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Beginner's Corner
Section 2.....Keepin' Goin'

Hey Maw! Let's Pack 'Em All!

Missouri Iowa Nebraska Kansas

No, it's not skinning bucks............ Developed and maintained by JP Finn

All comments, recommendations or rebuttals are welcome.

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Hey Maw! Let's Pack 'Em All!
Phil Jose

There's something I want to clear up in this article. Thanks to a little glitch in the English language (You didn't expect me to say that it was my fault, did you?) I may have left you with a wrong impression. The glitch is that we use the word "you" both as singular and plural. When I've been saying that I'm trying to get "you" ready for events, I mean "all of yuh."

I always marvel how there's something for everyone in camp. Some of the goin's-on are of a general nature, and they range from a camp-wide Saturday night potluck dinner to music and dancing once the flatlanders go home. (A lot of times, the flyer for the event will give you information on these.) Often, though, there are special things for special segments of the participants.

Let's go with ladies first. While everyone's invited and welcome at the main shoot, often there are ladies' shoots as well. Keeping furry faces off the firing line is a fine method of encouragement for any females who might be a little less experienced with a shootin' iron.

Way cheaper to start with, but every bit as potentially lethal, is the skillet toss. Ladies, how far do you think you can fling a cast iron skillet? Do you have what it takes to heave it that prize-winning distance? I've heard it said that just entering these contests somehow earns you the respect (as well as the undivided attention) of your hubby.

Another segment of participants that any good rendezvous remembers are the kids. I tend to climb on a rather tall soapbox on the subject of getting kids involved in what we do. After all, they are the ones for whom we're trying to preserve the heritage, values, and way of life—three things I consider their birthrights as Americans—that are found at rendezvous. The sooner our kids are involved in the preservation process, the better.

Again, a lot of events have special junior shoots. The upper age limit for these is somewhere in the high school range. These are fine events for fledgling shooters; not only are they competing against folks around the same experience level, they're learning range rules and safety as they go. They're invaluable lessons on the road to responsible gun ownership.

There's also a wide range of games to be found. Depending on who's putting on the event, you can find foot races, three-legged races, sack races, and pint-sized tugs-o-war.

If you're ever in camp and hear someone booming out the words "CA-A-A-NDY CANNON," even if you don't have kids, go take a look. What you're going to see is a bunch of the little folks getting some well-rehearsed instructions from a responsible adult. You're going to see them step way back as that responsible adult lights off a specially made mortar in their midst. (Quit gasping, here comes the fun part.) Finally you're going to see a bunch of wide-eyed, laughing kids scramble over a half-acre of camp, looking for the hard candy that has been shot straight up out of the candy cannon, and is currently raining down on them.

If it sounds like you're going to be in for a lot of fun and games in camp, you're right. There's always a lot going on. But don't think that it's just the organized things you wind up enjoying.

I think it's always thrilling to learn another skill. It's a good thing for the ego to sit back and realize that you've mastered something you've never tackled. I don't care if it's the first time you pitch a tent, or make a fire with flint and steel, or get what you want at the price you want in a trade. Accomplishments are fun. Age doesn't matter. In fact, in a lot of cases, it's a matter of "the sooner learned, the better."

As you learn and master more, you're going to notice something else. You're going to start finding yourself more self-sufficient. A lot of it will be in areas you probably don't even think of in your twentieth century life. Let me use a very un-guy example in my own case: Before I started reenacting, black powder shooting and camping were both in my experience. Sewing was not. When I decided to make my own duds rather than buy them, I began by asking myself, "What am I getting myself into?" (My only clue to where to begin was to know to keep the sharp end of the needle pointed away from me.) The attitude changed after the first leggings-and-breechcloth project. I can now proudly claim that most of the clothing you see me wearing at an event is my own work.

With that self-sufficiency comes a bonus: self-confidence. When you've finished that small task or project that seemed as huge as it was new, the next and larger project doesn't seem quite as hard. It's an attitude that has a wonderful knack for finding its way into your Monday-to-Friday life.

There's another type of lesson reenacting teaches. It may not be as fun to learn as the projects you can do at home, but it's more profound. It's the kind of lesson you can only learn after you've packed out because a weekend-long rain has turned camp into swamp, or after you've had to start your fire in a driving wind, or after you've spent your first twenty degree night in an unheated tent. It's a lesson in the appreciation of what those who came before us went through just to make it to the end of the day. A taste of the "simpler uncomplicated" life led by those who came before us earns them a deeper respect. (Allow me a mini-editorial: When I stop and realize that those folks didn't just survive or endure their lives, but flourished, that respect stops just short of outright awe.)

Another interesting lesson learned in camp is that of enterprise. There are opportunities in camp to prove that the phrase "Where there's a will, there's a way" isn't just a slogan. For example:

I was at an event where a twelve-year-old fell in love with a knife that was for sale on a blanket. He didn't have anything to trade, and was too short on the dollar amount. Now, Maw and Paw approved of the boy buying the knife, but not of just handing him the cash.
I'm proud to say that this boy didn't give up. He set himself to earning the money. He went from camp to camp looking for chores. For a dollar or two, he'd fetch an armload of wood, a bag of ice, or a bucket of water. Of course, when the word started spreading as to why the boy was so intent on earning the money, more and more folks hired him. By the end of the event, the boy proudly bought that knife, and had some cash to spare.

Of course, most of the time, most kids come to rendezvous just to have fun. You're going to see bands of kids roaming camp, or telling their parents that they're going to visit friends way over on the other side of camp—even kids that might seem a little young for such independence. Don't worry, they're safe.

Remember that there are a lot of parents in camp. (Some day, Maw and Paw, it's going to be your turn to have a roving band of cookie crunchers in your camp.) Also keep in mind that rendezvous attracts the kind of folks where even we non-parents tend to keep an eye out where the kids are concerned.

But then that's rendezvous. It never fails to amaze me how people with such varied backgrounds can become so closely knit.

I think that's because the camp is, in the truest sense, a community. Too often we think of a "community" as just a bunch of strangers living close together, doing their own thing. The community that's found in our way of life is the kind where everyone participates in something together and is also accepted at face value. It doesn't matter about your age, or whether you're the most outgoing participant or the most introverted, or if your only talent is taking out the trash. You know that you're going to be welcome around the campfire. Just being there tells everyone that you have something in common with them, be it an interest in history, a shared outlook on life, or wanting more from that life than the material goods of our times can give.

And you thought that you were in this just to wear nice clothes.

Copyright 1999, Philip Jose.


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