Rock Ledge’s new ‘Abe’ really can split logs

       A new “Abe Lincoln” will be unveiled for the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site's annual Family Fourth event Monday, July 4.
       Mike Houston will wear the classic Lincoln tuxedo and top hat and read the Gettysburg Address at different times during the multi-activity event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
       For years, the part of Lincoln had been played by retired schoolteacher and local historian Merell Folsom, but he decided after 2009 to give it up. Because of the distinctive Lincoln “look” and lack of a local replacement, the Family Fourth was forced to do without the Civil War president in 2010.
       Houston himself has never played Lincoln before. He's not even an actor. “It's not my usual cup of tea,” he said (though he added that he has been studying up on Lincoln and the circumstances of the short, famous speech he delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg soldiers' cemetery several months after the decisive Union victory of July 1-3, 1863). “I haven't acted since I was in school,” Houston said.
       On the other hand, he's 6-foot-5 and brown-haired (working on the beard), and at age 57 he's just a year older than Lincoln when he was assassinated in 1865. Beyond that, Houston's background includes eight years living in (and renovating) Civil War-era homes without running water or electricity in the Kentucky backwoods. He's a 40-year heirloom furniture-maker, who starts by cutting down a tree and crafting from there. In fact, he told ranch manager Andy Morris, if there was any aspect of his Lincoln portrayal he'd definitely be comfortable with July 4, it would be having some logs to split.
       “I think he's going to be perfect,” said Morris, who knows Houston as a fellow blacksmith.
       Other activities at the Family Fourth will include a Civil War encampment, carnival games, patriotic music by the Fountain Creek Brass Band and appearances/readings by other enactors - George Washington, William Jackson Palmer and Katharine Lee Bates.
       The ranch is off Gateway Road at 30th Street. Regular ticket prices apply - $8 for adults, with discounts for seniors and children and the opportunity to include admission prices as part of a ranch membership.

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