Several weekends a year, Mark and Midori Hanus of Vancouver, Wash. load up their truck with a lean-to tent, wooden saddles, handmade bags with glass beads, furs and beaver traps before driving to different locations and presenting on the history of beaver trapping. This weekend, they went to Fort Umpqua in the Elkton Community Education Center for Fort Umpqua Days.
Mark Hanus hands one child in each wave of visitors a sturdy stick and directs them to stand back a few feet while he sets a trap and explains how trappers rented their traps and lured beavers, and asks beaver trivia to encourage the children to be involved in his demonstration. Children squeak and awe when the stick snaps the trap shut in an instant.
“We needed to do something that’s interesting to us as well as for the kids,” Midori Hanus said. “Beaver trapping is a pretty hard sell, but people will remember it. It’s connecting it to everything else.”
Fort Umpqua Days is held the weekend before Labor Day every year as a wrap-up of summer activities as the center’s youth employees go back to school. There are meals, live music, vendors and historical presentations.
Mark and Midori Hanum have been doing historical events for more than 20 years but just started coming to Fort Umpqua Days a few years ago, adding it to several other events up and down the West Coast.
“It’s a way to reach people, so it’s engaging to them to connect them with history,” Midori Hanus said. “It’s really fun because you learn a lot of things and in turn, sometimes the visitors share what they know.”
By mid-day on Saturday more than 200 people had come into the Granary, a building inside Fort Umpqua, to check in and start a “contract,” a small piece of paper with each of the stations and space for six stamps. When the children got a stamp from each station — including the Hanus couple’s station along with flax spinning and apple cider making stations — they could take their completed contract back to receive a prize from one of the operators, like volunteer education coordinator Kris Hendricks.
“It’s kind of a conglomerate effort,” Hendricks said. “There’s many different components from the community — it certainly does take more than a village.”
As small children scurried around with their contracts, parents took pictures of their kids having fun while learning.
“It’s pretty fun for the kids, a lot of activities for them,” mother Roxann Durgeloh said. “It’s free and it’s educational for them. They get to see it’s not all about technology.”
Some come every year but for some, like Angelina Willard, it was her first time bringing her own children.
“I haven’t been out here since I was really small,” Willard said. “I just remember what it look like. It’s a learning experience for them. They can see they have it a little bit easier than it used to be.”
She brought her three children, who learned how to use a washboard to clean clothes by hand.
“We learned what our ancestors had to do,” said her daughter Cecilya, 8.
Mark Hanus wraps a beaver skin around his arm and lets visitors pet it, telling them how it’s one aim in life is to become a fashionable hat. Fort Umpqua was the southern most trading post for the Hudson Bay Company in the early 1800s and fur trappers, including Native Americans, would trade fur for food, not money.
“I take the beaver out of the trap,” Mark Hanus demonstrates as he opens the trap. “I put my knife in him and discard the insides—I’ll leave that up to your imagination.”
The event runs until Sunday eventing, but the historical presentations of the fort will wrap up on Sunday around 4 p.m., when the Hanus couple will pack up their lives as American fur trappers and go back to their daily lives as modern Americans who sleep indoors and buy their meat, instead of trapping it.