Hickory Ridge Living History Museum is offering an educational adventure for homebound kids and overworked parents. On Saturday, September 12, from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m., families can enjoy a “High Country Rendezvous” – a commemoration of the days when mountain men gathered to exchange and replenish supplies needed to survive the harsh winter months.
Kids may be surprised that pioneers couldn’t order what they needed online or pick up items from a store. It was a time when every tool, every piece of clothing had to be made by hand and craftsmanship was held in high esteem. Not only were these mountain men skilled in the tools of their grade, they were raconteurs. Young people will learn the meaning of this word when they meet Steve Ricker, Director of Interpretation for the Overmountain Victory Trail. Mr. Ricker will be demonstrating the skills of the blacksmithing trade and no doubt he will have a tale or two to tell. He is descended from Isaac Morgan of the Nolichucky Settlement, located in what is now the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee. In 1772, the Nolichucky Settlement, along with the Watauga Settlement at Sycamore Shoals, leased their land from the Cherokee and established the first independent American constitutional government west of the Appalachians. In 1780, Ricker’s ancestor, Isaac Morgan, served under Colonel John Sevier in the Battle of Kings Mountain.
Inspired by his personal ancestry, Mr. Ricker is committed to preserving the old ways. “My passion lies in the ability to teach and share my knowledge and skills with people from all walks of life, be it Native American or Frontier skills, highlighting the importance of good craftsmanship.” To do so, he utilizes the techniques and materials used by early frontiersmen and Native cultures, including weaponry and hide tanning for clothing and moccasins.
Jim Bordwine, a raconteur from Poor Valley, VA, knows his salt history reaching all the way back to the time when woolly mammoths roamed the countryside. His family has lived in the area around Saltville since the 1770s. He has dedicated his life to educating the public about the traditional craft of making salt.
For twenty-eight years, Bordwine was a living history reenactor, many of them for the Confederate Cavalry Mounted.
“I decided I was too old to keep falling off the horse,” he says, so now I concentrate on teaching about salt – why salt making is so important. Folks don’t seem to realize it ain’t been that long ago our parents and Godparents were still living without electricity in these mountains. So when they’d have meat that they had to keep, there weren’t refrigerators. They had to salt that meat down to keep it from spoiling.”
Nicky Spinks, who for many years played the character Widow Howard in “Horn in the West,” will be hand-dipping candles in Tatum Cabin. There will be spinners and weavers a-plenty in Coffey Cabin. Garrett Jackson, an historical map enthusiast, will be showing early American maps and talking about 18th and 19th century land grants and how they were drawn. Woodworker, Caleb Miller, will be whittling and showing handcrafted bowls and spoon. Conrad Shirk, who demonstrates colonial coffee making over an open fire, will have a sample to offer, and herbalist, Freda Greene, will talk about high country plants that early settlers collected for tea, seasoning food, and medicine-making.
Salt-maker, Jim Bordwine, expresses the general sentiment underlying the event. “I think every school ought to be teaching a class on local history and about our culture and hour heritage. This is something near and dear to my heart. We’re unique. There were good folks here before we come to this country, but these mountains, these people are unique. It’s something you ain’t gonna find nowhere else in the world.”
Admission for High Country Rendezvous is $10 for Adults and $7 for children, ages 5-12. Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, 591 Horn in the West Drive, Boone, NC. Under NC Phase 2.5 Guidelines, all visitors will be required to wear masks. Small groups will be rotated in and out of the Museum’s historic cabins to accommodate social distancing requirements.