The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Williamsburg: Oxen, Taverns and Shops

Yesterday, in celebration of Veterans Day, Dear Diane and I, along with our friends, Nancy and Dave Lee, spent much of the day at Colonial Williamsburg. It had been several decades since our last visit and the changes were considerable. Of course Williamsburg itself was much the same, with the exception of some new shops along Duke of Gloucester Street, the historic site's main drag; but now there's also a large Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center designed to introduce visitors to the history of the city and to separate them from their cash in the expansive gift and book shops. We purchased three-day passes and then, shunning the shuttle bus, walked the half-mile into the city.

Our first stop along the way was at Great Hopes Plantation, a re-creation of a period working farm just a few hundred yards along the path from the Visitors Center. The folks who run the farm are dressed in period costumes and play their roles well. I was particularly impressed by the young woman driving a team of oxen that pulled a plow to break up the soil of a large field (see photo below). It's not often one sees a team of yoked oxen these days, and as I watched this slip of a woman lead these two huge beasts, I couldn't help but call to mind the Lord's words: "...for my yoke is easy, my burden is light" [Mt 11:30].

Among the more interesting things we encountered at the plantation was a small barn in which air-cured tobacco leaves hung from the ceiling (see below).

After leaving the farm and entering Colonial Williamsburg, I had a more personal encounter with another ox, a rather pleasant animal named Dan. I noticed him cozying up to a group of tourists and decided to join them. As soon as I approached the fence he walked right up to me and posed for a few photos as I patted his rather massive head. Dan was really very friendly and also took an interest in my camera which I managed to keep safely away from him. Here are a couple of photos of Dan...

As we strolled along Duke of Gloucester Street, Dave and I enjoyed the local sights and sounds as the ladies browsed in the shops. Here's a photo of my three companions, Nancy, Dave and Dear Diane (left to right).

I tried to look the part of a colonial preacher by trying on a period clerical hat, but decided it really didn't fit well with my image as 21st-century deacon...

A highlight of our day was lunch at Shields Tavern, an establishment founded by James Shields in the mid-eighteenth century. Dear Diane is a direct descendent of Mr. Shields, so a visit there was a must. Our lunch was actually quite good and was accompanied by a woman playing an Irish harp. Photos follow...

We stopped by the old cemetery at the Episcopal Church and came across an unusual headstone. Take a moment to read the inscription (photo below). Do you see what troubled me about it? Hint: Do the math. We decided the stone-cutter made an error and put 1845 for the year of Mr. Smith's death instead of 1843. Follow-up on 11/13: I went back today and took a closer look at the headstone. It seems there's a small chip out of the last number on Mr. Smith's date of death. That minor damage makes a "3" look very much like a "5". And so, all is well in the cemetery.

The weather was quite nice, generally sunny with unseasonably warm temperatures pushing seventy degrees by mid-afternoon, although we were subjected to a little rainstorm just as we were leaving the city. All things considered, however, we had a very pleasant day and we're ready for a quiet evening back at our little condo.

I'll add some more photos of our Williamsburg visit in my next post which will also address today's excursion to the site of the crucial Battle of Yorktown.
God's peace...

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