Spiro Mounds weren't unbearably boring as I'd thought they were as a child, but the place was calm, quiet, and peaceful, so I can see how I'd thought so at the time. Straight from Cahokia Mounds with a mind full of context, however, and in the company of my own family, they were quite pleasant to hike:
We had a self-guided tour (a single photocopied pamphlet, borrowed from the front desk, with some faulty pagination--how many decades has it been so?), several informational signs along the way, and our own prior knowledge to help us understand what we were looking at, especially as many of these mounds are vastly smaller than the giant Cahokia Mounds that we were used to. Almost a game to try to see the humps in the meadow:
I believe that this was also our first long family hike through this particular type of terrain:
The kids had mixed feelings about plains-hiking. On the one hand, it's a change of pace, with a much different view--and no hills! On the other hand, there were zero of the shady trees that always lower the temperature as we hike, and, as Will often helpfully reminded us, it was hot!
Matt invented a game with her that I'm probably going to regret the next time we go anywhere: the gist is that everyone is on a field trip (Gee, where could they have gotten that idea?), and they're all whining at their teacher, only it has to be silly whines. So Will can now hike happily enough, as long as she's also whining, "Mrs. Templeton (that's my imaginary name in this game)! My water bottle is only half full!"
"Mrs. Templeton! That squirrel is climbing on the mound!"
"Mrs. Templteton! Where's the bathroom?"
Yeah. Thanks, Matt.
Of course, in the South, the payoff to everything being blazingly hot outside is that the air conditioning hits you with a wall of bracing cold as soon as you go back inside, so everyone had a pleasant time cooling back off in the museum, looking at antiquities, watching a documentary, and, you know, grinding a little corn:
This museum doesn't have even a fraction of the budget of Cahokia (as a matter of fact, we almost couldn't pay the admission to get in, because they didn't have a credit card reader--yikes!), so I was frankly impressed that the place was as respectable as it was--outdoor historical sites require a LOT of maintenance! I still want to visit Serpent Mound, but with this trip, I think that these two kids of mine have absorbed just about as much information about the Mound Builders as they're going to be able to absorb for a while.
And since next weekend, we have our dinosaur dig orientation with the paleontologists and other families who'll also be at our dino dig in a month and a half, I think it's about time to move our geography and history studies out West!
P.S. I heard a lot about this scandal during our visit, and I requested this book from our university library as soon as we got home:
I'm prepared to be both enthralled and horrified by it.