Thursday, October 12, 2017

Celebrating Pumpkin Moonshine 

Because of Tasha’s affinity with the 1830’s, Conner Prairie in Noblesville, Indiana was one of her favorite places to visit. Located east of Indianapolis, the village features log cabins, clapboard cottages, a restored inn and other buildings that were transported to the 19th century homestead of William Conner, my ancestor. In her old-fashion frocks, Tasha felt at home as she wandered the narrow streets and visited in the cottages that embraced her time period. On one hilltop stands Conner’s restored two-story brick home that overlooks the White River. Conner was both a trader and a statesman who could afford a grander home than the average settler.
On a mild October afternoon, my husband, John and I drove from our Michigan home down to Conner Prairie. We rolled by fields where brittle cornstalks waved their golden-brown leaves as flocks of Sandhill Cranes flew overhead, trumpeting their eerie cry. At last, we parked our car and slipped through the time warp of Conner Prairie, strolling toward a large barn that had been moved to a location near Conner’s home. The sun’s last rays illuminated the wide boards both as flooring and as siding for the barn. Inside, dozens of people scurried about, hanging streamers, setting up snacks on trestle tables, and storing musical instruments in one corner. Strings of lights twinkled. Every woman was dressed in an 1830’s gown while the gentlemen sported dark broadfall trousers, suspenders, high collared shirts and sometimes a satin waistcoat. Straw hats and bonnets still adorned smiling faces.
“She’ll be here soon,” Beth Mathers said as she hugged me. “Everyone, Tasha should be here in about five minutes.”
The sun painted sky orange and gold when Beth signaled for everyone to shush. We waited in the shadows, for the sound of Tasha’s footsteps. At last, her voice floated through the gloaming, and she appeared in a pale rose gown with a lace pelisse and wearing a large satin bonnet. We clapped and cheered as Tasha entered the barn, wide-eyed and astonished.
“Happy 50th Anniversary,” Beth said. “Fifty years of Pumpkin Moonshine.”
With Tasha as the honored guest, she picked up a plate and urged everyone to partake of the lovely spread of food. Friends clustered around Tasha, offering small gifts to commemorate her publishing successed. She rode in the first wagon ride through the dark village, and then small parties took their turns, rumbling by grazing sheep and oxen. Paul Peabody’s marionettes told stories and referred to Tasha’s days of performing with her creatures. A Conner Prairie interpreter tuned his fiddle and lined everyone up for the Virginia Reel with Tasha as the lead dancer. For a few hours, we explored the past’s entertainment with our beloved author and illustrator whom I was blessed to call a friend.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Afternoons

My sons and Tasha' grandsons in her canoe on Tasha's pond

Summer Afternoons
When I was a young mother, one of Tasha’s greatest gifts to me was her example of discipline. My husband, John and I were thinking of homeschooling our two sons, but I wondered how could I fit in even more work into both my creative and farm life? Like Tasha, we lived a fairly simple life with only a few solar panels for electricity, a wood cook stove that heated our house and our hot water, and a huge garden to feed the family.
“How did you manage?” I asked Tasha. “You raised four children without electricity, cared for your animals, garden, and established a career as an illustrator/author? And for a while, you home schooled your off-spring.” I didn’t add the book tours and countless other roles she had fulfilled.
“Yes,” Tasha said and stirred cream into her tea as we sat on her porch on a mild spring day. A few snow drops bloomed and her garden was stirring with hints of buds. A blue jay flashed by us.
“It takes a certain amount of discipline to accomplish goals, and, of course, my children had responsibilities. They weeded in the garden, helped with the animals, and performed in the marionette shows when we created. So they truly contributed to the life of the farm.”
I nibbled on a buttered biscuit with a sliver of cheddar cheese in its middle. Minus the marionette shows, my sons also attended to our goats and chickens and weeded in the garden with me.
“And I always made sure that if they finished their lessons and their work, we would spend part of the afternoon at the river. While they splashed and swam or paddled the canoe, I would sketch and find ideas for the next book or cards. But if they didn’t do their work, then we skipped that special treat.” Tasha sipped her tea. “They learned early that the discipline of completing their responsibilities was much better than staying home.”
Back at my home, I applied the same parenting technique to my boys. If they finished their lessons and jobs, then they could swim in our pond or dig in the sandy shore. Sitting at our picnic table in the shade of a tall maple tree, I could write letters or even read. Tasha’s wisdom was good advice, and today when I spy our quiet pond, I recall my sons enjoying the summer afternoon, just like Tasha’s children when they cooled off in their river.