We are having the time of our lives
It has been a rough week in Barkerville. Smoke from distant wildfires is hazing the air and the summer sun is intense and unforgiving. Working outside is a challenge when the elements decide to test your endurance. So of course the weather conditions have got me to thinking about how Billy Barker and Florence Wilson and Fanny Bendixon and so many of our gold rush predecessors dealt with the more intense aspects of July on Williams Creek.
One of the most commonly asked questions of any historical interpreter is: are you hot in that costume? When it is mid-summer with temperatures stretching well into the 30s and I am wearing stockings, boots, bloomers, hoops, petticoats, overskirts, corset, chemise, bodice, gloves and hat, the answer is simple: yes. Yes, I am hot in this costume. I expect that all women of the Victorian era, in their confining clothing, felt just as overheated as female interpreters sometimes do… but they did not have the sweet relief of peeling it all off at the end of a shift and throwing on shorts and flip flops to return to more conveniently modern lives.
Sustaining performance-level energy on a hot and smoky day can be daunting, but how did those miners feel as they dug away at the guts of the land while the sun beat mercilessly down upon them? Leaving the streets of Barkerville as an historical interpreter at the end of a long summer day must have similarities to the feeling the original miners had climbing up out of the shafts, walking away from the hydraulic cuts and waterwheels – bodies spent, brows slick with sweat, limbs caked in dust.
Despite the obvious challenges of living in a volatile environment, I truly believe our gold rush counterparts were having the greatest adventures they would know in their lifetimes. Like the Victorians, who probably headed to the many saloons of Barkerville or perhaps the Theatre Royal as a well-deserved reward, nowadays we often head back to Wells to relax at the pub or to watch a movie with friends or maybe take in a show at the Sunset Theatre. The satisfaction of a job well done fuels an interpreter’s spirit as we contemplate how to spend our few precious hours of leisure-time.
I have been so impressed this week by the good spirits of everyone working in Barkerville, and everyone who has been visiting our site. We talk about the weather, and we remind one another to drink lots of water and take some shade. We update one another on the BC fires. We enjoy each other’s company and joke about how we musn’t complain about the heat as soon enough it will be time for the snow to start falling again. When I stand on the street watching a wall of furious, swirling dust envelop a group of tourists and I hear them whooping with laughter over the glorious life in this moment I think: they will remember this forever; this will become part of their family lore.
Yep, this week has been a rough one, but next week we will look back on it fondly and next year we will say: remember when? Barkerville, then and now, has a way of working itself into stories that we tell each other again and again. “We are all in this together,” is the prevailing thought as we acknowledge that, regardless of the dust and heat and haze, we are all still having the time of our lives.
– Danette Boucher
The above one-panel cartoon (originally published July 21, 2014) by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the tenth of twenty weekly entries that were logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2014 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing some of the quirkier advantages to living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!