Posted by: wrmcnutt | September 23, 2009

“The Pie of the Storm”

I think my favorite Pennsic Moment was at Pennsic XXV.  We were camping in Vlad’s spot that year.  Vlad was doing penance for a severe rule-breaking the year before.  He lost his land and could hold no parties.  It was our first year with our own camp, so we got stuck in Vlad’s spot for year one.  Thursday night of War Week was Meridian Court night, and most of camp was up on the Serengeti, attending court.  Myself and my pal Tormod had oped to stay in camp.  Also in camp was that night’s cook, Lady Ringela and her husband, the fire-tender.

I was sitting and reading a book, relaxing, and waiting for the family to get back from “up top.”  And then I noticed that the horizon seemed to be getting dark in one direction.  REALLY dark.   Tomod started moving around.  I continued reading.

“Tap – Tap – Tap”  Tormod was pounding tent stakes.  I continued reading.

The dark horizon resolved itself into the largest, blackest, most threatening cloud I’d ever seen.  I listened for a moment to the sounds of Tormod closing tent flaps and securing canvas, and then the rusty old Eagle Scout in me got moving.  I rose from my lounge chair and joined Tormod in securing tent walls, pounding stakes, and closing doors.

And that cloud continued to get larger and blacker. So we started digging extra trenches.

Meanwhile up on the Serengeti, the Crown looked over his shoulder, say the incoming deluge on the horizon, and immediately announced that “Court is now closed.  Everybody go secure your tents for heavy weather.”  Skipped right over the herald and the recessional.  Meridies scattered to the four winds to get ready for the incoming.

Down the the Bog, Tormod and I had camp just about ready.  All the stake loops had  a stake in them, all the tent flaps were closed, and all of the trenches had been inspected.  We were just beginning to look around for something else to tie down when the rest of camp began to trot into camp.

Tormod and I had most things in order already, so it was just a matter of folks going into their own tents and getting stuff off of the floor.

Words really fail to describe the incoming.  It was the blackest cloud I’d ever seen.  It looked like a vast bolt of black velvet approaching from the east.  And huge.  It looked like it went up for miles, and it utterly dominated the horizon.  And when it hit, it was like a curtain of water had been drawn across the site.  I grew up in hurricane country, and I don’t think I’ve seen that much water in that amount of time.  It rained.  Hard.  And for hours.  We camp in a place called the “Bog,” and it lived up to it’s name.  Our dining tent was ankle deep in water in about 15 minutes.

But WE were dry. Our beds were dry.  Our clothes were dry, and the only people out in the rain were the Cook and her assistant.  And she was magnificent.  More on that later.

And then Tormod opened the bar.  Everybody had a couple of cocktails, and the food began to come in.  It’s been too many years now to remember Ringela’s menu, but damn, I remember my delight.  It was hot, it was delicious, and there was plenty of it.  Ringela had had the wisdom to punt her initial multi-course serving plan and simplify the meal down to two courses plus dessert.  There were large slabs of steaming meat, piles and piles of starches, bowls of green things, and to finish it off, fresh baked pie.  Bjorn had built her a viking oven during the war, and from it she produced fresh-baked pie, in the face of torrential rains.

We sang down the storm.  We started with medieval and medievally themed pieces like The Lusty Young Smith and the Ballad of King Henry, moved through a bunch of other stuff by Steeleye Span, and then worked our way through the Beatles, and then down to the Tequila song.

It was, I think, the best party I’ve ever been to.  We had such a good time, that the next day, somebody was heard to say, “We were wet and miserable, but during a lull in the storm, I heard ‘Tequila!’  So somebody was having a good time.  The speaker had been, at the time, over a mile away.

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  1. Good memory, well told.

    • I just wish I could have remembered Ringela’s menu. I just remember it was really good.

  2. The best camping memories I have are during rain storms. Do you recall sitting around in Chateau at Gulf. Thunderstorms, wind, Trenching in the rain (even with a knee brace on), a random tent even landed on top of the Thorny Ivy out on the battle field, and a couple of Ealdomere bards got “stuck” in our common tent for the duration.
    that was the night we all learned “Rise”

  3. I have *got* to get my stuff together, get a period tent, and start getting out.

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