The "Traditional Holiday Celebration" at Bent's Old Fort was quite a success. Very well attended. One of the highlights was hiding a large log out in the cottonwoods along the Arkansas river and sending the kids out to find it. It had a ribbon tied around it so they would know. A blast on a cow horn told us at the fort that they had found it. Two oxen were hitched to a wagon and several of us piled on and headed out to the woods. I had the fiddle with me and was playing tunes. In the woods, we unloaded and chained the log to the wagon and headed back to the fort. The kids took turns riding the log on the way back. I was up in the wagon again playing tunes. This procession stopped at the front gate. The log was unhitched from the wagon and dragged into the fort. A large bonfire was started around it. Later folks gathered around it to keep warm while singing carols to the tune of the fiddle. Often they would start in their own arbitrary key which made it a challenge to play with them like when the key was Bb and a quarter maybe. Other times I would get the jump on them and then they would follow me.
A note to Chanteyranger, Alex says to tell you he is leaving the fort and heading out your way later this month I gather from what he was saying.
The banjo. The banjo in the collections at the fort is a repro from Wunder Banjo Co. It is a very close copy of a William Boucher from the 1850's from the collection of Peter Szego. Right down to the false grain finish on the neck and rim. While this copy is from the 1850's, Boucher made banjos very like this during the 40's as well so it fits in very nicely to the fort's 1846 setting. There are few extant and documented banjos from that time and this is one of them. A good choice for the fort. The banjo is not currently on display but will be in bookkeepers quarters so I hear. Unfortunately it is unlikely that it will see much action. They want it only for display. The false grain finish is on the fingerboard as well and doesn't appear likely to hold up under much playing. Curiously, the original has this same feature and does not show significant wear. The false grain is not so apparent on the upper part where wear would occur, but the color is uniform throughout the fingerboard. Perhaps it did not see much use either. The curator there was kind enough to take me to see it within their collections area. A vault within a building within another building. Temperature and humidity controlled. Snazzy.