Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Crack, boom!

Wmsbrg was rent asunder this afternoon by a thunderstorm of truly epic proportions. I am skittish around thunder at the best of times, but being in a large metal barn while lightning is striking the church just over yonder almost caused me to crawl under my work station. Only the thought of a bolt of lightning traveling down the needle on my machine and hitting me in the head prevented me. Well, that, and finally losing what little dignity I have left.

I assumed that because of the lightning, militia practise would be cancelled, so I didn't go. One of my coworkers made fun of me for being a sissy about the rain, which sort of rankled. I stood out in the rain for three hours last Friday--it's the "walking around in the thundery weather with a LIGHTNING ROD resting on your shoulder" that got me. Adult that I am, however, I assumed a Zen position and allowed the comments to roll off me. Ommm....

I really like being in the militia. For the past couple weeks I've been "drilling"--which basically means learning the commands so I can execute them in front of a crowd of people without a) looking like an idiot and b) hurting anyone. I have to pass on musketry and artillery (yea, cannon!) before I can get assigned a uniform and a spot in the military review, but I'm hoping it will happen soon. Being a part of a pretend militia is very weird. As most of you probably suspect, I'm a fairly huge liberal, and I like to think I'm a pacifist, but I have seen the appeal of guns. They go BOOM. Actually, flintlock muskets go "click--ssst---BANG!" and they spit black powder in your face. I'm trying to work up a "character" not so I can be a jerk and walk around pretending like it's the 18th century, but so I can react to things how my character would. So far I have it that my husband has been pressed into the British Navy (what can I say, some things never change, even in the 18th century) and since we lost our farm I decided to take up arms and fight to get him back. So I've disguised myself as a man and joined the 2nd Virginia Regiment. Of course, it's hard to stay in character when your searjeant is teasing you for forgetting which is your right and which is your left.

It's easy to forget that the guns we use are actually weapons. They can kill people. We load them with black powder and a bit of cartridge paper, but if a ball was rammed down the barrel, it would kill someone. Even powder and paper has the potential to burn--I wasn't kidding when I said that it will spit in your face occasionally. And after each review we have to go around and pick up bits of burned paper. I've been so focussed on getting the techniques and the movements right that sometimes I forget that this is the same training a soldier would have received 200 years ago. Only their aim would be at a human being.

The weirdest part of the training has to be fixing bayonets. A bayonet is a bit of metal that screws onto the end of your musket. If the enemy is advancing quickly, or you're running after them, or there's no time to reload, you can take your musket and stab people to death with the bayonet. There is nothing theatrical about a bayonet, even when it's not sharpened, like CW's. They are bits of metal designed to stick into people until they die. End of story. I try not to get distracted by the murderous intentions of my weapons, but everytime I get a little too geeked out about the black powder bangs, I remind myself that this is not a toy.

Still--it's a re-enactment. Our militia has more in common with a theatrical event than an actual fighting corps. And it's enjoyable. Especially the part where we present bayonets and shout "HUZZAH!" I can hardly wait for my first review...I hear General Washington is going to be there...

1 comment:

Laura said...

Yeah, I know what you mean about those guns.I remember all the research I did on Civil War wounds. Pictures of bones with holes in them it's not pretty. And in All Quiet on the Western front they talk about Bayonet training so you learn to stab someone without getting your knife tangled up in their ribs so you can't get it out again and then someone comes along to stab you. Comforting thoughts.