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The outdoors then ... and now

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Hiwan Homestead program contrasts modern naturalists with those of yesteryear

By Sandy Barnes

Dressed in vintage attire, Peg Alig of Lookout Mountain Nature Center was portraying Martha Maxwell, a gutsy pioneer woman who shot and stuffed animals back in the 1850s.

"I became an excellent markswoman. I became known throughout the region for this," Alig said Saturday while speaking as Maxwell to a group of youngsters at the Hiwan Homestead Museum.

Many people were astounded that Maxwell could shoot and do taxidermy as well as a man, Alig said.

Maxwell also became nationally known when she exhibited her work at the Chicago exposition in 1876, she added.

"She inspired people to learn about nature," Alig said.

Standing beside Alig in the ranger uniform she wears as a Jefferson County Open Space naturalist, Heidi Skiba told the group how she loved to go hiking and collect creatures as a child. The present-day tools Skiba uses are field guides and binoculars.

Outside the museum, Pioneer Pete, also known as Andy Spencer, talked about camping in the 1800s.

"When a bear comes into your camp, you shoot it," he said. 

"Back then, things were a lot simpler; things lasted a lot longer," Spencer remarked.

Unlike a modern tent with poles that can be bent out of shape, the old-fashioned version had a wooden pole, Spencer said. If it broke, another one could be created from a tree.

Spencer also pointed out that his tent wasn't waterproof like the high-tech one set up beside it, and neither were his clothes made of natural fibers.

The youngsters at the Junior Rangers program event also played outdoor games from earlier times such as hot potato and roll the hoop. And inside the museum, they tried their hand at sketching nature using realistic preserved creatures from the Colorado wilderness.

"My biggest love is to keep a sketch book," Skiba said to them. "Whenever I go out in the field, I bring my sketchbook with me."

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.