BAKER — Being in the dog house isn’t so good. Living in a dog-trot house, on the other hand, was typical for Crackers, rural North Okaloosa County's early residents.


BAKER — Being in the dog house isn’t so good. Living in a dog-trot house, on the other hand, was typical for Crackers, rural North Okaloosa County's early residents.



Cracker, locally, refers to oxen team drivers whose cracking whips drove the beasts as they hauled logs out of the forest or plowed the fertile fields.



The term came to refer to the area’s hard-working, independent-minded rural residents, and also describes the regional traditional architectural vernacular, and sometimes the area’s cultural heritage.



During Saturday’s Baker Heritage Festival, Lillian Van Houten came home to the log dog-trot house in which her mother was born, and which she donated to the Baker Block Museum’s Heritage Park.



“When mama was born here, it was just two rooms,” Van Houten said.



The rooms are on either side of the covered open corridor that gives the style its “dog trot” or “dog run” name.



Van Houten pointed to tacks still holding the corners of long-faded pieces of paper to one wall in the room where volunteer Cindy Bronson prepared apple treats for visitors.



“Mama tacked up pages from catalogs here,” Van Houten explained. “I got married in 1953 and my mama was still living in this house.”



Throughout the house and on its broad verandas, as well as the house next door, costumed re-enactors demonstrated folkways that would not have been uncommon in homes when they were new.



Across the dog trot, Sue Aughtman and Vivian Lee, dressed in gingham and bonnets, worked on a “step around the mountain” pattern quilt in front of the brick fireplace.



“Of course, the fireplace wasn’t so fancy when I was a little girl,” Van Houten said.



“I had one man ask me, ‘What religion are you that you dress like that?’” Aughtman said. “And I said, ‘Oh no, it’s a time period, not a religion.’”



In the house next door, connected by a covered extension of the dog trot, Jane Kelly and Vickie Lake baked corn bread over the fireplace and smeared it with freshly churned butter, made by vigorously shaking two pints of heavy cream in a quart jar.



“Our ancestors were pretty smart,” Lake said. “They get a pound of butter and a pint of buttermilk this way.”



WANT TO GO?



WHAT: Baker Block Museum Heritage Park



WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and third Saturdays



WHERE: Baker Block Museum, corner of Highway 189 and State Road 4, Baker



NOTES: The North Okaloosa Historical Association’s museum and pioneer homestead village provides insight on regional history, heritage and folkways.



Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.