Tag Archives: Book

*Book Review* – American’s Living History

A Traveler’s Guide to

American’s Living History – The Early Years

By: Suzanne & Craig Sheumaker


A Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site interpretive ranger recommended a book focusing on living history sites across the country.  Fortunately the bookstore/trade room had copies of American’s Living History – The Early Years. After a brief browse I knew we needed to add this title to our travel bookshelves.

Authors Suzanne and Craig Sheumaker selected 300 sites throughout the US that are historically accurate and offer history-based activities, re-enactments and/or special events. The Sheumakers visited each of the 300 locations before compiling the book, plus many others that did not make the cut. “The Early Years” refer to the fact that the authors chose to focus on destinations reflecting pre-1840 history, from early Native American cultures to the opening of the West.

Regional maps and listings provide visual destination locations while themed chapters are organized by field of interest. At first I found the organization a bit awkward but after reading the introduction, historical timeline and several entries I realize the groupings are logical and practical.

Each chapter begins with a short historical perspective, followed by individual destination descriptions and photos. Craig’s professional photography expertise enriches every page. The descriptions offer concise background knowledge and visitation highlights. Frequent sidebars add informative mini-lessons of American history. “Wouldn’t it be great if school history lessons were so interesting?

The award-winning book doesn’t try to provide every detail of hours, fees, restrictions, etc. – dull details that make a book dated by the time it arrives from the printer. Instead, contact info including websites are listed for the reader/traveler to find the latest, accurate details needed for a successful visit.

I couldn’t resist the urge to count how many of the sites we’ve visited – 52. In reading many of those entries I find the Sheumakers’ information extremely factual. Terms such as, “exceptional, meticulous, charming or terrific” are used accurately not as hype. Whether one is an on-the-road RVer or an armchair traveler they will be entertained and enriched by America’s Living History – The Early Years. 

I hope the authors are compiling a follow-up edition covering “The Later Years.” There are many sites dating after 1840 that offer quality living history experiences, especially in the west where settlement was in it’s infancy in the mid-nineteenth century. Meanwhile I need to get on the road to visit the other 248 locations.

America’s Living History – The Early Years is available online at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble or at museum stores across the country.

Singing Wind Bookshop – Benson, Arizona

Ring the Bell for Books

If you love books of any genre, listen up.


  • singing-wind-mailboxFrom Interstate 10 in Benson, Arizona
  • Take Exit 304
  • Drive north 2.25 miles on Ocotillo Road
  • After the cattleguard turn right onto the dirt road – a Singing Wind Road sign and the distinctive mailbox marks the spot.
  • Pass through the green gate
  • Drive 1/2 mile to the ranch house
  • Wonder if you’re in the right place
  • Exit car
  • Read well-worn sign and ring the ranch bellsinging-wind-bell
  • Proceed to the front door
  • Ignore the barking dog – sounds fierce, actually the official greeter
  • Open door
  • Meet Winifred Bundy
  • Listen – and pay attention – to her detailed tour of the shelves
  • Browse and buy

I’m fairly certain our visit to Singing Wind Bookshop is the most unique book buying experience of my life. Following the sandy lane pass rusting ranch equipment we’re not at all sure we’re in the right place. Stopping in front of the ranch house we’re still leery. A barely readable sign says ring the bell and a note on the door says enter, the barking dog makes me not so sure. Bob’s hanging back in the car, having none of this.

winifred-bundyFinally getting up enough nerve to open the door I come face-to-face with Winifred Bundy. The first words out of her mouth are, “Let me give you a tour.” By tour she means a very detail explanation of how topics are arranged on the floor-to-ceiling shelves in three rooms. If you don’t pay attention you’ll miss her quips and puns. There may be a test later.

We’re on the second wall when three more customers arrive and introductions are made. I stick my head out the door and tell Bob he needs to come in – this is not to be missed. We start the tour again from the beginning. That’s okay with me because my eyes had already glazed over by the time we got to mythology. I’m not at all surprise when I later learn she has two master degrees in Library Science.

“Up above the door is finance, sometimes I think they should be in fiction,” Winifred deadpans. Turning a corner the commentary continues, “Here we have male fiction – not the US mail. There will be more puns.” Her tour is spiced with author tidbits and critiques, “Western Jewish history – very important.”

A staff member arrives to finish the tour, Win explains she has to get to Tucson for a funeral.

cowboy-reader3While one can find selections from art to zoology, books of the Southwest and Western Americana are specialties. The selection amazes. If you’ve listened to Win’s tour you’ll know where to browse for that special title you’ve been seeking. All books were new when they were put on the shelf – that may have been a long time ago. Meaning you might find some real bargains in older books. Singing Wind offers limited availability in some out-of-print materials. They’re willing to search for special requests and will take mail orders over the phone.

childrens-room1The children’s room with antique rocking chairs makes me wish there had been a place like this in my childhood.

Collectors and casual readers keep arriving. I can imagine spending most of a day among the books. The staff member says, “We have picnic tables out back, you can bring a sack lunch and spend the day.”

Singing Wind will celebrate its 35th anniversary in May 2009. Winifred Bundy has created a magical book place and is always ready to guide an interested reader through the world of the written word.

When You Go: Singing Wind Bookshop is open daily 9am – 5pm, including Sundays and most holidays. Cash and checks accepted for payment, no charge cards. To find Singing Wind just follow the directions.