From heartbreaking to hammy

Published 9:23 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I’ve always believed that we can learn much from the stories that make up our history. But when those stories are distilled into a series of dates with no emotional connection it becomes difficult to even care.

That’s why I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Kermit Hobbs’ Siege of Suffolk series. Until recently, I haven’t heard Civil War stories the way Hobbs tells them. And if you had asked me two months ago which period of history I care least about, I would have quickly listed American history, especially the Civil War.

But experiencing the nerve-wracking and sometimes heartbreaking moments through the series has given me an emotional connection I won’t soon forget. Seeing some of the poignant artwork from that time, and even being tasked with trying to display that artwork thoughtfully along with the stories, has given me a new appreciation for the period.

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We hope that you’ve gotten as much the series, which will continue through May 4. I, personally, hope that exposing our readers to Hobbs and the intriguing history of the area has created a few history buffs.

But Hobbs isn’t the only one sharing a unique view of local history with area residents.

The Isle of Wight County Museum will explore history of a tastier sort on Sunday when it offers a free talk on ham.

That’s right. The meat that put Smithfield on map will take center stage in a history that will range from the 1600s through today.

Tracey Neikirk, the museum’s curator and registrar since 2007, told the Suffolk News-Herald that she will use artifacts to illustrate a history that includes the many companies that called the town of Smithfield home.

Neikirk will even be able to bring an extra sense to her descriptions of what makes Smithfield ham so special.

When describing a ham cured from pigs fed with local peanuts, she said, “It smelled like peanut butter,” which she says is why folks worked so hard to get it officially named “Smithfield ham.”

The Isle of Wight County Museum, located at 103 Main St. in Smithfield, is free to visit, even if you can’t make it to the talk. And it’s just another of the many historical institutions in the area that make for great day outings.