The Days of Knights 2016

I went to The Days of Knights this last weekend and my plan was to come back with a good solid blog post about my experiences there. While this is technically that, there was so much going on and so much happened over that weekend, I can’t fit it all into one article. I even carved a jack-o-lantern for Halloween and practiced medieval service. Frequently Days of Knights will be shortened to DoK in this and future articles.

As I talked about last post, I have a lot of stuff. And though I realize it’s not as much stuff as I will eventually have, it was still a sizable pile of stuff. Look at the stuff!The tent takes up a large part of the volume. Not pictured here are the tent poles (the rope and stakes are folded in with the canvas.) I’m a terrible carpenter so instead of trying to make the ridgepole work in two pieces, I just bought a 14′ pole and cut it down to the 13.66-ish’ I needed. That was a logistical nightmare solved entirely by a ladder rack on the big van. Poorly pictured in the back is my bedroll with inflatable camp mat and half a dozen blankets to use as padding or covering (depending on how cold it got). I have no furniture and my feast gear fit in my clothing box.

I also packed a bunch of things I didn’t really need, such as packs of cards, and board games. There was just way too much to do, so much socializing and moving around, that they never got used. I also brought waxed twine, needles, and a Swedish fid to throw seizings on people’s tent lines, which I squeezed some in, but there really wasn’t enough down time to focus on that too much. The kindle was completely forgotten about.

The drive from the Kansas City area to Frankfort, Kentucky turned out to be a grueling ten hour drive with stops for gas, and food, and breaks. Don’t believe google maps when it comes to long distance driving, it’s a dirty filthy liar. I wish google maps did have a way of estimating the approximate extra time one would take on a longer journey, but that’s a question for software engineers. The drive was scenic enough, and I think the seasons helped with that. The beginnings of fall are setting in and the landscape was more interesting than the barren winter wasteland or the uniformly green summer views would have been. I also got to practice my conversational skills, which are evidently marvelous.

To Reece Nelson’s benefit: we started early and he didn’t sleep that much of the drive.

The days themselves went by quickly, as there was so much going on every day. Lots of walking around, talking to other people, meeting folks in the flesh you only ever heard about online, watching the fighting. I spent most of my time bouncing back and forth between the encampment we had set up and the list field. Our encampment had a weapon’s rack with various spears and bills and swords on it for display, but someone needed to be nearby so that the kids didn’t kill themselves with the “toys”. Also giving presentations is a lot of fun, and reminded me a lot of the old bygone days teaching living history programs in California. We made it to the site with just enough time to get most of the big stuff set up before the sun set. When I say we had an early morning, I mean we started about 4 am to get from my house to where the convoy would start, load up the last of the stuff, then left the rally point about 7:15 am. It was after dark when we were done setting it all up and falling into bed was blessed relief. And that night was frigid cold. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to throw Reece my cloak as an extra layer and shrug on my long sleeve flannel shirt. Many didn’t get much sleep that night. However, despite the bad sleep, it meant the next day was very cool and wearing things like a wool hood was pleasant and comfortable.

My major interest is heavy armored combat, and so I tried to spend as much time over there at the list field watching and interacting with the fully armored guys as much as possible. I also made myself available to help people get their armor, or get their helmets on and off, or re-adjust their armor, etc. I also kept tabs on the water supply, ferrying full ewers of water to and from our water barrel in the encampment to the list field. Most of my days were spent that way, though as the weekend rolled along familiarity became friendship, conversation came more freely, and I left with a much stronger sense of acceptance into a very tight knit group of people. I’m a “new guy” to all this, and despite my near decade of experience in misc. living history and reenactment, there’s a core group of people who have been participating in historically armored combat longer than I have known it was a thing to do. Even a peripheral sense of inclusion into that circle, despite me being a relative stranger with only soft kit, was a monumental achievement in my book.

Evenings were spent partying, and there’s no better way to describe that. It helped a lot that our camp was the cool-kid spot. The bad boy mystique we brought in our interpretation helped, everyone likes a mercenary camp, but I think we’d have been the center of attention no matter what role we played. The Kansas City Sword Guild fielded the largest single reenactor’s camp on site, so our main area was large and inviting and we had a habit of adopting other people who had come alone or were in smaller groups. I’m certain there are neighboring camps who could die happy never hearing a dozen drunken fools shout “routier!” again, but then again, routier don’t care.

And in general that was the weekend. With a few exceptions, such as calling home to say goodnight to the family, I tried to do the “in period” experience all weekend. I declined trips to town and didn’t put my modern clothes back on until we broke down camp. All told it was an enjoyable experience, made even better by such a large group of people with the right mindset. The Days of Knights was a breath of fresh air, and I was surprised and overjoyed by how welcoming the social environment was to both reenactors and to the bus loads of kids and public who wandered through our camps. Everyone was eager to teach, and to share what they knew and what they brought and worked hard to give the public the opportunity to experience, hands on, what some of their past was like. They got to handle weapons and armor and tools of the 14th century and hear from learnéd and knowledgeable reenactors how these artifacts were used: not what the TV tells them.

The trebuchet never ran out of pumpkin ammunition (owing entirely to all of us resisting the urge to steal them for test cutting demos), the jousters pulled a crowd all weekend, and with the exception of minor bumps and bruises that are part of the game with fighting: there were no injuries. I was rejuvenated by spending a weekend with people who have a good sense of humor and healthy intelligence.

Reece Nelson is an instructor with the KC Sword Guild. He also helps run a YouTube channel in connection with the group, a mix of instructional videos and films of freeplay and sparring.

Leave a Reply