Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fort Vancouver

Friday, we explored Fort Vancouver, an outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company from about 1830. The buildings have been carefully reconstructed: a blacksmith, a bakery, the offices and home of John McLoughlin, and stores, though only the blacksmith was staffed with re-enactors.

Of most interest to me were the gardens and the surrounding farm/village areas, where, surprisingly, men from Orkney labored in the fields, alongside Hawaiians, French Canadians, and Native Americans. As the air cools down to autumn, we stroll through the replica gardens, filled with flowers and squash and corn far over our heads.

Is there any connection to my writing project? Yes! Orkney men! And in the officers' quarters, a plaid hung on a hook. In the far corner of Fort Vancouver, we discovered a jail, complete with heavy iron waist shackles chained to the wall, a slops bucket nearby.

Most likely class distinctions could be made by clothing and the level of dirt underneath fingernails. For Dr. McLoughlin and the officers, every comfort. For the rest, tents and temporary shelters. Overhead, passenger jets from nearby Portland Airport passed. We came home to hot running water, electricity, and cable TV -- all the comforts.

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