Our first event of the season took place at Jamestown Settlement. Military Thorough the Ages is a timeline event, and it is judged. We wrangled ourselves an invitation last year to see what it was all about, and we got hooked. The participants are divided into three time periods: Cold Steel, Black Powder and Modern. Since we portray a British Hospital during the American War for Independence, we were part of the Black Powder group. There are three judged categories for each time period, Best Camp Cooking, Best Camp (Material Culture and Interpretation), and Best Uniform/Clothing Impression. There is also an overall Best Unit Demonstration for battlefield interpretation and a Reenactor’s Choice award.
It all makes for a crazy weekend. We didn’t have as much space to set up as we would have liked so we crammed ourselves into our space with the aid of Vaseline (Oh! Not period correct. Maybe I should say lard) and a shoe-horn. The firewood was green and wouldn’t burn (thank goodness for those who packed the period correct charcoal). There wasn’t any room for the kids to spread out and just be kids so we put them to work. The 11-year-old boy was up interpreting dentistry with the men when we weren’t making him haul water. The 9-year-old girl was helping the cook chop vegetables, and Sweet Daughter took over the coffee display solo when her sidekick was helping in the kitchen.
“These are coffee beans. (Points to green beans.) These are done (roasted) coffee beans. This is how you grind them. (She counts out four beans and places them into the copper hopper of coffee mill.) Be very careful not to get your fingers down there (pointing) or you’ll get hurt. (She gives the handle a couple of rotations.) They look like this (shows drawer of ground coffee.) Then she (points to the 9-year-old) puts them in here (points to Turkish burr grinder) and then they look all runny (??) (points to a bowl of finely powdered, burr-ground coffee.) Yeah, I’m biased, but for “teaching” for the first time at age 4 ½, I think she did a great job.
There were over 2.500 visitors on Saturday alone. Our guys that portray doctors and dentists and surgeons (Oh, my!) love this kind of thing. They can, and do, talk all day long. We’ve got a teacher representing one of the women who followed the army and worked for the hospital. We’ve got our cook. They love to teach. Me? Not so much, and I guess I’m still puzzling out why I love this event so much. The amount of time and effort I put into the planning the minutia of this event drives me close to insane. I think it’s because while our medical staff is the undisputed star of our show, it gives us support-types a chance to shine. The public comes to watch Dr. Mike make suppositories (they were a huge hit), or see The Bone, or hear the details of an amputation. Few really care about how to make covered buttons or how to do a prick-stitched lining in a jacket where the edges of the wool are left raw, or how a hand-rolled hem looks on a cap, or what rice and beans grown in the Carolinas in the 18th century look like. These are all really small, nit-picky details, but they all add up to a better impression. And I like this event because it drives me to better my impression.
Well that, and comparatively speaking, every other event of the season will seem like a cinch to plan.