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By Staff | Aug 3, 2012

It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since Civil War Days were last held in Pipestone. And I still can’t believe that I was hornswoggled into participating in that event.

I should have known better. Myron “Crazy Coot” Koets, a Pipestoner and manure spreader salesman extraordinaire, beguiled me into being part of Civil War Days. Myron could sell bottled water to a drowning man, so I was bamboozled by one of the best. But bamboozled nonetheless.

During the 2010 Pipestone Civil War Days, Myron and I put on a little skit in which we purported to be opposing crewmen from the world’s first ironclad ships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. We hoped that our sketch would both entertain and educate. Our strategy was to tickle our audiences with a bit of humor, then stab them in the ribs with interesting historical facts.

Myron and I learned a couple of things from this experience:

  • People like to laugh, and
  • They don’t laugh nearly so readily once they perceive that you’re trying to force-feed them educational facts.

So our results were mixed at best. My attitude following the 2010 Pipestone Civil War Days was “OK, been there, done that, gave it a good try, now it’s time to move on.”

My interest in repeating the experience hovered between “zero” and “none.”

But my wife thought that Civil War Days was the best thing since indoor plumbing. She and I had donned Civil War-period duds for the event. My wife likes wearing frills and lace so much that she often wishes that she was born in the Victorian Era – even after I pointed out that light bulbs weren’t yet invented and people had to watch TV by candlelight.

As she strolled the grounds at Civil War Days, my wife received many complementary remarks such as “My. Your dress sure is purty;” and “I love your cancan;” and “Can I take your picture?”

Hearing such comments might seem ho-hum to folks like Johnny Depp, but it was a novel experience for us. By the conclusion of Civil War Days my wife had decided that her dream job would involve her dressing up in her Civil War regalia and traveling around and receiving compliments.

I dropped the topic, hoping she would eventually forget about it. Wrong again.

As this year’s Civil War Days approached, I began to notice that my wife was frequenting websites that featured frilly Victorian clothing. I regarded this as harmless fantasizing – that is, until mysterious boxes began to arrive at our house. My wife would spirit the boxes away, saying only that they contained “stuff.”

A few weeks ago, she instructed me to wait on the couch while she made some mysterious preparations. She soon strode across the living room decked out in a new Civil War-era dress

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Well, that outfit will certainly turn heads at Wal-Mart.”

“No, silly. It’s for me to wear to Civil War Days.”

Hmm. So I guess Myron and I are going to be performing at Civil War Days once again.

I must admit, the event is extremely interesting. Where else can you see a modern travel home pulling a trailer that holds an authentic Civil War cannon? Or a lady wearing hoop skirts the size of a grain bin squeezing through the doorway of said travel home?

The logistics of managing such clothing and accomplishing ordinary things like navigation are far beyond my ken.

At Civil War Days you can be minding your own business when a contingent of Civil War soldiers might summarily march by, the stirring strains of fife and drum marking time. There’s the tang of black powder and campfire smoke, the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer, the thunder of cannon.

You can also meet some very interesting people. We chatted a spell with a couple who are dedicated re-enactors. They are so committed to their craft that they sew their own clothing and spend Civil War Days camping in a small canvas tent.

“You haven’t lived until you’ve put on one of these while inside a pup tent,” said the lady as she smoothed out her dainty and historically-accurate blue dress.

Myron and I have been chatting and I’m getting excited about this year’s Civil War Days. This might speak to his persuasive skills or it could be that I actually enjoy sharing the stage with him. In any case, our goal this year is to simply entertain.

I can’t believe I’m going to do this again. The worst part is, I’m not exactly sure how it all came about. But I suspect that my wife is in cahoots with Koets.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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