By William Kibler
It looked quaint - the white canvas tents and period costumes of re-enactors on the lawn at Baker Mansion's Civil War Weekend Saturday and Sunday.
But the view from Oak Lane didn't come close to disclosing the longing that can underlie the efforts of these re-enactors.
Bill Jones Sr. of Tyrone was one of them.
He's been doing it since the late 1980s, starting with a vacation during which he and his wife, Judy, traveled to the Civil War battlefields where Bill's great-great grandfather William L. Jones fought.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Union Civil War re-enactors fire a volley during a skirmish at the Baker Mansion’s Civil War Weekend. Please see the story on Page A3.
When they got to Petersburg, Va., they came upon a group of re-enactors, and Bill realized "that's just what I had to do."
Lots of re-enactors are hobbyists, he said.
For him it's a way of life.
"If I could jump into a time machine, I'd jump in," he said. "And then I'd break it."
There's no doubt he's living in the wrong era, he said.
"Me too," said Dakota Parker, who at the mansion played a Civil War wife who followed her Civil War husband-soldier - played by her actual husband Mac - into the field.
Dakota started re-enacting in 1990, although it took until a couple years ago for her to discover the era that was exactly right for her - the Civil War.
That was like "coming home," she said.
She loves the horses, the carriages, the clothes, the hymns.
In the modern world, "you just don't fit," Parker said.
She doesn't like the way people dress now, especially the young women, and she doesn't like the language they use.
It feels best for Jones on Friday nights, when he has the whole of a re-enactment weekend to look forward to.
"All right, I'm here," is his thought, as he puts on his blue woolen uniform, and Judy gets her cooking gear ready.
Re-enactors like to interact with the people who attend their events, according to weekend coordinator Tracey Collins - a member of the Blair County Historical Society Board.
They don't want visitors to simply gawk at them, as if they were animals viewed on safari, she said.
To help ensure against it, the event included a scavenger hunt.
Probably no one participated more authentically than 10-year-old Dylan Harter of Pleasant Gap, who was dressed in a full Union soldier outfit.
The hunt was actually a list of Civil War history questions, which scavenger hunters answered by asking for help from the re-enactors.
Dylan made his visits and got his answers.
He's been interested in the history of the war for five years, thanks to his grandfather, Corey Harter of Pleasant Gap.
There's no better way to educate people about history than re-enactment, Jones said.
"Hands on" is better than reading, Bill Jones said.
Re-enactment is especially valuable given the reluctance of some schools to teach war history, because of political correctness, Parker said.
If society forgets the lessons of war, it runs the risk of repeating the mistakes that led to them, she said.
But for Jones and Parker, the weekends are mainly an escape to a better time.