BY ERROL CASTENS

Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY - They boiled peanuts in an iron pot, sewed moccasins from hides and started fires with flint and steel. They wove pine-needle baskets, churned butter and made their own music and games.

For the historical interpreters at the Union County Heritage Museum's Pioneer Days, these and dozens of other tasks were all in a day's work.

"We hope the kids, especially, who come through here, will learn more about local history as well as world history - how we got here," said Jill Smith, museum director.

The two-day event continues from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. today with re-enactments of activities common to Northeast Mississippi's settlement days.

Union Countian Bill Cooper explained the life of a Confederate soldier to many of the nearly 600 schoolchildren who visited on Friday.

"This is a McLellan saddle," he said, pointing to a split-framed unit with a vacant centerline. "It was more comfortable for the horse and the rider."

He also showed weapons typical of the Civil War.

"Never carry a sword into a gunfight," he joked. "On the other hand, a sword is always loaded."

Sylvia Dee Brown demonstrated pinestraw basket weaving. "They're a Native American design," she said. "They used bees' wax to make them firm and waterproof."

Many of the historical interpreters are members of the Tombigbee Pioneers.

"We have two requirements for membership," said Pat Arinder, the group's leader. "One is to have an interest in Early American history, and two is provide yourself with a pre-1840s outfit to wear."

Margaret Rousey, assistant principal at New Albany Middle School, delighted students by pulling a crosscut saw in tandem with teacher Minerva Moore.

"This is a character-education class," Rousey said of the group they'd brought. "Part of what they're learning is honesty, integrity and hard work. That's a lot of what this way of life was about."

Jalisa Pratt, a New Albany Middle School student, said old-fashioned games - many of which emphasized agility, strength and skill -surprised her.

"Pioneer kids had a good time," she said.

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