I have a lot of fun with the elementary school children at Four Mile Historic Park. In my introduction, I talk about the horses, warning them about being kicked or bitten. I then show them my missing finger. That gets the message across, even after I tell them it was not a horse. When there are several Latino kids in the group, they learn that my name in Spanish is Nueve.
One of my favorite things is to get some of the girls aside and ask them if they know the secret. They don’t know, of course. I tell them, “Girls are smarter than boys.” There are several reactions. With several girls, it is “Yes!” with some high fives. With first or second graders, they are a bit surprised, but agree. With older girls, they usually nod sagely. They all like hearing it from an old man.
Parents and teachers also like hearing it. I tell them about the Bill Clinton Society. That is the organization of men whose wives are smarter than they are. Women and men all agree that all men are members, with a big laugh.
I also make a point of establishing myself as a big storyteller. They learn that some of my stories are true, some not so true. I do say when I am not lying, as how I really lost my finger.
Often, I tell them about my grandmother Pearl driving a wagon from Texas to Colorado in 1887 when she was 12. The link to that story is here.
Another thing we show the children is the fuel for campfires the pioneers used out on the prairie. We ask them what fuel they would have used where there was little firewood. The answers are usually grass, rocks, or wood. “No wood, grass burns too fast, rocks don’t burn. They used Buffalo Chips.”
We hold one up. They don’t quite understand until we say “Dried buffalo poop.” “Eww!” is the universal response. They then learn that it was the task of the children to gather the stuff. They begin to understand that life on the trail was not very easy.
The children visiting Four Mile have fun, I have fun, and we all learn something. The main thing I have learned is that the kids are bright, fun-loving, and they enjoy learning. Most of the teachers encourage the learning and fun. Some of the teachers are only interested in control. We all had too many of them. I do my best to counter that attitude. This is my fourth year at Four Mile. In that time, only three children have been a big problem out of the thousands I have met. I hope to meet and have fun with many more.