In John Mack Faragher's, _Sugar Creek_, he mentions that "pioneer" comes from the French term, "pionnier," which signified foot soldiers sent ahead of an army to clear the way. And later the westward moving pioneers are compared to nomadic bands.
Over the last month I have been given the opportunity to ponder about those pioneers, and about the blessings and curses that come with that drive. And I will apologize now, since I am trying to weave many memories, thoughts, and events in order to make up for my silence. I fear that there might be some tangles along the way.
The comparison with a nomadic tribe does not stretch far when it comes to the american pioneers; whereas nomads follow ancient routes in a cycle that is a rhythm in their lives the pioneers were going from one place to another - in hopes of a better place just over the hill. And that was whether they came from across the ocean, or the next state. And I will not retell the whole of history, which would recount how they dislodged other peoples in their course. Though that too has had its own pattern through the millennia.
Early in May one of the Chamber of Commerce directors was kind enough to invite me to attend the Governor's Prayer Breakfast, which I greatly appreciated. I had never been before, and this one in particular sounded like it would be worth going to, since the main speaker was to be Paul Rusesabagina, about whom the move “Hotel Rwanda" was made.
Unfortunately, Mr. Rusesabagina needed emergency surgery, and Mr. Endless, the senior advisor to his foundation spoke in his stead. Even told by another Mr. Ruseasabagina's story is a moving example of how conviction and a great heart can stand against unreasoning hatred. Mr. Endless said that one tool that Mr. Rusesabagina used was to keep asking questions - so his advisories had to enter into conversation with him. To deal with him as a another individual.
And as I listened I realized that Rwanda is a modern (unfortunately one of many) example of what happens when two peoples are thrown together, and differences stirred to an explosive, brutal, point.
And somewhere in the back of my mind I heard echo the last line of Dan Keding's story, "The Two Warriors," which ends with, ".. you cannot hate someone when you know their story."
A morning to humble one, and make you wonder if you could have such conviction and heart. And all I could hope is that I could use my gift of story to help in some small way.
As the month wended on I spent a wet and chill day at the St. Andrews' Highland Games in Chatham, Il. As someone said, "we've imported the weather again."
And chill and wet we may have been, but the sense of companionship held us in good stead, and the Games went on.
And between tales, wrapped in my plaid, I had the fun of speaking with many people who are seeking the trail of their ancestors - seeking back to when their various families were the wanderers seeking a glowing home.
With the ending of the month came the Clayville Spring Festival, and there was awakened the spirits of those long gone settlers as all of the volunteers poured out their love and energy to put on a spectacular 2 and half day event.
I was only able to be there on Saturday, and a hot Saturday it was. I went out with a friend who was volunteering, and was soon settled in a cabin to tell my tales.
For this day I was dressed in a civil war era gown (with hoops), and soon discovered the challenge of sitting in a chair with arms. And the greater challenge of telling while trying to keep the front of the hoop from flying up.
It was a wonderful day, with such a powerful sense of community. And the visitors were a gracious and attentive audience - whether it was the 80 year old man who had come to reminisce about when Dr. Preston had the cabins moved, or a 6 year old girl.
The end of the day also offered a chance for a little adventure as I took a ride in a real stagecoach.
The first adventure was just trying to in (now in modern clothing) as I tried to balance on the toe pad for the last lunge.
We only went around Clayville at a walk, but that was enough to bounce my teeth up into my nose, and threaten to bounce my head up into the ceiling.
My salute to all those ancestors who traveled by stagecoach. They were indeed far heartier than I.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.