Harvest Pow Wow, Judd-A-Thon, bee sting all lead to new experiences

  • The Harvest Pow Wow at Naper Settlement introduced folks, including our Stephanie Penick, to some new people and ideas.

      The Harvest Pow Wow at Naper Settlement introduced folks, including our Stephanie Penick, to some new people and ideas. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Don Clark shows off one of the A-frame chairs he made during this weekend's Harvest Pow Wow at Naper Settlement.

    Don Clark shows off one of the A-frame chairs he made during this weekend's Harvest Pow Wow at Naper Settlement. Courtesy of Stephanie Penick

Posted9/23/2014 9:52 AM

Most times when I begin a conversation, I'm not exchanging information to write a story. I've always been curious. My favorite things are creating experiences and simply learning every day.

During a visit to the Harvest Pow Wow at Naper Settlement Sunday afternoon, I was attracted to the wigwam and the man swinging slowly in a low wooden seat near a large display of sheets of elm bark. He was twisting "cordage," or what I considered to be "twine," from stinging nettle.


One question led to another until he said, "You're asking a lot of questions. Are you from a newspaper?"

I answered, "Yes, I guess I am."

I then introduced myself and explained that I was inquiring for my own knowledge because I come from a large family of woodworking craftsmen.

Don Clark from Riedott, Illinois, said he had "adopted Native American lifestyles" and his favorite pastime was interpreting their peaceful ways, helping to share knowledge about native plants and their many uses. Sunday was his third visit to Naper Settlement with the Pow Wow hosted by Midwest SOARRING Foundation.

That's when I started taking notes. And I asked permission to photograph the wooden seat in the sunshine.

Don explained the two A-frames of the chair were made from hickory, a very hard wood; 40 slender slats for the hanging seat were whittled from elm and basswood.

The cordage used to bind the chair together was made from two thin fibers from the stem of strong stinging nettle. He explained nettles grow tall in search of light in the woods. When touched, he said, they produce an intense itch that lasts a short time.

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When I searched online to find a photo of stinging nettle, I recognized the plant and the fact I've never had a desire until now to be interested in this wonder among nature's bounty.

Not only can the bristly herb be cultivated for its strong fiber, it's also healthful when cooked. Nettles are a decent source of protein, high in iron, potassium, manganese, calcium and vitamins A and C -- and that's another story.

I also found a step-by-step "Nettle Cordage Tutorial" online at http://www.naturessecretlarder.co.uk/bushcraft-tutorials/nettle-corgage-tutorial_1.htm.

For my second new experience last weekend, I'll briefly note I ventured over to the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 Sunday morning, where the Naperville veterans organization was hosting its first Judd-A-Thon, a 0.1K (about the length of a football field) fun run.


With youngsters crossing the finish line in seconds, and all participants completely finished in less than three minutes, the event had attracted more than 300 individuals (runners, walkers and one three-legged racer) and many generous sponsors to raise $10,000.

The first-time short distance Judd-A-Thon will go a long way to benefit veteran and military families at the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Organizers plan to present the gift during their annual visit to the Michigan residence in early October.

Finally, here's what I experienced early Saturday morning as I walked through the Naperville Art League Riverwalk Fine Art Fair. A bee or yellow jacket flew into my collar and got caught on the back of my neck. For the first time in my life, I got stung by the pesky little insect. And did it ever sting!

No one could see a stinger. But, boy, did the red swollen area begin itching. I rubbed it, trying not to scratch.

My mother suggested coating it with a paste of baking soda and water. I did. The solution works temporarily. As I write this two days later, the annoying itch is still a distraction. I'm told the itch might last a week.

As I walked home from downtown Naperville Sunday afternoon, this news junkie found myself enjoying one of my favorite pastimes while I collected my thoughts in this mixed-up world that seems so upside down much of the time.

Longtime readers of this column know I'm as "corny as Kansas in August." I love belting out Broadway tunes when I'm all alone.

"When the dog bites," I sang. "When the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad."

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