Preperations for Day of Knights 2016

I’ve been to SCA wars and other camping events. I’ve camped as a civilian. I’ve “camped” (if you can call it that) while in the field in the Army. So, objectively, it makes sense that I’ve acquired over the last decade a sizable amount of camp-related paraphernalia.

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So… A Turnip?

The question invariably arises about my choice of heraldry, and I’m okay with that. Using obscure images in your arms is a great way to be immediately and unmistakably memorable. The world of real and reconstructionist heraldry is awash in the “cool kid” charges. The flags that flutter across the fields of SCA and reenacting scenes have a surfeit of lozenges and chevrons, dragons and lions, castles and weapons. In contrast to all that, it’s hard not to notice a turnip, and to know exactly who it is bearing that charge. From a heraldic point of view… that’s kind of the exact point.

As clever as that makes me sound, I didn’t choose the turnip simply for its shock value. Among its virtues were the turnip’s inherent ties to medieval culture as an agricultural staple of pre-colonial Europe. It was an integral component to the progression of human civilization. For my part, being a poor artist, they’re relatively easy to draw when I want to put my mark on things. I can document their use in heraldry which tickles the inner history nerd. But, bottom line, as uninspiring as it sounds, I really just like turnips. And, there’s something naturally funny about a turnip.

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In The Beginning…

So what is this website all about? In the last few months, I have been spending enormous time and resource preparing for the living history event Days of Knights in Kentucky (now Ohio). It is a new form of reenacting for me, and I am excited to be a part of it. I am motivated to put in the work required to exceed “good enough” and exhibit my impression well. Plus, this new group I am with, the Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City, is an amazing ensemble of people and it is important to me I show them (and the public) I am a worthy representative of their association. I was urged, with all the work I have done, to share my methods, tools, research, and resources with others who may follow the same road as I do. My biggest concern is, who am I? What can I contribute to the wealth of information already out there on blogs, forums, websites, and videos? What benefit can I put out which has not already been done? There’s so much noise on the internet, I am hesitant to throw up any content which does not have a clear benefit over what’s already published.

Taking an honest and unflinching examination of myself as a reenactor of late 14th / early 15th century Europe I conclude I am average, at best average.5. I worked for four years as a professional 19th-century living-history instructor; a different form of adult-dress-up. There has been a love-hate relationship between me and the SCA for a decade, culminating in a 90% retirement from the entire concept. While in the SCA I was a reluctant and dissatisfied heavy-weapons fighter, crummy archer, decent event steward, mediocre shire Senechal, and recipient of the “you’ve played for a little bit, so thanks for that” basic award of arms. I dislike sewing or crafting generally. I participated in ARMA for a short while, but quit when I decided I wanted to learn the sword without joining a cult. I went to a couple of LARP (Dagorhir) meetings and even almost-finished a foam sword. I’ve studied history in a recreational manner, which means I have knowledge about disparate topics, but have no concentrated scholastic mastery or achievements (or a history degree.) I’ve dabbled in a little bit of this, participated in a little bit of that, and read a whole lot of here and there.

This cosmopolitan history, in and of itself, is what makes me unique as a producer of content. A large and underrepresented population of the living history community is like me, a fierce and burning interest in a specific subject supported by a dearth of superficial knowledge. Who with such a chaotic background write articles or create videos, though? People begin producing content after developing expertise in a subject. YouTube channels demonstrating extensive knowledge and expertise; high ranking members and instructors of a historical martial art publishing articles; historians publishing books, master armorers creating tutorials, president of the HEMA Alliance or clones making speeches, world ranking longsword champion sharing their tips, and bored billionaires with odd hobbies doing whatever they feel like are the default outlets for information.

In contrast, I provide a perspective on the living history enthusiast who is guided by interest and not specialty. I have done it enough in various capacities I have a head for what looks and feels right, though I am not an authority and always have questions. I know what I want to be and want to portray, but I do not have the money to buy it all outright. I am passable at some handicrafts, enough to muddle my way through projects and maintenance, but I do not have the time or inclination to master every craft and skill necessary to cut out the middle man and make my kit from the floor up myself. I do this because I love it, not because it impresses people, or because I profit off it. I cannot even describe why I love it. It is something other than adult-dress-up because if it were so easy Ren Festivals wouldn’t be so dissatisfying.

Coupled with a couple of unique personality quirks, a strong grasp of the English language, and a sense of humor intelligent, smart, and charming people (just like you) find amusing I plan to shine a light on a path we follow. Not the glittering high road of wealthy reenactors, masters of their fields, or gifted prodigies: the well-beaten but often denigrated middle road the bulk of us seem to travel as we scrape and scrimp and save and fight for every new piece of kit and establish an impression over the court of years of hard work, patience, and learning. Perhaps in the future, people will be able to follow this road with speed and efficiency and confidence, allowing a larger percentage of us to take the overpass up to the before-mentioned jewel-encrusted walkway we admire from afar.