As we passed through the time portal into 1836 at Conner Prairie Settlement in Noblesville, my four-year-old not-reading-yet grandson looked up at the signs all around him. I tried to help him understand where we were going.
"Cayden we are going to a Prairietown now. A town from a long time ago! All the people will be wearing clothes that are different from ours." I pointed to one of the signs. "What else won't be in this town?"
He frowned and looked at the pictures on the sign. "No phones."
"Right! And no computers or microwaves or cars." I watched his face for evidence that he was absorbing the time travel concept. He didn't appear to be confused. Good. I mentally patted myself on the back for my skill in explaining it all.
"Awe these people in this pwace dead?"
A woman walking nearby snickered. So much for 100% comprehension.
"No they are not zombies. They are just people pretending to live in a town a long time ago."
We entered the village with 1830's style houses lined each side of the street, a few with yards enclosed with picket fences. One home in particular stood out from the rest - with its painted wood siding and larger size it was clearly the home of the town's more prosperous resident, the doctor.
We noticed a man step out the door. He was wearing a dapper suit and tie, and plopped a tall black top hat on his head.
"Hey Cayden, do you think that guy coming out of the doctor's house might be the doctor?" I watched for his reaction. Cayden has a personal problem with doctors (since the dual-thigh immunization incident) and feels strongly that they all belong in prison.
He took a long look at the man, taking in details of his garb, particularly the tall hat. He gave me an all-knowing look.
"No mamaw, that not the doctor! That guy is a magician."
We worked our way through the village at the unprecedented speed of a 4-year-old guide. We spent two full minutes in the blacksmith barn because there was a small flame, and 21 seconds in the woodworking shop because...well...nothing was on fire. We spent 8 seconds in the pottery shop because once the pot makes one full resolution on the potter's wheel, what else is there to see really?
I walked on a pair of irregularly shaped handmade wooden stilts because apparently it was fun to stagger around 6 inches from the ground on sticks in 1836. We played in the doctors kitchen with fake food for eternity, and the kid refilled my battered miniature tin teacup over and over with imaginary water from the copper tea kettle.
Cayden and I tried out the miserable beds at the Eagle Inn. At the kids suggestion we pretended to be asleep. Papaw had to enter the room and say "time to get up!" and I had to groan "oh, I don't want to go to work!" and Cayden stretched and said sleepily "I don't want to go to school!". We went through that scenario twice.
Outside the Eagle Inn, Cayden chased a chicken and papaw chased Cayden. Papaw is not light on his feet, nor does he have the lightening quick maneuverability of a chicken and a four-year-old.
Finally it was over. Except for one last thing.
The hot air balloon.
"Cayden, do you want to go up in that balloon?" Seth asked. He pointed at the enormous cable-bound balloon with the hanging caged basket.
"No papaw. I too scawed for that."
"Ok then." His papaw isn't pushy with things like hot air balloons. It was nearly closing time, so we went to the car.
Seth strapped the kid in his carseat.
"Can we go up in the bawoon?"
Nothing like the ambiguity of a 4-year-old.
We purchased a season pass. We intend to go back to Conner Prairie. As soon as Papaw's chicken-chasing hips recover.
Theresa Timmons' column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at email@example.com.