I picked up the beastly gun and put the old military hat on my head. The gun’s weight and the fact that the hat delicately lit on my head without destroying my fab hair day both impressed me. (Hats not ruining my hair for the rest of the day is always a cherished and surprising plus since my hair has an aversion to hats. I think my hair misspells hats as hates. But that’s a star-crossed story of despair made for another time.) Props in hand, I struck my most Madonna-esque Vogue fashion pose, envisioning the lights…the money…the…chuckles? The lights and money faded as the kind volunteer chuckled at my 15-second moment of personal fame. Unabashedly, I put the gun and hat back in their proper display positions. The fantasy was sweet, but the reality was just fine–a rich afternoon of historical learning at Cape Girardeau, Missouri’s Red House Interpretive Center!
The Red House History
The City of Cape Girardeau built The Red House Interpretive Center about 15 years ago beside the Mississippi River Wall Murals and the city’s other rich downtown history. And, as the above marker shows, it has staked its proud place on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail! In fact, Cape Girardeau celebrated a huge Lewis & Clark Bicentennial event in 2003, featuring The Red House as one of the event’s centerpieces.
Meriwether Lewis chronicled his 1803 visit to “Cape Jeradeau” (the Lewis official spelling!) and meeting with Louis Lorimier, the founder of the original Red House trading post. It was a short stop, but we do have the log notes from that brief pause in the journey. He was impressed by the resilience of Lorimier, and I was as well as I learned more about him during my stop here. From a 1700s journey from The Great Lakes to Cape Girardeau to having his fortunes destroyed and then ultimately migrating to and rebuilding in present-day Missouri, you can’t help but admire the can-do attitude Lorimier demonstrated!
Displays Galore with Personalized Interpretation!
Clothing from the era? Yes! Maps from the era? Yes! Trade goods from the era? Yes! The Red House is like grandma’s house–interesting tidbits stuffed in every nook. With the Red House’s tidbits, I found plenty to interest me as I flitted around with my attention constantly snatched by a new set of pretty keys jingling in front of me.
Okay, okay, they weren’t keys. They were fabulous artifacts and displays for the history buff in all of us. But they might as well have been keys. Pretty, sound-inducing keys. Did I see the volunteers grinning as I moved to the next display? No matter, ooh, coonskin hats!
My favorite display is found immediately when you enter the house and see a Louis Lorimier mannequin along with artifacts on a table. These items were trade goods of the era and ranged from writing utensils to tea bricks to spoons made from cow bones. Being an interpretive center, the artifacts tell stories; and the volunteers are more than happy to share any and all of them! I really enjoyed learning about and seeing these portals into the past. Deb Baughn, who is a docent with The Red House, was especially a wealth of knowledge and a joy with whom to talk history! (And trust me…she will tell you the world and then some about this history nugget!)
I drove by The Red House many times during my life but never thought to enter. I’m glad I finally fixed that repeated error in judgment to indulge in some rich area history. (The artifacts, my goodness!) Sometimes, you take for granted your close-to-home blessings. Sometimes, you miss the story in everything.
As an American, I’ve too long been focused on being busy and rushing to and fro, taking my significance from multitudes of accomplishments. It’s enculturated. The Red House was a wake-up call to slow down, learn, and see the stories in everything.
I loved that hat and gun, and I loved that short video clip wearing them. (If I can geek glam out for just a moment, squeeee! I looked freakin’ cute!) My blog and video work certainly have helped me to open my eyes to the wonders surrounding me. The Red House Interpretive Center and its friendly, knowledgeable volunteers pushed that journey forward as I continue to put this lesson into practice.
I pray blessings that you’re able to also learn these lessons! And The Red House is as story-rich and satisfying of a start as any.