Well, here I am, back from the eighteenth century. I have to admit, it was nothing like I thought it would be--but a lot better than I was expecting. I left work at three o'clock on Friday and headed across the river. After Jeff and I consolidated our stuff into his van we drove out to the rendezvous site. A wrong turn took us pass the Michael Vick Doghouse of Pain, but we found it soon after.
OVPR stands for the Old Virginia Primitive Rifle, a group dedicated to keeping black powder gunnery alive. The campground was actually someone's back forty, and the atmosphere was laid back and family-oriented. No specific time period was represented. Jeff and I were trying to keep ourselves in the 1770s, but most of the other campers were much more casual. The men would wear hunting frocks and trowsers, the women would wear skirts and whatever bodice-y thing they could find. Mostly it was more reminiscent of a Renaissance Faire come-as-you-wish experience, but everyone was having a good time. There were lots of kids running around, including one four year old in buckskin boots with bells. Now THERE is a good way to keep track of your kid.
We arrived after the sutlers had closed up for the night, but we were able to get stakes for our tent since a few boxes had been left outside--settling up in the morning, of course. That was just the trusting atmosphere that existed here. After we got out tent up and drove the "mule" back out to the "paddock" we got the brazier going and heated the stew that Jeff had made for dinner. Jeff also made our tent, which is something of a work in progress. It did extremely well at keeping the frost off, but we were still pretty chilled by the time the sun came up.
Here's himself Saturday morning, boiling water for tea. Note the lack of flaps on our tent...that is something we're going to have to fix.
We were up with the sun, naturally, and spent the day wandering around, visiting the sutlers and admiring other people's equipage. Rifle and musket shots rang out during the entire day as the shooting competitions went on. Most of the tents were waaaaay more extravagant than ours was--twelve by twelve post tents with dining flies and stovepipes sticking out of the back. You know the people at modern campgrounds with the obscene five-wheel Winnebagos with a Mini-Cooper as their tow vehicle? Yeah, some of the tents were like that. But everyone was having a great time. At noon there was a ladies' social. I showed up with a basket of sewing, everyone else showed up with tankards. Part of the price of admission was as much alcohol as you could drink (beer or a ladleful of drinks mixed in a big ceramic pot) and a barbeque chicken dinner on Saturday night. I talked briefly with a few ladies who were also attempting a more "period" impression, of the late 1770s, swapping stories about where best to buy fabric and period correct techniques...mostly I listened though. At one point one of them complained about re-enacting for so long that she had nothing to buy and I had to chime in: "Yes, but it's even harder when you're just starting and you need everything and you have no money!" One of the good things about re-enacting though: Just like two hundred years ago, you don't change your clothes. I wore the same shift, petticoats and bedgown all weekend. It was so cool I didn't mind much, but perhaps in the future I'll bring a change of shift.
After lunch I took a nap. Just crawled into our tent, burrowed into the big pile of blankets and fell asleep. The campground opened up to spectators during the afternoon--folks who were interested in visiting the sutlers or gawking at the campers, and I dimly recall a few digs at our poor equipage. Which may be true, but at least we were period appropriate.
After spending two days in shift and stays (yes, stays) I really started to find myself thinking like a proper colonial woman would think. So when a troop of Boy Scouts walked by just as I was extricating myself from the tent, my first thought was "ohmygosh, I don't have my cap on! They're going to think I'm a tremendous hussy!" The Scout leader was fairly charmed with our tent though, even asking if he could take a picture of it. (Sure. Then pull it out and wave it in front of your Scouts when they start complaining about being cold in their Army surplus walled tents...I'll show you cold.)
But the thing that made me feel the most "authentic" was the spring. No spigots here, in order to get water for washing and drinking, you had to step down a dirt trail and ladle it directly out of the ground. Fresh and clear and delicious.
Here's a shot down the main drag of the camp, if you're standing directly in front of our tent. I'm sorry I didn't get more photos of the people, but I didn't want to be obnoxious. You can just barely see the inn, a permanent wooden structure which covered the bar and a stage for the band. About a hundred yards beyond that were the "hooters," pit toilets that were actually pretty nice. Plenty of TP and bottles of hand sanitizer. What luxury.
When the sun went down, the stars were bright as diamonds. Even with the fancy tents and overblown equipment, no one broke out a flashlight. Instead people came bearing candle-lanterns to the inn, to listen to guitars around a campfire. The best part of camping is the end of the day, just sitting around a fire. That's what Jeff and I did, after refilling our tankards at the inn: we built up our fire and listened to the toads come out. We had pinned up a bit of cloth over the end of the tent by our heads, which made a world of difference in sleeping, although we still woke up to this at our neighbor's site:
Yeah, next time, we're bringing bricks for foot warmers.
All in all, I have to say I had a great time. It was incredibly relaxing, fun, non-stressful and just a wonderful way to spend a lovely weekend with someone who's fast becoming more than a new friend. And, I got to try out my 1770s impression in a low-pressure environment...no one was thread counting here, but I can't want to see what some Rev War interpreters might say. It's good to be back in the twenty-first century. Wearing skirts all the time is hard. But I can't wait to go back.