Posted by: wrmcnutt | June 21, 2010

Lilies War XXIV – Or, How I Spent My June Vacation

Sorry – been out of touch for a while.  I’ve just spent the last week at the War of the Lilies, in the Kingdom of Calontir.  It had been my intent to live-blog the War, but as I was on vacation, it just didn’t work out . . .

In any case –

Obligatory Orientation Paragraph: For the newcomers, I belong to a really big historical re-creation group, the Society for Creative Anachronism.  There’s a lot to say about us, and we do many, many things.  But the most dynamic and visible thing that we do is put on real suits of armor, pick up simulated weapons, and bash each other with them.  Our gatherings vary in size, theme, and intensity, but one of the largest of these gathering is the great Gulf Wars fought in southern Mississippi in early March.  Regionally, we are broken into Kingdoms.  I hail from the southeastern United States, in the Kingdom of Meridies.

Located just outside of Kansas City, the Kelsey Short Youth Camp offers little in the way of amenities, other than the lake.  On-site there are four shower stalls per gender.  In theory, there is a hot water heater attached.  And I did actually experience lukewarm water one night this year at around eleven o’clock at night.  Bring a flashlight; there is no electricity in the bathhouse.  You can, if you care to hike to your car, drive to the nearby RV park, where Lilies participants have shower privileges. There are no flush toilets on site, but our hosts rent plenty of porta-johns, and except for certain booths on certain party nights, there are diligently clean and, for the most part, not too terribly aromatic.  There is no running water, although there are about a half-dozen wellheads scattered around site which provide cold, potable water.  Our camp, down on the beach, is only about fifty yards (uphill) from one of these, so hauling water wasn’t as big a deal for us as it is for some other camps.  There is plenty of shade and the lake is wonderful. Watch out for the poison ivy, though.  The tree-lines are rich in it.  The very popular swimming beach is about fifty yards from our camp. (Marco?  Polo!!)

Smithville Lake, popular with both water skiers and fishermen, is the main amenity of the camp.  A shallow artificial lake, it warms up quickly in the springtime, and for the most part, makes for a comfortable swim for most people, and, sooner or later, most people come by our camp to make use of the water.  Alas, I was boatless this year.  I have to tow the Camp Trailer, so I couldn’t bring September Blue. Dad’s Boat, which normally fits in my van, is in pieces for a refit.  Accordingly, I had less excuse than last year to not see the inside of my armor, but I still didn’t fight any this year.

At 46, I should be fighting while I still can, but there’s just something about that stiff breeze blowing in off of the lake that says, “sit on your butt in the shade and read some mental popcorn.”  This year’s brain-vacation was a return to the original Sherlock Holmes tales.  More suited to cold autumn evenings with a pot of Earl Grey, Holmes was a terrific break.  I got on the Holmes kick, though, by a recent treatment of the Jack the Ripper case.

On our last trip to Ashville, my spousal-unit waved a book in front of my nose, Dust and Shadow, and the cover blurb noted that it was an exciting new treatment of the Jack the Ripper case.  True crime junkies, the both of us, I asked her if she really needed a new treatment of the case, since she knew it cold.  Then she pointed to the author, John H. Watson, M.D.  Without this becoming a book-review,Dust and Shadow, is as good a capture of Arthur Conan Doyle’s voice as I’ve ever read.  The language brought Victorian England to life and, once completed, it led me back to the original material on my Kindle.

The weather this year was fairly comfortable, although some of my traveling companions advise me to tell you that it was hot. But honestly, with a standing breeze coming off the lake at about 15 mph, the low nineties weren’t that hard to bear, in the shade, with a book and a beer.  I admit, in my armor in the sun, I might have found it a little toasty, too.

Speaking of the weather, “storms of note occur every three to five years.”  We should be good for the next six to ten years.  We had two.  The first one was on the first full day.  I had to finish trenching the sleeping tent in the rain.  In fact, as I was finishing up, I could see the enormous amount of water pouring down the hill and into my overwhelmed trench.  I could have just dug it deeper, but I didn’t like the idea of adding that big a trip hazard right in front of the tent.  I dug a secondary trench about three feet up the hill form my man and channeled about half the water around to the side.  It was shallower, and I actually had a four inch waterfall feeding into my main trench around the side of my tent.  It was a lot of water.

But only one of the two storms caused the tornado warning sirens go off.  Now, when do you suppose is the ideal time for the sky to suddenly grow dark, the wind to rise, and the skies to open?  Could it be, oh, say, in the middle of breaking camp on Saturday?  (We had a Saturday tear down because of the little girl.  She travels very well, but 15 hours in a car seat is too much to ask from a two-year-old. So we split the trip into two days and all of us are happier.)  In any case, we were about 2/3 of the way through packing camp when I looked up.

“Oh bugger.”

“What’s the matter?”

“The sky.”

“Oh crap.”

So we picked up the pace.  We dropped the canopy for our sleeping tent and got partially folded.  I then told my companions I could finish up and sent them to emptying the kitchen tent, whose walls were already folded. There was some rustling around various boxes and I prodded.

“I’m trying to get things that would be unhappy getting wet.”

“Nothing will be less happy that that canvas!”


And we picked up the pace again.  Canvas flapped and plastic tubs flew.  Again,
Ok, I’ll finish here.  You guys get the dining fly down!”

Bottom line – we didn’t make it.  We did manage to get all of the expensive canvas packed and under cover before the sky opened, but the dining fly got slightly damp, and the scattered detritus got soaked.  We had to move the Silver Beast up out of the low area quickly.  My chariot plus trailer will sink in up to their axles out of sheet spite if asked to travel through mud or wet grass.  So we ended up sitting out the storm in the van, up on the gravel road, and the shlepping the remaining 20% of the camp on our backs after the weather broke.  In the aftermath, I got asked where the lid to the firebox was?  My response was “gone with the wind.”  It may have blown right square into the poison ivy patch, but I think it cleared it, and was somewhere on the other side of the lake.  I had a tarp, my new hat, and the firebox lid to juggle, and I had two hands.  I chose two.  The lid was not one of them.  We needed a new firebox anyway.

I also spent an afternoon/evening up at the forge, and up at the archery range, but those stories are for another day.  Over all, as usual, Lilies was a success.  It wasn’t my war; I had no duties or responsibilities, and was able to relax, which is the point of going on vacation, right?

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  1. Sorry to hear that the weather didn’t cooperate this year. But like you said, you should be good for several years now.

    Yes, we want to hear about the forge, etc. Especially the archery tournament. Congratulations on that. Hope all is well with Danr, Catriona, and the kids.

  2. The Archery Tournament will be tomorrow’s post. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be an annoying example of hubris.

  3. oh is THAT the point of vacation? I didn’t know. 😉

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