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Conservation-History Come To Life By: Kevin Williams, Grundy County Conservation Director

March 15, 2013
Northern-Sun Print
Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was rainy. And yes, a winter snow was expected this past Sunday afternoon, March 10. The person that traveled farthest to Morrison that day was from Omaha, Nebraska and the featured entertainment. Those that ventured out to the Grundy County Heritage Museum open house were treated to a delightful hour watching, listening and experiencing George Drouillard (pronounced DREW yer) a member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Unlike most of the members of the expedition, George was a civilian hand-picked for the jouney by the two leaders. The product of a French father and Shawnee Indian mother, Drouillard was educated by both parents and spoke both languages of his parents well. When called upon to help Lewis & Clark find the fabled Northwest passage, his main tasks included (1) travel hundreds of miles to complete a task and then travel back and find the expedition which was constantly on the move, (2) help supply the 400 pounds of game needed by the expedition every day, and (3) communicate by sign language with Native American Indians who had never even seen let alone spoken with white men. For nearly an hour, we listened and watched this man clad in a badger hat, buckskin clothes, relate tale after tale of the expedition using his rifle, tomahawk, and even members of the audience. Drouillard was played by Darrel Draper. I was fortunate to meet and visit with both men – George and Darrel. Darrel was as colorful a character as George. He describes himself as a poet, historian, and “edutainer”. He shared several of his poems, each one rolling smoothly and effortlessly from his lips and memory. I just wished that he had had copies of his book “A Prairie Sailor” but they are unavailable until the new shipment in a few weeks. Perhaps we’ll get some for the museum gift shop. Prior to his current interests and vocations, Darrel had a military career that spanned over thirty years as a commissioned officer in both the U.S.Army and the U.S.Navy. So, has this left you wishing you had been there? I hope so. He is one of those people whose performance leaves you wanting more. And fortunately there is more. Darrel portrays several historical characters. A fifth generation Nebraskan, Darrel, brings to life several Nebraska characters – J. Sterling Morton, Daniel Freeman, Peter Sarpy. Oh, and one other person you may have studied in school – Teddy Roosevelt. I will admit, that I am a visual learner. I have never been one to sit down and read about history when I can go to a museum and see displays and exhibits. Or watch a well done recreation on television or the movies. The best of all for me, however, is to experience a facsimile of the person face to face. I helped Darrel carry his things out to the vehicle as he started his journey back home. He had already related the rather slippery conditions encountered leaving Omaha/Council Bluffs for his performance and listening to the radio, he was to encounter worse on the way back home. I sure am thankful that he made the trip and that Historical Collections of Grundy County funded his performance. Is he coming back sometime? I am sure that will be discussed for some future museum anniversary. Or maybe the Pioneer Craft Fair. If that is to happen – don’t miss it!


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