By Sabrina Gonzalez
I arrived to Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial on Sunday, June 2nd. I arrived with my close friend, Earl Wilson. Prior to this, we decided it would be a great idea if I flew out from Philadelphia to St. Louis, spend a few days there, and together, take a 4 hour road trip to Lincoln City, Indiana. Turns out it was, and it became an unforgettable trip. We made frequent stops along the way to explore the little towns that we were passing through. One stop was at a park on the border of Illinois and Indiana. (I do not remember the name of the park.) It was a Sunday evening and the park was pretty empty. We parked and got out of the car to stretch our legs out for a bit. We realized that we parked in front of an archery target practice space and noticed one gentleman practicing on the targets. We walked closer to get a better view of him and of his bows and arrows because we were curious. Unexpectedly, he asked if we wanted to try. As someone coming from the east coast, where kindness is only a suggestion, this was surprising to me. A complete stranger asking another complete stranger if we wanted to use his equipment. I gladly said yes and left that park thrilled that I shot a bow and arrow but also confused by the man’s kindness. Earl told me to get use it, “it’s a Midwestern thing”. My summers have always been spent on the east coast so I knew after that encounter this summer would be something completely different.
We arrived at the park roughly around 8:00 pm. We were greeted by Bob Zimmerman, the head farmer at the park caring for Finn, a preemie lamb. After about an hour of signing NPS housing paperwork and talking I received my keys to the house. I was ready to sleep and get ready for tomorrow. The next day would be my official first day as an ACE CRDIP Intern!
My first day began at 6:30 am. I made Earl and I breakfast, took a shower, and wore a collared shirt to look presentable because I did not have my uniform just yet. Earl left shortly afterwards to get a headstart on his trip back to Missouri. I waited around the house until 7:40 am for my housemate, Katilyn, and I to take a ten minute walk to the Memorial Visitor Center. Our daily commute is along the same road that takes visitors to go to the park’s Living Historical Farm. Before and after park closing hours this road is all mine. (Unless Katilyn joins). On this walk the only sound I hear to the leaves in the wind and the birds singing. It is so incredibly peaceful here.
At the Memorial Visitor Center I meet with the Chief Interpreter, Mike Capps. After one interview, two phone calls, and email exchanges for two months I was finally able to put a name to the face. Right away, he began to demonstrate my duties for the summer beginning with how to properly open the park for visitors. He showed me what the visitor center offers for guests: a museum, two memorial halls dedicated to Nancy and Abraham Lincoln, and an orinentation film about the park explaining Abraham Lincoln’s time in Indiana before he moved to Illinois at the age of 21. While he was explaining this to me he was also talking about the history of the park and the significance this park has in American History. The few facts that truly stuck with me were forcused on the parks location. Lincoln City was where Abraham gained an interest in reading from his sister Sarah, won his first legal case, and saw American slavery first hand. These factors would eventually greatly impact his future career aspirations.
In the same afternoon, he showed me where I would be working on the museum collections. The official title of my internship is museum technician. I was excited to see this title’s duties in action. He brought me to the museum’s storage facility. It is this large room filled with dimmed lighting and so many miscellaneous items. There are several historic spinning wheels, the original road sign of the park from the 1930s, as well as a few items that are almost impossible to prove their true historic accuracy. The most fundamental elements to history is accuracy. In the storage room there is a bowl that is claimed to be from Nancy Lincoln before she died in 1818 from milk-sickness disease. This bowl is two hundred years old. The possibility that it is her bowl is slim to none. There is no historical evidence to claim that this is not just an old bowl. One artifact that really took my eye was a 1923 White House CookBook. Mr. Capps said it showed up on his desk on his day off and didn’t know what else to do with it so he put it inside the museum’s storage. Anyone want a 1923’s recipe from the White House Cookbook for deviled eggs?
What a Living Historical Farm Really Means
When Mr. Capps was describing the summer internship he stated that I would have many opportunities to try new things. He said my work week would be spread between the visitor center, museum collections and the living historical farm. He described the farm as a fun activity where I would be wearing period clothing. I was intrigued. I have never done anything like this before. I kept thinking about the cute pictures I could take in the dress and how it would be. What I did not realize was the other duties that come along with a farm. I have visited farms before but never completed any sort of manual labor to support the farm. When Wednesday morning came around that changed. I was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and jeans and I regretted that shortly afterwards. Bob told me and the other interns to meet him in the barn loft to help out with hay bails. What he did not tell me was how much it would be and how long it would take. It was over 500 bails and took about three hours. It was about seven people in total storing the hay so the work was evenly spread out between us. Constant jokes were made about me because they knew that I am from the city and the words “farm work” do not come out of any mouths there.
Here are some photos for a general idea of the work that we completed. We emptied five of these trailers.
All of this work here is to make sure baby Finn is well fed after the winter season is over.
What I Learned So Far
Interning for a week as an ACE CRDIP intern at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial I learned that I need to leave room for casual conversations with visitors and workers. I learned that I am able to discuss with Mr. Capps about ways the park’s summer internship program can improve. I learned that everyone has a different story for coming to this park. I learned that as a retirement option I can travel and volunteer for National Parks across the nation. I learned that this internship was a competitive opportunity and that I earned it. I learned that this summer would be unforgettable.