Friday, July 4, 2008

Campin' out with the Nineteenth

Okay, before we start, just to make sure we are on the same page: in Hungary, in high school, American history was discussed in about 40 minutes or less. The only thing we heard about the Civil War was Gettysburg (that's how it's possible that when I "went down South" some of my friends thought I was in South America. Go figure.) So my first (and most complete) source of information about the war was Gone with the wind (and you can guess the rest). Ever since I came here, I was kinda picking up the pieces of American history and putting them together to get the bigger picture - I had a lot of help from nice people like Carolyn Stearns (who tells wonderful civil war stories) and Marilyn Kinsella (my fairy godmother during the St. Louis Festival who introduced me to the Museum of Westward Expansion and the whole Lois and Clark story) and so forth.
Now that I'm in the South, and I have Civil War soldiers camping out under my very window, I saw an opportunity no decent storyteller is allowed to miss. Go behind the scenes of historical reenactment.
("Civil War soldiers under your window? Wow! Which side?" "Whaddaya mean which side?! I'm in the South for heaven's sake, do you honestly think they would let a bunch of Yankees camp out there?!")
So this evening, after the "public" went home, and I got back from another mind-blowing evening of contra dancing (no need to explain - someone please marry me already!!!), I just walked into the camp, so ruining my reputation as a decent lady forever and ever (and I couldn't care less, really). The soldiers were a bit surprised at first; they were just getting ready for dinner and they were starting the campfire and I bet they were glad all the people went home with their questions, and then here is that weird young lady with the strange accents, marching into the camp and she doesn't look like she is planning on leaving anytime soon. Well, the Southerners are all gentlemen of course, so they offered me a seat and they kinda gathered around, and I started asking them about the war and stuff, and no matter how silly my questions were, they kept answering, and they told me the story of their regiment, and it was just THE perfect history lesson. The ice broke, we started talking, night settled in, and we continued talking among the firebugs and the candles; I told a Hungarian story to the soldiers, and it was a blast, I had so much fun (I told them about the siege of Eger, a story every kid in my country grows up with - I never thought one day I'd tell it in a Confederate camp and the soldiers would go "woooow" over it... talk about the right story at the right place. Another precious moment I'll never forget)
And we kept on talking into the night until I felt like I was gonna pass out (and, well, walking into a camp as a lady is one thing and passing out in a camp as a lady is another thing...) so I said goodnight to the soldiers, promised to visit them again tomorrow, and walked back to the 21th century side of the creek.
The North might have won the war - the South has won my heart.
(All my Yankee friends will just have to deal with it. I still love them too, though;)

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