Colonial Day draws a crowd

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Sep. 27, 2011
'Chili' Bob Whatley works on some hand-dipped candles during Colonial Day. Photos by Melanie Savage.
'Chili' Bob Whatley works on some hand-dipped candles during Colonial Day. Photos by Melanie Savage.

RHAM High School senior Parker Aubin spent his Saturday afternoon on Sept. 24 dressed in Colonial cottons, babysitting a pair of Nubian goats. Phoenix and Bean had one goal in mind - to strip every bush and tree within reach of their tether of every edible morsel. Aubin’s official job at the second annual Colonial Day event was to discuss the life of the Colonial farmer in Hebron. But between visitors, he spent a lot of time pulling the ungulate duo from potential dangers and mischief.

Phoenix and Bean belong to the herd of Nate Baribault, Aubin’s best friend and fellow RHAM senior. Because Baribault was away visiting North Carolina University, the Colonial Day gig fell on Aubin’s shoulders. Phoenix and Bean, said Aubin, were there to suggest the large role that the goat played in the life of the local farmer during the Colonial era.

“Goats were cheaper to keep than cows, but still produced a good deal of milk,” said Aubin. Because of their size, goats required less space and food. And, as Phoenix and Bean were only too happy to demonstrate, goats are good at supplementing their feed with native browse. After kidding in the spring, a goat produced milk that could be consumed as-is, or converted to butter and cheese. “Butter and cheese can last through the winter,” said Aubin, “so it’s a way of preserving milk all year long.”

While a goat doesn’t possess the power of an ox, a goat can still contribute to the small family farm in a number of different ways. “They can pull small carts and plows,” said Aubin. Goats are good on the diverse New England terrain and can be counted on to clear an area of undergrowth. “Goats would be the cheapest source of animal-produced food,” said Aubin. “It made sense for farmers around here to keep them.”

Nearby, Aubin’s mom, Carolyn, manned the newest addition to the Colonial Day lineup - an accurate replica of a one-room schoolhouse. Featuring a teacher’s desk, student desks and a wood-burning stove, the school was crafted especially for the event. While   Carolyn Aubin refrained from using the pointer stick she held in her hand, she pointed out that teachers during the Colonial era would have had the authority for corporal punishment, unlike modern-day teachers. Dressed in Colonial garb, Aubin greeted her guests in character. “You’re late, you’re late,” she said to an arriving group. “Hurry up and take your seats.”

In another building, a variety of vendors demonstrated their crafts. Among them was “Chili” Bob Whatley, who produced hand-dipped candles. A painstaking process, hand-dipping candles requires “about 20 or 25 dips,” said Whatley. Colonial candles were often made of tallow, explained Whatley. “But you had to box them up, otherwise the mice would get at them.” Bayberry would also be used for candle-making. “In the fall, they would send the kids out to collect the bayberries,” said Whatley. The waxy berries would be boiled, and the wax strained off. The berries possess a natural dark green color that was appropriate for the holiday season.

Among the other activities represented at the second annual Colonial Day were demonstrations of blacksmithing, carpentry, and native American life.

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