland, the black-and-white team grew weary. The hostlers made a quick change of horses and the new team brought the stagecoach back around for more riders to take a spin.

Shotgun has long since donned his uniform and not a cell phone in sight.

oak-14All in all, a fun day, and I sold quite a few books. Other vendors had a good day too. I think the Oaklanders may be onto something here.