Say farewell to historical present

So I say to fellow columnist Chris Schillig last week how much I hate historical present. I can tell he feels less strongly about it than I do, but he is interested in hearing my thoughts. Historical present (HP hereafter) is the use of present tense to describe past happenings, and it drives me bonkers.
Museum guides love HP. Perhaps they think it makes the action sound more immediate, but it just irritates me. The tour guide:
“Jedediah marries Jememiah, and they live in a small log cabin while Jed builds a frame house, which Jem demands during their prenuptial discussion. ‘I ain’t livin’ in no gol-durn log cabin,’ she tells him. ‘If you make me live there, I’ll up and run oft.’ Jed works all summer on the frame house, but a tornado rips through the countryside and destroys his work,” and so on.
HP annoys me mainly because it is annoying, but at times it creates confusion, when the guide truly needs the present tense, and you, the visitor, can’t tell when the action happened. I get so annoyed at the tour guide using HP that I begin to focus more on his use of HP than on the information offered, and I eventually drift back in to the conversation after Jem threatens to divorce Jed unless he remodels the kitchen in the new house, which is almost flattened by an earthquake, and now they have 15 kids, and one of them won’t quit twangin’ the banjer. So when did the quake happen, I wonder, and where did all those kids come from?
Does some international museum guide training program give lessons in the use of HP? Its use is nearly universal and ubiquitous. I’ll congratulate and generously tip the tour guide who has the daring to use good old past tense, but I figure I can spend that money on books because I’ll never need it otherwise.

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