BARRINGTON FARM — WASHINGTON, TEXAS

Washington-on-the-Brazos (or, simply, Washington) sits on the Brazos River in Washington County, Texas, about 75 miles northwest of Houston. Founded when Texas was still a part of Mexico, the settlement was later the site of the 1836 signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

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The Barrington Living History Farm is a living museum farm homestead closely approximating the mid-19th century farm founded by Dr. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas.  Cotton, corn, cattle and hogs are still raised here using period techniques.

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 The 1844 Anson Jones Home was moved to the site in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration. The recreated outbuildings include two slave cabins, a kitchen building, a smokehouse, a cotton house and a barn.

(Federal civil rights legislation enacted in recent decades now precludes the homestead from maintaining actual slaves on site, notwithstanding that this would be clearly desirable from an authenticity point of view.)
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The lady in the blue striped blouse is on the official welcoming committee of the homestead, and —permit me to say — what a fine job she does of it!! The idiosyncratic positioning of her hands is open to various interpretations. But her right one seems to be saying, «Step right up, folks!»

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And speaking of interpretations, the ones offered by our «period-costumed» guides were truly invaluable for appreciating the homestead with all its features, appurtenances, implements, and historical nuances.

On certain occasions — although not this one — samples of edibles prepared on site by these same guides are available for partaking by hungry (or just curious) souls.

But there was homemade cornbread today for feeding to the chickens, which we did. And what a deeply moving experience! Of which hundreds of millions of city dwellers across our planet remain blissfully ignorant.

 

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The «period-interpreter» in the blue bonnet is demonstrating the proper manner of food preparation using the tools and methods of that specific time and place.

 

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Now, as for her sudden paroxysm of uncontrollable laughter (in case you were wondering) — that was occasioned by one of her visitor’s suggesting that life today must surely be simpler and easier, now that we have flushing toilets and computers.

 

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The cute kid with the curly hair is seen stepping up to the plate. (Or is it a bowl? The preponderance of baseball idioms in our daily discourse always confuses me.)

He is taking a sampling of scruptuous homestead-made corn bread to feed to the chickens we spoke of previously.

Millions of bushels of corn worldwide go to feeding pigs and cattle, having been cultivated expressly for that purpose. So it’s comforting to know that our chickens are also getting their piece of the action.

 

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Good luck getting your kids to help with your laundry, all while laughing about it as if it’s the funnest thing that’s happened to them all year.

Sad to relate, such things happen only in a “living history museum”. (But in case you hadn’t noticed, the term «living history» is itself suspiciously oxymoronic. And that we need museums to keep history alive is, arguably, itself lamentable. )

 

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But the kid with the stick and the wheel — what is he up to?

Have you heard of hoop trundling?
Apparently not, if you needed to ask.

Hoop trundling, also called hoop rolling, is both a sport and a child’s game in which a large hoop is rolled along the ground, generally by means of an implement wielded by the player. (Spoken orders alone — e.g., «Roll!» — rarely achieve the desired effect, although this has been often tried.)

The aim of the game is to keep the hoop upright for long periods of time.

Or to do various tricks.

Or, more practically, to convince your parents or nanny that you are incredibly busy these days perfecting your hoop-trundling skills for gold-medal potential in the next Olympic Games. Meaning that any availability on your part for household chores, homework, or the like anytime soon is highly unlikely.

 

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You can see that Rabbi Gideon Moskovitz and his congregant David Cohen are deeply absorbed in their play.  Rumor has it that years ago these two would enjoy this game quite regularly. But that is all I am going to say right now about their checkered past.

Who actually won this round has not been recorded for posterity. But from the placement of the board, it is no wonder that one or both of them seems momentarily stumped.

 

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The blue and white pitcher and bowl are examples of delftware, a form of pottery characteristic of (and originating in) Delft, the Netherlands. Granted, these specimens may be cheap American imitations.

The important thing to understand here is that an 1836 Texas homestead didn’t have indoor plumbing. So, if you were hoping to wash your hands and face after nocturnal sleep, you would prepare your water the night before in said pitcher — or maybe you could get the maid to do it. (But whence the water, then? More on this later.)

 

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The toys in this cradle bespeak a simplicity and innocence long gone. Batteries not included (nor needed).

 

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Well, thank heaven for this firearm, or we might have forgotten entirely what state we were in. (And if not for that powder horn we might have forgotten which century we were in.)

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This washbasin cum washboard was Maytag’s original flagship product — 100% guaranteed against electrical failures of any kind.

These kids seem to have gotten the hang of manual washing techniques pretty quickly.

 

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As we were saying earlier, water had to be brought from the well to the house without plumbing, in a very low-tech fashion. These three boys here provide a graphic demonstration of this back-breaking endeavor.

 

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As the visit to the homestead winds down, these kids are all smiles. They’ve experienced some of the beauty of a life close to nature and God’s green earth, and they like what they’ve seen.

 

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The Texas bonnet lady bids us a warm farewell. «Come back now real soon, y’all!»

Well, yeah, that cottage has a certain charm all its own, if we wanted to be charitable. But on the balance, we’ve seen better.

On the other hand, don’t laugh — the mortgage is paid.

 

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