Last Thursday morning we had the opportunity to visit the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm for an event reserved for homeschoolers. The place was packed, and there was much to see and do.
Our Visit to Mahaffie Stagecoach & Farm
I wonder if the organization fully realized how many homeschoolers would be attending because they seemed a bit dazed by the large numbers of kids and parents packing the main entrance. The kids were divided into two groups “Growing Up Victorian” for the younger set and “Tragic Prelude” for the older kids. There were so many kids that each group had five subsets so that the numbers per teaching station were a little more manageable.
Emily attended “Growing Up Victorian” and her first stop was a sedate stagecoach ride in front of the Mahaffie house, before heading towards the wash house to learn how laundry was done in the mid-1800s. After that she visited the barn and was able to participate in grinding feed corn for the goats.
My husband couldn’t help himself. Obsessed with growing his own feed for our chickens, or maybe it was simply the pretty red color of the ears of corn, he carefully picked up a handful of intact feed corn and brought it home to plant in our backyard. By late summer we should have our own feed corn for our chickens to eat!
I’m Sensing Some Irritability
We noticed with a small handful of the ‘teachers’ that there was a fair amount of irritability disguised under an authoritarian veneer. When two of the children wandered towards the barn instead of sitting down immediately with the other kids, the teacher/presenter barked at them to come back and looked quite irritated.
My husband and I both looked at each other in surprise. We consider ourselves pretty strict, especially when out in public, but no one had told the children they couldn’t go into the barn, so it seemed a bit excessive.
I wasn’t sure if it was a matter of having had to say it to at least two or three other groups already, or being used to kids not listening, or what.
I say this because, overall, the experience at Mahaffie was absolutely fabulous, but they did seem a bit heavy-handed at times, as if expecting the kids to be a problem before really giving them a chance to show that they were not.
When “Why Not” Isn’t a Challenge But an Honest Question
As my husband worked with Emily at the last learning station, the Victorian games, I wandered back towards the old farmhouse. I really wanted to see inside, but the house was shut up tight and not available for tours that day. I peered inside one of the windows and a young boy around the age of ten came up and tried one of the doors.
“It’s locked, hon, they aren’t letting people inside the house today.”
He turned at stared at me, “Why not?”
There was a time in my life when I would have considered that question to be a challenge of sorts. A challenge to my authority as an adult more specifically. What can I say? I was raised to obey adults without question. To this day, it is difficult for me to argue with anyone who is older than me by more than ten years. I’ve learned to do it, I did it just today when dealing with a veterinarian (who was giving me the well-worn ‘you should keep your cats indoors’ speech), but it is done with difficulty. Thankfully, at forty, I have far less ‘older adults’ to disagree with than I used to have!
Instead of reacting to the conditioned “don’t question me boy” response that welled up inside I took a mental step back and realized that this young man really wanted to know…why was the house not open for tours?
I noticed a sign, “Well, this sign here says they are doing renovations, maybe they haven’t finished.” Then I pointed to a sign in the window, “And that says ‘Employees Only’ so I doubt that door is accessible anyway.”
The boy looked satisfied with my answer, if not particularly happy with the situation. I grinned at him, “I love old houses, I really wish I could see inside it more.”
He smiled back, “Yeah, me too. Old houses are cool.”
“Well, at least we can look into the windows!” And for a few minutes that is just what we did, slowly circling the building and peering into the windows where I was able to point out the ladies parlor as well as the mens’ parlor. As I did, I explained to the boy and several other kids who heard me talking and gathered around, how the men and women in Victorian times socialized separately. The women would gather in the parlor or drawing room while the men smoked pipes or cigars in another room that was also a office. It was a place to do business and make alliances.
As I headed back to my little family I thought about earlier, when all of Emily’s group was sitting on the front stairs of the house waiting to ride the stagecoach. This gentleman talked about the stagecoach and how long it would take to go to places like Liberty or other areas and what it was like to travel in one.
“Now before you get on the stagecoach there are a few rules to keep in mind. No hands or heads outside of the stagecoach, and we are going to behave as they did in Victorian times, ladies go first.”
A boy spoke up, “Why do ladies get to go first?”
“Well, that’s just how things were done then.”
“But alphabetically speaking, ladies comes after gentlemen you know.”
Many of the adults laughed and the presenter took it in stride, smiling and saying, “Nevertheless, ladies will go first onto the stagecoach!”
And so, of course, they did. Here is Emily…
All in all, Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm is a great place to experience history or learn more about Victorian era farm life. You can find more information about it by visiting their website here.