Keeping it Real, Tinsley Style

July 19, 2013

Posted By: Bozemama

Hermione, Charlie and I have been hosting our dear friend Lana from Seattle this week. Lana is 13 and my best friend Lucy’s daughter with her handsome Italian hubby. She’s a pretty sophisticated kid who has traveled to Europe and Hawaii and opened our eyes and ears to the brilliance of white Seattle rapper Macklemore (for which we will be forever grateful). Needless to say, the kids and I really wanted to show Lana an awesome, super-fun time in our hometown of Bozeman.

Because we know we can’t compete with Maui or Milan, our approach has been to mix it up Montana style with a potpourri of our favorite local hotspots. Since her arrival a week ago, Lana has floated the Madison in a polka-dot bikini, shopped Main Street (where she fueled the local economy at the Root and Cosmica), breakfasted at Nova, soaked at Chico, gotten drenched at a Pinky and the Floyd concert in Pine Creek (where she spotted the very best sock tan line she has ever seen), gotten greasy at the Roost, taken in the Farmers Market, had her makeup done at Indulgence, bobbed around the pool at the Moonlight Resort and – last but not least – nibbled on chocolate at La Chatelaine.

But it turns out that the highlight of Lana’s trip was, for her, our visit to the Museum of the Rockies’ Living History Farm and the Tinsley House, where she and Charlie and Hermione got to experience the daily life of a Montana homesteader. Because Charlie had already toured the farm with Mrs. Winstead’s third-grade class, he was more than happy to regale us girls with the details of the Heirloom Gardens, the machinery shed and the antique icebox, which – like everything in the Tinsley House – is intact and used for its original purpose every day by the volunteer costumed “interpreters” who work there and share a midday meal using the bounty from the garden.

The four of us started in the kitchen where the cook shared her secret for rhubarb custard (soak the rhubarb in sugar water overnight) and showed us how to operate the laundry agitator and ice cream maker. Then we moved upstairs to where the family of ten slept and where the women sewed and wove. We giggled at the chamber pots, drooled over the fine antique lace and quilts and marveled at the narrow pointiness of the women’s shoes on display. But our favorite room was the one with the dress-up clothes and historic toys.

Turns out Lana, Hermione and Charlie are neither too old nor too cool to enthusiastically don a lacy shift and bonnet. The three of them posed for very carefully staged photographs in which (at Hermione’s insistence) they look as somber as they can muster. Taking her cues from the austere images decorating the house walls, Hermione correctly inferred that capturing an austere countenance would make our pictures seem that much more authentic. Plus, we Instagrammed them, which allowed us to play with all the different kinds of filters.

We could have done this all day. (Seriously.) But we decided to move back outside where we pumped water from the well and watered the gardens, just as ye olde overburdened adolescent homesteaders would have done. This is kind of a theme at the Tinsley House. The volunteers make a real point of explaining how hard homesteading actually was and how each member of the family worked their fingers to the bone to get food on the table, stay clothed, keep warm, etc. It’s pretty fun to listen to someone else tell your kids how lucky and lazy they are to live in 21st century America, and how hard it was for those industrious Tinsley boys who traveled alone for weeks to gather the lumber to build their house when they were 10 and 12.

Our favorite person at the Tinsley House was Chuck. Chuck is the blacksmith who will happily tell you that anything and everything is his shop can, and will, hurt you if you touch it. While sharpening a tool at his spinning grindstone, Chuck asked Charlie, “What would happen if you got your hand caught in there, son?” Charlie answered (quite reasonably, I thought) that his hand would “get completely maimed and destroyed.” Chuck responded with: “ No! It’d get chopped right off – gone in two milliseconds!” Chuck keeps it very real, and with little prompting, will happily weigh in on anything from women’s rights to the new Lone Ranger movie and we love him for it. As Lana puts it, "Chuck is like a prophet."

Since our visit to the Tinsley House on Wednesday, we have reflected on Chuck countless times and sent our old-timey photograph to everyone we’ve ever met. Now that's some serious fun, Bozeman style, that our little Lana will never forget.



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