Teen volunteer follows Lincoln’s path

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Cole Campbell of Santa Claus, 14, gathered wood to split for firewood Wednesday morning at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City. Cole, a freshman at Heritage Hills High School, has volunteered at the living farm at the memorial since February 2012. His work at the farm was recognized last year when he received the Midwest region’s George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service by a youth.

Herald Staff Writer

LINCOLN CITY — Cole Campbell’s hand is the first in the air whenever a question is asked about Abraham Lincoln in his history classes. The 14-year-old has firsthand experience living and working as Lincoln did.

Cole, a freshman at Heritage Hills High School, has volunteered at the farm at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial since February 2012 and spends his hours there immersed in 1800s living, dressing in period clothing and doing demonstrations for guests.

Cole’s hard work at the farm was recognized last year when he received the Midwest region’s George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service by a youth. The Midwest region includes 10 states, and Cole wasn’t aware that Bob Zimmerman, who runs the farm, Mike Capps, Cole’s supervisor and chief of interpretation at the memorial, and Paula Alexander, volunteer coordinator at the memorial, had nominated him until he was announced as the winner.

Cole’s older brother, Kyle, got him involved at the farm after he first volunteered there. Kyle, now a senior at Heritage Hills, came home telling stories about working with the horses at the farm and Cole was immediately interested. Kyle is now one of the park’s summer interns.

During Cole’s first day on the job, when he was 13, he had the opportunity to work with the horses to plow and ready the gardens for the spring and summer.

“Once I started plowing with the horses, I thought, ”˜OK, I’ll come back,’ and I just kept on getting more projects and more projects,” Cole said Wednesday as he stood, hands in his pockets, among the chickens roaming about in the farm’s yard.

Cole grew up on 12 acres near Santa Claus with his parents, Brian and Dana, and brothers Kyle, 17, and Connor, 11. Before he began volunteering at the farm, Cole had no experience with any farm animals other than the chickens his family raised.

He’s learned all of the tasks he demonstrates — shearing sheep, chopping wood and plowing and maintaining the gardens — since his volunteer time began. He learned a lot from Zimmerman. The two even get together outside of work to discuss the history of Lincoln and life in the 1820s.

Cole worked all last summer, logging around 95 hours. In the midst of record high temperatures, he wore a long-sleeve linen shirt, long pants and boots.

“If you enjoy it enough, it doesn’t matter,” Cole said of the heat. “I enjoyed it enough that I would come out and work.”

This summer Cole has a paying job at Holiday World working in the picnic area, but he continues to volunteer three to four days a week at Lincoln, sometimes for a couple hours or sometimes for five or six if he has time. He has logged a total of around 130 hours since he began volunteering.
Alexander, a park ranger, said the park loves having Cole around and she has received many comments from guests about how they’ve seen “the young Lincoln” at the farm doing various chores.

“He’s just got a lot of enthusiasm,” Alexander said. “He loves what he does and he loves learning and trying his hand at all the different things. ... He does a lot of great things for the park and for the visitors that come. The work that he does and the work ethic he has I think kind of rubs off sometimes, even on some of the adults.”

Talking to guests is one of Cole’s favorite parts of the job. He said he finds it interesting to speak to visitors to find out what they know about Lincoln and to share his knowledge on the subject.

History has always interested Cole and he said he likes learning about the way people in the past lived.

“They had to work all the time, doing stuff nonstop, just to keep themselves alive,” Cole said.

Cole’s work at the farm has inspired others to get involved. Alexander said many local visitors have asked about volunteer opportunities at the farm since seeing Cole there. Cole’s own friends have even become a part of the farm. As a rooster crowed loudly, Cole talked about his friend Colton Bender, 14, who volunteers at the farm with him. Colton wanted to experience working with animals and began volunteering with Cole at the end of last summer.

Though he doesn’t have any plans set in stone, Cole hopes to one day become a park ranger. For now, his plans are to continue working at the farm as often as possible, learning as much as he can along the way.

“I think it’s good just to go out and start learning stuff about something instead of sitting on the couch,” he said.

Contact April Dittmer at newsintern@dcherald.com.

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com