Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekend in Arcadia

The other weekend, I got together with friends from Goode’s Company/ Ravenrook/ Academia della Spada for a bit of fun camping and campaigning near Port Townsend, WA. Friend Nathan Barnett (the “Cpt. Goode” of Goode’s Co.) decided that since our local Renaissance Faire wasn’t happening this year (for various and sundry reasons), and we wanted to get folks kick-started for our School of the Renaissance Soldier in October, that it would be a grand idea to hold a little “prep” event in the mean time, thus “Arcadia” was born.

The site we used was quite beautiful, with woods and a large hayfield to drill on. Or so we thought. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to use the horses on the hayfield, as the actual owners of the site (as opposed to the folks who were long-term renters of the site, whom we were going through for the land use) declared that the horses were going to ruin the crop of hay. I call balderdash, but not my fight, so I stayed out of it, but in a way it turned out very well in the long run.

Among the participants in the event were a number of folks who were total virgins to the reenactment, as opposed to “Ren Faire”, scene. I think that many were quite interested in the idea of actually keeping all of one’s period clothing on during the event, rather than just wearing wool and heavy layers during the heat of the day and then changing into cotton jeans and “T” shirts for the evening. Some (who I imagine didn’t show) were astonished at the concept I’m sure, but there it is. I guess the difference between Ren Faire and reenactment is that one is playing, one is portraying. I’m not sure exactly how the semantics would fall out on which is which, but there it is. One is occupied with a portrayal full time all weekend, the other is only while the paying public is in sight, and pretty much only for them.

I had concluded some time early in the planning stages that the idea of my Horse being lancers wasn’t exactly a great idea, since the maximum number I figured I could count on was three. So rather than bother with that sort of thing, I packed carbines and pistols into the truck for Bev and I to use while portraying Harquebusiers, rather than our usual “Launtiers” of the late-16th Century. One of the advantages of this was that we didn’t have to wear armour if we didn’t feel like it, and considering the humidity of the weekend, we didn’t. So instead, it was our buff coats and felt hats, rather than steel for us! I also decided to slum by wearing my “2nd Best Suit” and boots, rather than my nice ones. Mostly it was due to the fact that it was going to be hot, and I didn’t want to wear my hot heavy lined top boots when I had a pair of perfectly serviceable boots made out of much lighter, and unlined, leather laying about that could also be easily turned down for more comfort yet. Add my old leather jerkin and “viola!” I was a Harquebusier!

The carbines we carried were ones made by Dale Shinn of Sacramento, California. I carried the wheellock rifled carbine, Bev the little flintlock. The wheellock had an interesting history. My then-girlfriend’s sister Jeannette had taken photos of Dale and his friends at the Frazier Park Black Powder Rendezvous back in 1976 or so and given them to me shortly thereafter. Dale and company were clothed in their best 1630’s outfits, with matchlock and wheellock firearms, and it drove me absolutely wild with envy to see the pictures (I still have them around somewhere). I had already seen Dale featured in a couple of “Guns and Ammo” magazine articles by Garry James (another member of the group in the pictures: I still have those magazines around too) and was very much in love with the idea of owning my own wheellock made by Dale. A few years later, after having met, and become fast friends, with Dale, he sold me the self-same carbine he had been carrying in the photograph. Being young and dumb at the time, I allowed my friend Roy to talk me out of the carbine, as “I had a wheellock and he did not.” Some years later Roy in turn sold the carbine to our close friend Carl Ontis (who had tried to con me out of it during the short time I had owned it), and then more years passed, and I acquired it for myself again. And there it shall stay! It’s a nice little carbine with one of Dale’s “1630” locks on it. They weren’t all that great, but he was trying for a production piece at the time, and it was fairly easy to make in large numbers.

The carbine Bev was carrying is of much later production, but also by Dale Shinn. He made it for me to give to my wife as a present, something she was less than impressed with I’m afraid, but Bev certainly likes it! It is very light, having a light 20-gauge barrel (as opposed to the heavy .50 rifled barrel of my wheellock), and the stock is configured so as to be quite handy to shoot one-handed. It has a very early style of flintlock on it, still retaining the “belly” of the wheellock. Both are of styles common in the early decades of the 17th Century, and both of the carbines are fitted with sling-bars and rings on the left sides, so are able to be carried by the swivel-snap on a carbine sling.

We also had my pair of Jacobean-lock pistols, plus our other wheellock pistols to boot. We were fairly well outfitted with firearms, for a change! And lucky for us, friend Rob/Raph showed up Saturday afternoon with his horses to play, so I outfitted him with a pistol, and he became our “horse-holder” for the event.

As noted above, we were ejected from the hayfield, so on Sunday of the event we had to make use of the woods instead. There were LOTS of nice trails through the woods, making for some rather interesting games. The basic plan was “we’ll see what transpires”. The pikes were tromping through the woods over trails, and we found them to be a most marvelous prey. There proved to be an old railroad levee cutting the edge of the property, which made a nifty “high road”, and we made the most of it by setting several “ambuscadoes” on it. Bev and I dismounted while Rob held the horses a few score yards up the road. Nice for the Foote to march by while we shot at them, I must say. Of course, they didn’t always notice (my pyrite wasn’t always properly contacting the wheel on my lock, thus several misfires), but we had fun dismounting, setting the ambuscado up, firing at the passing pikemen, then rushing off to mount and ride helter-skelter to the next spot. It was a hoot, and we got pretty wound up from it, but not as wound up as Bev’s horse Darshan. He REALLY got excited with the fun of running through the woods, up and over game trails, and chasing (and being chased) by the “Boggards” of the woods. When he got so excited that he started bucking, we figured it was about time for us to call it a day. Stinker. But it WAS his first real experience in doing woods work, where as my horse Woody and Gigi, Raph’s mare, were old hands at it. I guarantee that Darshan will get LOTS more experience of this nature!

We enjoyed the heck out of the “Forest Fight”, and gave me pause to consider the similarities with conflicts between “disciplined troops” and various forms of savages/irregular troops on the other hand. Setting ambushes, sneaking around and watching one’s foe come to you is exciting and interesting in a positive way, while marching into the unknown is exciting in a rather negative way. It was nice to be the irregular troops this time!

Another aspect was that we were finally doing “Light Horse” work. Usually at Elizabethan-era reenactments, when doing Horse, we portray much heavier gradations of the arm, usually in the form of Demi-Lancers, AKA cheveaux legér, who were well armoured and usually armed with a heavy lance. This time we got to be sans-armour, and with carbines rather than lances, and we dismounted to fight rather than charging into the mix. I suspect that the horses much preferred this idea, too. We definitely need to do more of this!

All photos, except the very first one, are by Byron Dazey and may not be reproduced without his permission.

1 comment:

darkmuse said...

it looks like another cosplay party))) RPG-lovers are so funny...

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