DRAGOONS AND HORSES AND WHAT I HAVE LEARNED

LEMME at EM! Ready for the next adventure

I am no  Major General Nathanael Greene who commanded victoriously (or at least commanded some successful strategic losses, later gains)  at Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse, learning a lot of lessons while in service in the Revolution. I’m a lowly private who just got lucky for a while. My luck held at Guilford Courthouse this past March 17 and 18  but ran out at The Seige of the Blockhouse last weekend  in Duffield, of all places.

Guilford Courthouse in mid March was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sometimes one goes to an event as a fighting participant for the first time and it’s like falling in love- everything is rosy and the excitement of “first time” is unforgettable. After a while, when one goes again, then it is what it is, so to speak. Let me tell you, if I went to Guilford Courthouse every year as Private Ray for the rest of my life, it would always be the same as the first time- deep duty love. The weather was good and it rained only when the battlefield event was over. We had a good turnout and did the militia proud. Mike and I camped in the van and otherwise hung our accoutrements under the pavilion shelter. It’s great hanging out all weekend with people who you like and respect- Bob, Chad, the Bennetts, Doug Walsh, Mike Mankin,  Dave Doan, Ken and Retha,  Lisa Ricker and Daughter, Chris, Kim and others. We drilled a lot and when we were done, we drilled some more. I learned a valuable lesson in all that too: Lesson ONE- drilling is helpful especially when you don’t perform a routine very much. It keeps you from making a horse’s ass out of yourself when you need to look smart on the field. God knows I needed all the help I could get as I forgot most of the drill from the year before, especially how to hold my piece and most of the time, I fricked when I should have fracked.  When we weren’t drilling or rolling cartridges, there were stories, oh the stories, singing, stories, laughter, stories…..Unfortunately, though,  for us all, there was a little dark cloud in our otherwise great time and that was the fact that  were no blue springs close for our necessaries but,  other than planning our funtions (sp. mistake intended), the event was everything and more than what I thought it would be. The highlight of our social gathering after the first battle, latter in the evening, was an ice cream social. Col. McCroskey said he would dearly love some ice cream and it so happened that Lisa, Rachael and Worley thought about that on the way back from dinner and picked up the largest bucket of ice cream and toppings I’ve seen in a while. It was pouring rain but everyone solaced themselves with enough ice cream and syrup to make them groan . There was still plenty left so the Virginia militia was called in to share. It’s a testament to desperation when one braves a monsoon, literally, for a scoop of ice cream but there it was!

The battles both days were exciting. I learned some valuable lessons too. We were pretty much fighting from the woods or the woods lines and I have to say that the men really fought! You should have seen the look of sheer determination on Chris’s, Doug’s and Kim’s faces especially; it scared me as much as looking down the barrel of a Bess at 30 yards or so. I realized that had there been a ball in that musket, I’d have sung with the angels that day. Lesson number TWO; when one sees some fool shooting at you, DUCK! Then ,it was the Battle of the second day . We were  told that in spite of whatever was said at the officers conclave earlier in the day, under no circumstances were we to engage the dragoons by holding up out muskets when they came and let them take a whack at us with their sabers.  Major Bogart, his eyes directly engaging my own, was forceful, even to the point of giving me the high sign with two fingers v-ed from his eyes to mine and back. Well, what’s a private to do? Get drummed out immediately? The guy’s a major after all and who am I (a cross-dressing private who wants to stay under the radar).  I’m used to being nun-like anyway: poverty, chastity and most of all OBEDIENCE. After all, I am a public school high school teacher, ’nuff said. So I swallowed my disappointment and went on. There we were, in the woods and I’m shooting as fast as I can. On a few instances, my piece fowled and being a strong believer in waste not, want not, I cleaned, poked, poured a little powder once again in the frizzen and dumped the rest of the powder in the barrel, knowing I had a load in. What I forgot was that I had about 120 grains. Kim was next to me, Mike was in front of me bent over, and  I saw a Brit closing in. Ready , aim,  FIRE! Jaysus, I was knocked ass over tea kettle back about 4 feet, almost toppling Kim in the process. What a BLAST; it sounded like one of the cannons. Mike, who is as deaf as a post, said it almost redeafened him. I bet it gave that Brit guy a start!!!! Lesson THREE, no matter what, if your piece fowls up, dump and then clean or you may find another way to the moon.

So we charge the field, me with my plantar fasciatis (typical school teacher’s plight) gimping along. I’m primed and ready especially when I see those DAMN draGOONS. Last year, if you remember, one on a white horse came a little too close to the dead (me) on Saturday and nearly stomped my fingers. I had my revenge the next day when, inadvertently, I shot my last shot within a few feet of a dragoon on a white horse. I didn’t see the fellow , white horse being enveloped in white smoke, and he wasn’t supposed to be that close anyway. Needless to say, though, I got a little revenge from the day before and that gave me no end of satisfaction. Since that time, I saw that horse again at Cowpens and thought to myself “You’se MINE, BABY!” The Sunday battle entailed us fighting mostly in the woods again and when we broke into the field,  the dragoons were supposed to charge us, driving us off the field into the brambles. Chad’s injunction about not engaging the dragoons was prominent in my mind as I was gimping off the field, HOWEVER, the fellow in charge of the Virginia Militia playing Campbell was laying on the ground right in front of me. He slipped, as it turned out, and fell- wasn’t a part of the scenario. What was I to do? So I asked him if he needed help, offering my hand. In the meantime, the dragoons charged us, four surrounding us, circling us like Conestoga wagons around a camp fire. I was really scared to tell the truth because they had those sabers and let me tell you, they were actually using them! What I wanted to do was to raise my musket as one of them swooped down low to chop me. The major’s voice screamed in my head- DON’T YOU DARE- so I didn’t . Instead, I hunkered down, turtle like, cradling my musket,  and scurried as best I could away in true coward fashion. As I looked over to the side, guess who I see lifting up his musket engaging the dragoons? A certain Major DON’T- YOU- DARE- ENGAGE- THE- DRAGOONS was 25 feet away, thrusting and wacking, musket high in the air and me scuttling to the thorn bushes. BUMMER!!!!!

Dragoons to the right of me… running to the left of me. Campbell and I encircled

Things have been perking along just fine since then. We had all kinds of great musters and I did my usual thing which frankly is trying to find the humor in either freezing or looking graceful when one is clomping along in colonial clothes. The highlight was Carter Mansion when I had the tent all to myself and created quite a nice nest, the bordello, as I called it, and didn’t leave it the whole weekend.The irony was I didn’t see some flat-lander abscond with Bob McCroskey’s musket and from where I was, I should have.  Lesson FOUR: No matter what you are doing or where you are, be vigilant.

May Seige came and went and what a wonderful event that was. While I couldn’t sleep over because of sickness at home and working on only a few hours sleep each night, I still had a great time meeting up with old friends, watching the battles, doing the tea. Nothing of major mishap occurred and God was with me, and then my luck ran out on Memorial Day weekend.

School stopped for me on Friday and on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, my first day of well needed vacation, I went to Natural Tunnel State Park to participate in the Seige of the Blockhouse. The weather was so fine- not too hot and overcast enough to really enjoy everything going on and the marvelous view the blockhouse afforded. A number of our members were there, among them, Ronnie Lail, Bob MCCroskey and Pete Hostetler , Dave and  Jane Doan,  Chad, the Bennetts, Chris Taylor, Dan Huffman, George Fuderer , Diane and Artie O’Neil and more. Each year, this event gets better and better as they keep adding new things. There is a new blacksmith shop near the blockhouse which the Friends group dedicated, more activities, and the acting is getting better and better too.  Daniel Boone was there and the highlight for me was the horse race where hothead Isaac Crabtree murders a Cherokee without cause. I love the horses and of course I lost my wagers but when it’s just words, not a biggie :o). Later, I was talking to Diane when one of the racers parked his horse in front of us, having just given a ride to a young girl. I casually mentioned that it had been years since I’ve been on a horse and he opened his mouth and temptation shot out. “Would you like to ride?”, he said. Oh LORD, I should have said “get thee behind me, Satan.” In true idiot fashion, I said SURE!!! It had been a long time since I’ve been on a horse but I did have sense enough to grab a chair and from that, mount. It all came back, squeeze the knees, drive with your thighs, flex your spine and shift your weight to aid in directioning the horse, thumbs pointing towards each other to manage the reins, lower your heels in the stirrups…. What didn’t come back is what to do about the triple petticoats I was wearing and how to keep my legs from showing but at that point, I thought I had everything pretty well stowed away. I had a GRAND time riding that field, trotting, cantering, galloping and didn’t want to stop. I thought the horse and I were friends but LESSON FIVE: there is a fraternity among equines and they know their enemies no matter where they are. Eventually, I made it back to where I started and clearing my petticoats from the horn, I started my dismount.  Petticoat number 3 was my downfall, literally.  It was still hung up on the horn but I didn’t know it and I was hung, mid air and landed heavily on my left leg, it bowing severely to the side. It took me a while to figure out that a meteor hadn’t struck me and I swear that horse was snickering but eventually I lumbered up, dusted myself off and hobbled to Bob’s tent where I iced what I thought was a severe sprained knee. An hour later, I took myself home, got an x-ray and the rest is history- my left leg broke under the knee. Lesson SIX: never drive a horse in  petticoats and if you do, tuck the darned things well under something. They made side saddles for a reason or if you do, make sure it’s an English, not a Western saddle. Lesson SEVEN: Stupid is a choice. God knows that I should have known better than to choose that ride, especially after I’ve had it in for draGOONS. The temptation was just too much for me and now when I really gimp to the mirror, thinking that my summer vacation has a severe crimp in it, I see STUPID emblazoned across my forehead. Well, maybe I’ve learned my lessons; probably, though,  I haven’t.

Dragoons in mufti!

Just call me Private Horse’s ASS…. I’m in deep duty love at Guilford!

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