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Pipestone Civil War Days a true family affair

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PIPESTONE — The biannual Pipestone Civil War Days wrapped up Sunday afternoon after a weekend filled with history, fun and family. The two-day event attracted patrons ranging from infants to seniors. However, the familial relations of the re-enactors themselves made the event a true family affair.

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In his first appearance at Civil War Days, storyteller Jim “Two Crows” Wallen claims a familial connection in what drives him to share his stories with others. Wallen, a native of Independence, Mo., performs 100-300 shows annually. On Saturday, he shared stories from his own relatives and Civil War era tales from the perspectives of chaplains, slaves, women, Native Americans and others.

“The influence of my grandfather’s tall tales, my great-grandfather’s tales of his history and my grandmother’s Bible stories game me a deep interest in stories,” Wallen reflected.

“When I was grown and joined my church where I worked with boys in Royal Rangers, I soon used stories to teach them lessons to earn their badges, to teach them history of our country, state and city, and to teach them those old Bible stories,” Wallen continued.

“It has been over 35 years of telling stories to those boys and to people around the world and around this country.”

Several of the actors participating in the battle also traveled a long distance to be at the event. Soldiers from as far away as New Mexico, New York and Alabama stared across the battlefield at one another.

Maxine Morran, another Missouri native, traveled to Pipestone with her husband, Jim, who serves in the 4th Missouri Company E. The two have traveled to re-enactments across the country for the past 17 years, with the company averaging 12 per year.

Originally, Maxine said, Jim fought for the North with another group. However, the men preferred to travel alone without their families. Excluding his wife didn’t appeal to Jim.

Instead, Jim now fights for the South in a group that encourages true family participation in all of its events. Jim, soon to be 72, is the second-oldest member of his group and plans to continue re-enacting with Maxine in tow for years to come.

Faire Wynds takes the show on the road 325 days a year, according to Eric Scites.

Scites has performed for the past 21 years. He started as a balladeer at an 18th century event. Soon the troupe’s medicine show grew and took on a life of its own. Scites’ son Corwin joined the act 17 years ago, followed by Scites’ wife, Susan, 15 years ago. Scites’ daughter Virginia joined the act a few years later.

Times were sometimes rough for the traveling family.

“There was a time we didn’t have a house. We lived on the road, actually — 24/7, 365 days a year. We traveled around for almost five years, just the four of us in tents, hotels. ... We didn’t have a camper then. We’d pull into the campground and set up a tent for the night,” Scites reflected.

The family’s expertise is 18th-century circus performance, but many of the acts transcend eras. Faire Wynds offers performances from 14th century renaissance through 1940 USO shows. For example, cup and ball tricks featured in the Faire Wynds show dates back 2800 years. The group aims to offer a historically accurate performance with the medicine show based on an actual medicine show from the early 1800s.

“This particular medicine show that my wife and I do is based upon an actual medicine show. He was a fire-eater magician and she was a lady strongwoman. ... It kind of fit into what we were already doing (with) 18th century, because the first circus in America was in 1724 and he was a fire-eater and she was a slack rope walker. The entertainments didn’t change. All we needed to do then was look at really the reality of the medicine shows,” Scites explained.

Audiences at Civil War Days were met with the 19th century “Professor Chalmers Bodkin-Childs Amazing Patent Medicine and Magic Show” designed for the entire family, just as the shows of old.

“We want to make sure it’s family-oriented. We don’t do a children’s act, but we don’t do a bawdy show either,” Scites said.

“We want the two-year-old to have as much fun as grandma. They’re not going to get everything, obviously. But we want them both to have a good time. No embarrassment, nothing like that, and stay within that framework of family-oriented historical shows. That’s what they were. They were not going for any specific audience. They were going for families.”

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Robin Baumgarn
Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.
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