Sunday, April 17, 2005

Prairie fires, miniatures, misc.

Last week I had a treat: I drove out to McPherson, KS to tell stories at the library, and on the trip I got to see the fields burning. They do this on purpose to promote growth, to simulate the fires started by lightning. Best of all, I drove back in the dark and could see the lines of orange flame stretching for miles. The car smelled just like Girl Scout camp. I love watching these fires. Back in 1994, I drove home from Topeka on a back road. One of the fires had come down into the ditch by the road.

I just found a site for Flint Hills Adventures, a company that takes people out to "range burning parties." Could be interesting.

Then on Saturday, I had another treat: I told stories at the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City. They have storytellers there every Saturday, booked through the River and Prairie Storyweavers, the local storytelling guild. It's not much pay, but the museum is incredibly fun. Room after room of toys, games and miniatures, all laid out wonderfully. There's a temporary exhibit of boat models, fancy square riggers. I went through an entire room of Russian laquer boxes. I looked at all the peep shows (nothing risque that I noticed). There's a big new exhibit of marbles of every type and description. My favorite part in that room was a three-sided Rube Goldberg contraption/sculpture involving marbles, pulleys, ramps, bells, hoists and gravity. Very fun!

The performance was small, appropriately for the Miniature Museum. That is, I had only four children: a three-year-old, a two-year-old and twin babies. There were also five adults. I think they had a good time with the gentle stories for tinies. The babies gave me lovely gummy smiles from time to time. I learned early on as a storyteller not to mind if I had a small audience, or none at all, especially in a library or museum. You never know who will turn up.

I loved examining the miniatures. Tiny, tiny furnishings for houses, complete with petit (extremement petit) point embroidery, eensy little apples in a bowl, a display of weapons designed to slay the largest beetle. My friend Chris, who came along for the ride, found out that in the true miniatures, all mechanical items work, as the miniature camera does. I'm fairly sure that the printing press was functional, though I couldn't read the print it produced.

These miniatures reminded me of a book a friend recommended: Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corrine May Botz. It's about the dollhouses created by Frances Glessner Lee, a wealthy woman in Chicago in the 1940s who had a fascination for crime and investigation. She made dollhouses of crime scenes specifically to train investigators. These dollhouses included all details, including bloodstains and overturned chairs. Creepy and fascinating. Bruce Goldfarb wrote an article about this in 1992 in American Medical News.

Back to the museum. I didn't get to all the rooms. I know I missed the dolls, the trains, most of the games, the teddy bears. I missed some of the dollhouses. I'm planning to go back, possibly many times, just to take it all in.

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