By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (August 31, 2016) – It’s a time to slow down and take a look at the past.
By Gone Days on the Bosque means a lot to Stephenville Historical House Museum Director Robin Ritchie. She has served as chairman of the event since 2001.
“That’s what is really important,” Ritchie said. “In addition to being a family-focused event that’s provided to the community and guests free of charge, it gives us all time to slow down, look at the days gone by and reflect on who we are and where we come from.”
By Gone Days, set for Saturday, Oct. 8, is one of the city’s longest running events. It’s history dates back more than 20 years, functioning as a farmer’s market before becoming a living museum on the historical house grounds.
Each year the crowd continues grow, and Ritchie said it’s successful at tightening the bond between generations. For younger generations it brings to life stories once told around the dinner table about a time before the birth of big box stores, boat loads of fabricated goods from China and wireless devices. For older attendees, it sparks memories.
“I have always heard children and even adults, watching one of our exhibitors or shopping at a vendor booth, recall things their grandma once did,” she said. “Or they may see something on display and remember something their family still owns or a story they were once told.”
Quilting by hand and embroidery, horseshoeing and leatherwork, the forging of branding irons by a black smith, a manual printing press and hand-cranked ice cream… using old-fashioned elbow grease and a washboard to remove grass stains from a pair of trousers that were hand sewn by grandma.
In a modern world of waste and convenience, Ritchie said By Gone Days offers a peek back at a time when homemade goods were once worth their weight and everything had its purpose.
“Every animal, blade grass, nut and berry had a purpose,” she said. “It meant the (the people raising and using them) would, or could, survive another year.”
When calling on vendors for the event, Ritchie keeps some of the same principles in mind.
“We try to make sure vendors offering modern goods present them in a pioneer way,” she said. “Like turning old barn wood into picture frames or an old plate into a bird feeder, following the idea of making sure everything has a use and purpose.”
Other items on the vendor list include time-honored crafts like homemade Amish ice cream, handmade knives, decorated gourds and embroidered towels.
As the days of the pioneer families who first settled in Erath County, gunfighters who battled in the Old West and Confederate soldiers grow more distant, Ritchie said By Gone Days attracts a bigger crowd. She said it’s as though each attendee hopes to grab ahold of their own piece of the past as they take at least one day to “slow down and pay attention.”
And the trip back in time stretches beyond the museum grounds. Trams, which are maintained by the Erath County Antique Tractor and Machinery Club, shuttle people to and from the museum grounds and along a historical route that includes homes and buildings that are an important part of local history.
“The historical tours start every 15 minutes on the hour and are especially interesting for people who are new to the area and children,” Ritchie said. “It gives them a better idea of who we once were.”
Bygone Days on the Bosque is still open to vendors and exhibitors who would like to share skills like woodworking, candle making or others that honor history. It will also welcome individuals who want to be a part of living history and portray a simple life like that of their ancestors.
For more information on participating, contact Ritchie at the museum by calling 254-965-5880 or via cell phone at 254-254-396-4715 no later than September 15.
Individuals, businesses or organizations that would like to donate a silent auction organized to benefit the Stephenville Historical House Museum general fund can also contact Ritchie or museum staff.