Usually the 1860s farm is interpreted for the post Civil War years; however, during Texian Market Days, the interpretation is set back during the war. This is the fifth year I have participated in this event and the fourth year the house has been available to the Civil War re-enactors. The last three years we have had full access to the structure, staying in the house overnight in addition to our interpretation during the event.
The Ryan Prairie Home is not the original house that the Ryans lived in; that house burned in the 1880s and actually stood where the 1930s house is on the ranch. The house that stands here now, however, is typical to the houses of the family’s social status and was built within a couple of years of the original. The house contains two rooms down and two rooms up with the typical center hall; each room has its own fireplace. It also has a veranda up and down. The kitchen and dining room are separated from the house. The kitchen has a working wood stove. Vicki Betts told us over the weekend that the house is a near twin to a house she is familiar with in Tyler.
I arrived at the event site on Friday about 3:30. Vicki Betts had already arrived. We unpacked the cars and got settled in the upstairs bedrooms. Vicki was all prepared for this event with a new ensemble; new Atlanta History Center dress, new bonnet, new shawl, and shoes she had not yet worn.
My room was decorated based on descriptions given in the late 1860s. The bed is a typical rope bed. The photo has some of my modern stuff out and I apologize for that.
We sat on the porch in the rocking chairs a bit talking with some of the other participants and ranch staff, and then decided to head out for dinner. Other civilian participants continued to arrive throughout the evening.
I had a little excitement Friday evening. It was a typical reenactment night, lots of late night discussions fueled by several kinds of beverages. I finally start drifting off to sleep and coyotes start in. I have never heard a large pack of coyotes go into full song before. I have to admit it was kind of creepy and scary. I don’t mind the howling but the yipping is just unnerving to me. But that was not to be my last wildlife experience of the night.
I hard this small thud then a scurrying noise. I turn on the flashlight and there is a baby mouse lying on the floor trying to move away. I hear the same sound again and there is another baby mouse and momma this time running out of the light. I’m wondering where in the world the babies are coming from? They are just appearing out of nowhere on the floor. I turn out the light and figure the mother is going to come take them away. Sure enough a little bit later the babies on the floor are gone.
So I snuggle down into the feather bed and get nice and comfortable. Then I feel this little tickle on my arm and then little feet starting up the arm of my nightgown. I quickly turn on the flashlight and there goes momma scurrying across the pillows down toward the floor. At this point it is time to get out of that bed. But where did she go. I turn back the coverlet on the bed and find under the pillows a whole nest of about 7-8 babies; I had been lying my head on the poor things. At this point I decide to leave the bed to the mice. Figuring the mother will stay with the nest if I’m not there. I take my feather bed, cover the nest back up and head for the floor. Not very comfortable, but mouse free.
Saturday morning when I get up and go back to check the nest and she has moved the babies during the night. A ranch staff member removed the nest for me later that morning.
The morning was beautiful, cool and clear. And the view from the upstairs veranda was amazing. The event opened from the public at 9:00. Me, Vicki Betts, Nancy Tucker and a ranch staff member settled into the parlor and waited for the public to arrive. We had several activities with us to keep busy. In the morning we worked on bags and handkerchiefs for the soldiers’ box. It made for a wonderful ice breaker with the public explaining what the box was, what a housewife was, etc.
The skirmishes for the day was pretty much the same both times. We found Confederate wounded on our porch. Vicki Betts was great, she tended the wounded, we gave them a some crackers and fruit. Then all of a sudden Yankees came up and started taking the wounded away. This is where Vicki found her place, she started yelling at the Yankees to go away, to leave the wounded alone. The Yankees took them away anyway and shot them, which just sent Vicki into a tither! The Yankees started to hang one of the Confederates from our top porch and I went up to try to stop them. We then hear shots and the Yankee up stairs drops dead and we all go running into the house and close the door; other Confederates had come to save us. So the skirmish goes on and the Confederates take the day. Vicki is on the porch waving here hankie and greeting them, telling them to feed the dead Yankees to the alligator down in the creek. It was a great show for the public, they loved it and we had a good time playing.
After the show was over we were slammed with public coming through the house. At one point during the day, Nancy and I were the only ones in the parlor and there were tons of public with camera taking our picture; it was an odd feeling, I guess this is how the famous feel when they sit and pose for pictures all the time. It was like a news conference photo session.
The ranch had food delivered to the site for lunch but not enough was ordered apparently so we had cheese and fruit and crackers, which was more than enough in corsets.
In the afternoon we began working on the wallpaper envelopes. The visitors were very interested in them. The glue worked really well. The crowds started to diminish after the afternoon skirmish, which was pretty much the same as the morning.
That evening, as usual, the ranch provided us dinner; it was very good. After dinner Vicki and I went back to the house, loaded up most of our stuff in the cars. We sat up talking the rest of the evening and then to bed without mice! The event is only one day, but we’re allowed access to everything all weekend if we wish. Vicki left very early Sunday. I slept in a bit and then headed home.
I really like this event. It gives us a chance to help out the ranch, talk with the public and play a bit. Plus having an actual structure, a period structure is always a plus. According to the ranch staff they had 17,000 visitors for this event. The weather was a great help; it could not have been better. mid-70s, a light breeze, clear…beautiful. We opened the windows in the house and it was really cool to see the lace curtains fluttering in the breeze. The sunset was gorgeous. As we walked back to the house the sun was just about down and the oxen were silhouetted against the sunset; it was a true Texas postcard.
More pictures here.