These activities aren’t bad like nothing is bad in moderation. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.
Our children need to know of these places not only to learn about what was, but to feel the spark of inspiration still burning in these places.
It happened to me yesterday when I set out to visit a place I had thought of going but had never made it to in the past. Yesterday was different.
The small sign told me I had almost arrived at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park with an arrow pointing across the railroad tracks. “Out here?” I thought. “There is nothing here.” I expected lots of visitors.
From my perspective, this was a more important
place than it appeared. It is close to both Delano and Tulare, not huge places, and a smattering of tiny towns such as Earlimart, it didn't make sense to be so deserted.
His name was George.
It was pure coincidence that we both arrived at nearly the same time. I was walking away from the first spot on the tour when George pulled in.
I am not one to know a stranger, so it is completely normal that I called out, “hello!” as he got out of his car. “Have you been here before?” I asked him.
“No, I have not,” was his soft voiced answer. He spoke slowly, with intention upon each word. “We didn’t learn this history when I was in school. No, ma’am.”
“I just wish there were more people here,” I said. “People need to know all sides of history. These stories need to be told.”
We commiserated a bit about what we didn’t learn when we were children. I found out George was from Fresno, recently retired, and now had the time to discover and explore and come to know what we both would declare exceptionally important. He taught me about the Buffalo Soldiers and an event soon to come to nearby Sequoia National Park.
The smiles on our faces were kept alive by our mutual enthusiasm. We were both here at this place – seemingly deserted – that was once a thriving community settled by what was called “race pioneers, with its commitment to limiting the parameters of prejudice, served as a beacon of hope to blacks in the Golden State and across the nation. The community, Allensworth, belied the notion of African-American inferiority and, in so doing, generated excitement, hope and confidence,” wrote B. Gordon Wheeler in Wild West Magazine.
I had a few free hours and was closer than I had ever been to Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park. I had no idea what to expect. Since I love history, especially history that is overlooked by so many for so long, it was one of those places I knew I should have visited long ago. I had seen the sign off the freeway, but since it is in a location I am normally only driving through, it never seemed important enough to me to stop.
Today was different.
It felt so vacant at Allensworth, so dry and prickly, as many Central Valley open fields feel. The sun was so bright I had to shade my eyes to see what was around me. Clapboard buildings, primarily. I noticed a few crape myrtle trees. Some barns scattered about.
I felt something else. I felt connection, invisible and perhaps the echoes or shadows of the connection that once thrived there.
I am so grateful I stopped, I stepped inside, I listened to the stories and I pledge to return, with friends. With children, students and friends of friends of friends and others.
It is so important we visit places, preserve memories and share those places with others.
What is an interesting, out of the way place you will pledge to visit this Summer?
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