The Adventuresome Miss Taylor

17 March 2009 at 8:53 pm 1 comment

“Excuse me, but might you be able to direct me to a proper millinery shop where I might purchase a fine set of ladies’ gloves?”
                                                                               ~ My character, Minnie Taylor

As part of the museum’s annual Cowboy Days event, I spent the weekend in the sun pretending to be a mail-order bride from 1883. I was only one of a group of characters playing in ‘The Homesteader’s Camp’. I had read up on mail-order brides, and just like those who seek romance through personal ads and the internet today, they were a varied lot.  

Some came from as far away as Ireland and France to help populate the west, find adventure, and romance, while others like Elinore Pruitt Rupert were already in the west and already accustomed to harsh frontier life — they just happened to find someone compatible along the way.

Being the capable, hardworking girl I am I determined to play a hardy girl, perhaps a servant, who was down on her luck and had come west because of the opportunity to start a new life.

However, as meetings progressed with those in the camp, it was determined that there were already too many hardy girls: Toni was playing a former genteel lady who was cooking for the wagon train to pay her way, Nancy was playing her cooking partner, Karen was playing a woman who knew how to sew and was on her way to meet her husband, and Stephanie was playing a woman rancher who wore trousers! So, they needed a foil.

Foil: n. a character who is meant to represent characteristics, values, and ideas which are directly and diametrically opposed to those of another character.

Thus Miss Taylor was born.

Her story was filled with glitz and glamour.  She was born in 1858 to a prominent family in New York City and had grown up during ‘The Gilded Age’. She could read in English and French, embroider, and run a household of servants, but she couldn’t cook, clean, ride, or sew. She’d only read about the west in novels that portrayed it as exciting and romantic, and hadn’t the slightest clue of how to survive. She was a frivolous delicate flower of a woman who looked pretty, but who wasn’t good for much else otherwise: a perfect foil.

So I wore a dress with a bustle, lace, ribbons, and a cute bonnet as well as a pair of black high heels and proceeded to do nothing around the camp, but search for a place where I might find a proper set of women’s gloves. As the other women sewed, cooked, and cleaned I sat reading poetry and sighing over my fiance: a lieutenant stationed at Fort Seldon — Lt. Josiah Rivers.

The dashing & debonair fiance: Lt. Josiah Rivers

The dashing & debonair fiance: Lt. Josiah Rivers

I complained to ‘the captain’ about not being able to curl my hair, and I complained about the dust and the campfire smoke and avoided the mannish ‘Miss Lucy’ at all times… and I had a bit of fun!

Miss Taylor's Adventures.

Miss Taylor's Adventures.

And I learned two things about the world of those who are pretty and useless:
1. There is a certain amount of fun and freedom in having no responsibility.
Because things were never my duty, they were never my fault. I didn’t have to worry about the fire or the dishes or the cleaning, because I didn’t feel accountable, I had no burdens.

But along with this freedom came fear…
2. There is also a large fear in living a life depending on everyone else.
Because I didn’t (as my character) know how to do things, I could not really rely on myself in times of trouble. The other characters teased and heckled me for my trivial concerns, and some worried about my fate as I overlooked more serious matters.

Miss Sarah worried that I didn’t know how to cook in such wild country. My Miss Taylor was confident my lieutenant had a servant waiting for me. Mrs. McDonald worried that I didn’t know how to sew. My Miss Taylor was certain they could purchase quilts if they needed them.

And as I thought about the many different people who came west to settle this frontier I mourned for those that were pretty and useless, because they either changed, which would be a long and ardous process, or they perished, and no one rejoices when the frail things of this world leave it.

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Entry filed under: autobiographical.

omit-a-bit ree-friendship

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. wonker  |  18 March 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Interesting blog, I’ll try and spread the word.

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