Tuesday, May 8, 2018

(Almost) DEATH AT THE WAR


(This whole post is from watching “Deepwater Horizon” and I had a flash-back moment, so it’s OldAFSarge’s fault.  https://oldafsarge.blogspot.com/2018/04/explosion-at-sea.html Harrowing movie.  One of those Watch-Once variety, because, damned, it’s harrowing.)


So, some of you may know that I played in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  This is a group of people that do re-creation of the Middle Ages (okay so, in reality, we’ve got people who do Old Egyptian all the way to roughly 1650 ish so yeah, kinda weird, but, hey, it works.)  The SCA doesn’t do re-enactments like the American Civil War people do at Gettysburg or the English Civil War people do over in England or even the 1066 society or any of those people.  It’s all unscripted.  Some of what we do is recreating the arts, from brewing (yeah, down people) to costuming (some of our people are as or more accurate than those silly re-enactors) and so forth.  The SCA also does, this is the part I really liked, full contact armored combat using rattan batons in place of steel weapons.

What we think we (the SCA) look like  (from the Bayeux Tapestry, scene 1 at http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk
What most people think we look like.  (No, we generally look better than that, generally.)
 
What we actually look like
(Okay, somewhat.  That is a 3 wheeled golf cart modified to well, look like a horse)
(and the dudes who did this did this so they could fight on them, sick bastards)

Okay, seriously, it’s safe, for values of safe.  Minimal armor is required, being a full helmet of some sort or another (all gaps like an ‘open’ face has to have a heavy metal grill with no bar farther apart than 1”) made of at least 16 gauge steel, 14 becoming more in vogue (mass sucks up force/energy) with closed-cell foam padding, a gorget (armored collar for the whole neck), hand protection (gauntlets, those metal mittens and stuff) or basket hits on swords or other rigid protection that covers the fingers, hand and wrist, elbow protection (covering the joint and point of the elbow,) kidney and floating ribs and lower spine protection, a cup (for boys) or a jill (for girls, the hoo-hoo cover and yes one version is called a ‘jill’,) and knee protection (covering the joint and kneecap.)  This is minimal Society armor, and administrative territories (hereafter called ‘kingdoms’) can have higher levels of required armor, just not lesser levels of required armor.)  And, AND the wearer must at least attempt to look relatively medievalish (or whatever the person is supposed to be.)  Surcoats covering a multiple of sins work real well.  (At one time I wore a full length padded gambeson (think heavily padded and quilted full-length coat down to the knees) with armor laced to the elbows, and full grieves (lower leg armor covering the knee) and over that I wore a breast and back leather armor, and on top of that a quilted surcoat with my arms.  In Florida. In Summer.  In the sun.  For like 4-8 hours. (Secret – soak yourself with as much water as you can as it helps transmit heat, and sweat a lot, like buckets of sweat.)) (I eventually ended up with a back and breast of pseudo-hardened leather (think plastic pickle barrel and yes it took ages to get the smell of salad peppers out of that plastic) with a leather bib and sleeves (welder’s sleeves) with lower arm and elbow armor laced to that, and the same grieves, and a surcoat.  Hey, the gambeson finally started to rot and get ripped up and fall apart (plus it was friggin hot and I was too fat (the real reason) to wear the damned thing anymore.)(Gee, I like those ellipses, don’t I?)

And they hit people with rattan sticks at least 1 ¼” in diameter (remember bars on the face grills can’t be any farther than 1” apart, closer together being better.)   Shorter ones are ‘swords.’  Short ones with a big rubber tip or some sort of padding to make it a mace are, well ‘maces.’  Bastard or hand-and-half weapons, two-handed swords, pole-axes, glaives, halberds, short spears, all faithfully replicated (sometimes extremely poorly) using rattan and the handyman’s favorite tool – Duck tape (with the edge of the weapon marked with a contrasting color of tape.  Most people use silver tape for the ‘blade’ and black tape for the ‘edge.’)  Thrusting only spears up to 9’ long can be made out of extruded fiberglass poles with a big foam tip on the end.  All ‘thrusting’ points must be padded with foam, and, of course, duck-tape.

Sidenote:  It’s Duck tape.  Named because of the canvas duck cloth impregnated with sticky stuff and a weatherproof covering that it was originally made from.  Gaffer’s tape, a super version of the crap you buy at Wally-World or Aviation Tape, that stuff that used to be used to patch holes in aircraft during WWII, are all just ‘roided’ out versions of Duck Tape.  Don’t use duct tape, that stuff is the silver tape heating and air conditioning guys use to cover gaps in ducts.

So.  People in at least minimal armor and some covering to make them look at least reasonably ‘medieval’ (from bad ren-faire trash to oh-my-God faithful reproductions of period armor (once I was talking to a guy in full Maximillian fluted plate with a lance rest (a little hinged thing on the right breast to allow the wearer to use it to rest the lance against it) and I asked him what he uses the lance rest for, so he unfolded it and then rested his arms on it.  Works for me…) and rattan batons they call swords are all ready to hit each other, with some restrictions.  Don’t strike from above the knee or below.  Don’t purposely target the groin or hands. (A groin hit is a ‘kill’ while hand hits don’t count.  What, you want to keep fighting after somebody smashes your ‘Jimmy’?  No?  Thus, it’s a kill.)  Do not use excessive force with two-handed weapons.  Arm and upper leg strikes are ‘wounds’ and the victim ‘loses’ the use of that limb, while body, neck and head strikes are ‘kills.’ Hits are called by the victim on the honor system. That’s the rules, folks.  So, armored people beating the crap out of each other with sticks.  Guess what?  In period (that thing we are re-creating) they did practice fighting and even practice battles with batons, because, well, swords are really great for hurting and killing. (Oh, looking at the Antifa rallies last year made me ‘itch’ to get it ON!  Such bad techniques, I could eat them for breakfast all day long, and, yeah, hitting newbies is so frickin easy it’s called ‘seal clubbing’.)

here's a variety of armor styles and weapon styles.  You can clearly see the barred faceplate on the bascinet the guy in front is wearing (and he's using a 2-handed sword) and the guy behind him is using a fiberglass thrusting only spear.  Remember - full contact.
 
Remember, this is full contact.  How full?  Well, in the old days of the SCA, cheap bastards used to use modified Freon cans (they used to be 16 guage-ish) as helmets, until someone I know basically stuck one on a post and hit it so hard on either side that the Freon can was hammered into the post.  I’ve been hit on my inseam when wearing fully armored legs so hard that it bruised from the kneecap to my abdomen (I thought it was neat that I could feel the bruise get crunchy after a few days as the clots started breaking up. But I stopped leading with my exposed shield leg after that.)  I’ve hit someone so hard it folded them over like a taco, and I’ve been hit that hard, too.  Once I was hit so hard in the helmet my body went slack and I rolled in the air three times before hitting the ground, and I laughed.  So.   Full Contact.  Yep.  (The opposite is interesting, you can hit someone too softly.  Which they don’t have to take.  So don’t hit like a weenie.  And don’t bitch about it, either.) 

Kingdoms have, well, wars with each other (isn’t that what kingdoms do?)  One of them is “Gulf Wars.”(A war with no enemies.  That’s how they label it, really.)  A war between most of Texas (Ansteorra! Booo!) and most of Florida (Trimaris!!! Yaaay!!!) fought in Mississippi (part of the kingdom of Gleann Abnann (which broke off of Meridies (which Trimaris also broke off from, but further in the past, so we’re better than the Glen Hobbits.))  The first Gulf Wars was fought in June in Mississippi, which suuuuuuuckkkkked due to it being hot and sticky, wherein cooler heads (ha-ha) moved it to March, annually, thereafter, where it was much cooler (and the temperature was better.)
Ansteorra's Achievement of  Arms.  Texans.  Gotta be the lonestar something something, go figure.
Trimaris' Achievement of Arms - Tri-Mare-Is - Three Seas, get it.  The Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic.  Geeks, why does it always have to be geeks... (but those are my home colors)
 
As I was saying, Gulf Wars consists of one side, Ansteorra and its allies (other kingdoms) against Trimaris and its allies.  The War lasts about a week, with different battles each day. 

One of them is a fight over a town (which is a resurrection battle, when the fighter dies, goes back to resurrection, gets resurrected, goes back to fighting) and lasts an hour, with winner being whatever side controls the largest number of critical points of the town.  (Resurrection battles are my favorite, as eventually everyone is so tired they end up sucking as bad as everyone else.) 

Another is a bridge battle, a fight over a narrow section of land, winner is possession of bridge or last surviving side (can happen either way) which is a real frigging slug-match over a very narrow front. 

Another is an open field battle, best two out of three, just like you should see in the movies, waves of fighters slashing and smashing into other waves and walls and lines of fighters, all so glorious (especially if they haven’t cleaned up the horse pucks off the field before the fighting) all while ballistae (firing padded spears) and catapult (firing padded ‘rocks’) and archers (firing rubber tipped arrows – think flying crutch-tips – and those mother-f’ers hurt) are filling the air with flying objects of doom. 

Then there is the Ravine Battle, which is fought in a very narrow ravine – duh, and is a resurrection battle, kind of a wide bridge battle mixed with a field battle and it lasts an hour and usually by the end, unless it’s been raining a lot, the dust is friggin thick and choking, all while archers are shooting you, yay, and you die, go to res-point and resurrect and get some water and go back and fight and die and repeat and repeat and repeat and this is my Friggin Favorite Battle EVER!!!!   Here's a Yoosetuube video of a Ravine Battle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL0rgxxpMAM  Do this for an hour and see how fresh and energetic you feel. 

And then there’s a Champions’ Battle (boring, selected champions fight other champions, boring.)

Aand then there is the Fort Battle, because the camp site has a wooden fort that was built for us to fight in, that lasts an hour each section, one side defends and other attacks, then they switch.  Which is my second favorite battle (as long as I don’t get shot by an arrow or a ballista bolt or a catapult rock or have a (foam) musical instrument dropped on me (Okay, one year Ansteorra was attacking the Fort and they were using this armored wheeled Ram with a big foam armadillo head (called affectionately, the Armadillo of Doom) and they were ‘bashing’ the Fort door and some guys tossed a foam harpsichord (pianos not invented before 1650) onto the Armadillo of Doom and the AoD collapsed, really, fell apart.  Funniest fewmets you ever saw. Then there was the ‘Dildo of Doom’ which was a big cardboard column form, on wheels, with an armored head that someone left in the rain and it got bent, thus the moniker on that piece of siege equipment.)

So.  That’s the background of this story.  I did this for fun for over 25 years, no serious injuries.  Worse injuries I have ever got were from making and repairing armor and packing/unpacking.  Worst injuries other than what I am about to relate to you have been various smashed fingers or cuts or a broken collarbone or ribs or arm, you know, nothing important, or someone getting smashed in the gonads so bad they had to drain the testicles (the hitter did a forehand-backhand strike hitting the banana-nosed cup of the victim which skipped from one side of the groin to the other and smashing everything in between.  Scrotal hematomas are no-bueno, my friends.)

One year at Gulf Wars, I was deep into my personal zen moment of the Ravine Battle, which is:  March to the fighting area down into the Ravine, insert myself in the shield wall or the spear wall, fight, kill, get killed, pull out, go back to res point, return, repeat, return, repeat.  Man, about half an hour into all that and I’m pooped and giggling like a Japanese anime school girl from all the fun I’m  having and I’m dragging my poor tired and painful body along and then…

I…

See…

The feet of one of my friends, and his lower leg armor…

Twitching, and not in synch… (oh, this isn’t good)…

On the ground…

And I look further up the legs…

And he’s pissed himself (this is not good at all…)

And his arms are starfished from his body, and flopping (Ohhhh, shiiiiittttt…..)

And I scream (um, when I can, I can holler so loud I can be heard from outside one end of the old mall in Palatka, FL to the other outside end, and yes, that was a test to see how loud and clear I could holler) “CHIRURGEON – MEDIC – CHIRURGEON” and the world stops, for me, right there, in the Ravine, behind a tree, halfway to Trimaris’ Resurrection Point.

One of my best friends…

is flopping on the ground…

like a fish... 

In an un-funny, oh, God, is he dead or dying way.

And I holler, as I toss my helm and shield and stuff to the side and drop to the side of my friend’s… body?

And I can do nothing but watch him and holler for help and, oh, God, is he dying?  Oh, God!

And the Chirurgeons (medics, one an EMT, one a full-flight Doc) arrive on a golf cart and a host of other medics arrive on foot and they carefully remove his helmet (a full 16 plate kabuto – Japanese helm made of 16 ‘orange peel’ segments riveted together, probably one of the strongest helmets I’ve ever seen, now with 3 flattened plates on the rear left of the helm) and there’s blood from his nose and his ears and his eyes are rolling around his head…
Like this, except with a bar-grill faceplate, and no crab claws.  Japanese heraldry is weird, so weird.
Each one of those upper plates is riveted to its neighbor, making it a very strong helmet
So smashing 3 plates flat meant that the helm got hit real damned hard, too hard, like with excessive force with a 2 handed weapon force, which is a no-no!
 
OH SHIIIITTTT…

And…  he’s breathing…  raggedly, but he’s breathing…

The chirurgeons carefully remove his helmet, and his gorget, replacing that piece of armor with a plastic neckbrace, and one of the chirurgeons whips out a set of shears to cut off his armor and my hand lashes out like a cobra on meth and grabs the hand with the shears.

The chirurgeon turns to me, we lock eyes, and we communicate in a flash, she nods her head, drops the shears, I unlace his armor and remove his leg harness (a stack of his armor is quickly piling up) and his gauntlets and…

And…

He…

Speaks…

“F$%k!” (as a giant hiss)

Oh, thank God.

We got him out of the Ravine and to treatment, and I got his and my kit out of the Ravine and up to Res Point, and once he was safe, and his lady was there, I went back to the battle.  Oh, yeah, the fight was still going on, down further in the Ravine.  Furious fight.  Total Mayhem.  And I went back repeating my Zen moment.  And when the battle was over my lovely wife was at the top of the Ravine looking for me because the rumorgram had already gotten out that I was dead/hurt/injured/medevaced/at chirurgeon’s point waiting for medevac and she was scared.  (Stupid jungle telegraph.)

And the rest of the battle and the war was fun and exciting and full of fun and excitement.

But.  My friend.  Almost died before my eyes.  He was passing. But he didn’t.

I held it together, was an asset to the situation.  But back in the camp afterwards when I was armoring down after putting all his stuff away?  Shakes.  Oh, the shakes.  Everything I’ve ever read about the shakes.  If I smoked and drank I would have been smoking a whole pack and drinking two bottles at once, while shaking, you know, those shakes.  I’m sure you flying chaps know about those shakes.

But.  He survived.

That is all that matters.

21 comments:

  1. The SCA is a very eclectic group and they almost always play hard. I'm happy that your friend wasn't permanently damaged but you know, we wouldn't do it if it wasn't hard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eclectic is too mild a word for the SCA. And when the SCA considers you a geek, well, there's only the foam sword LARPers or... Star Trek.

      Delete
  2. I was giggling like an anime schoolgirl at the description of one particular piece of siege equipment. Good stuff, and funny too. Good post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right? I mean, the Armadillo of Doooom was totally awesome, an armored A-frame with a giant 'dillo head. Totally awesome looking, and built so crappily that when a Styrofoam instrument hit it, it fell apart. (With the help of about 10,000 blows from spears...) I mean, all that wood, with bodies sticking out everywhere, really funny cool looking...


      Or were you talking about the DoD? Yeah, that was just wrong. Especially when someone went into town and got some light pink paint. Wrong, wrong, very wrong.

      Delete
  3. LOL...as a civil war reenactor (who admittedly gets to cook for 22 guys over a fire) I can relate to a lot of what you are describing...except the full contact thing - you guys play hard! I personally find the 'questions' we get asked often...like asking an officer "are you hot in that uniform".....no it's thick gosh darned wool and 100 degrees out side but I feel fine...LOL....or me, roasting a chicken and someone asking ' is that a real chicken' or 'are you going to eat that'....or the absolute best one ' were you alive back then?'. I mean really, do I look that old?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes...Yes I was! I look pretty good for 168 don't I?

      Delete
    2. I've done Civil War and World War II reenacting, wool uniforms on a hot day? Don't miss that. (Well, actually I do, a little.)

      And Juvat, you look marvelous!

      Delete
    3. Oh, yeah, fabrics... Lots and lots of fabrics... Did you know that the most expensively dressed (in period) recreators/reenactors are those lowly SCA boobs? Because we're cheap, and Cotton is CHEAP now, but expensive as all get-out back then, right up there with silk for most time-periods....

      And I've done the wool tunic thing, with a linen undertunic, in Florida, in June, for an Art event. The fact that it was 66 degrees in the afternoon and overcast as all get-out, well, wool was okay. But never wore that tunic again (due to increasing temperatures and increasing girth, oh well.)

      From talking to the reenactors who do do CivWar, RevWar aind WWII, they all say that once wool is wet, it's actually cooler than cotton of the same thickness.

      I had just broken into wearing linen full time when I stopped. Oh well. Even let my fabric collection go. Fabrics are to Re-enactors/Recreators like gold is to a dragon. You can never have too much... Fabric. Faaabric.. Lots and lots of Faaaaabric....

      Delete
  4. You've raised the bar Andrew. Now I really need to up my game!

    I've learned a lot about the SCA in the past few days. Makes me want to be young and foolish again. But I'll settle for old and semi-foolish. (I almost said wise, but I know better.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, God, the dumb things I have willingly done at twice the age of your typical stupid frat boy (before the world went all PC and all that.) The stories I could tell. (And will.... heh, heh, heh.)

      Delete
  5. Stroll down memory lane. Met the good lady wife at "Salt Wars" Meridies vs. Atlantia. Have not seen my armor in many years but she is still in my life. And then there is Pensic........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Used to do "Sea Raids" between Atlantia and Trimaris. Until they totally dicked out. I think at one time the US Army was looking into harvesting Atlantian knights for the 'atlantium' they were composed of, as those poop-heads never seemed to want to call a shot. Seriously, one day I was pounding on a particular Atlantian knight of great name and rocking his ass back with each blow, and he just looked at me. Some Trimarian knight ran by, tossed a real weenie shot, and Bed.... the knight said, "Yah, I'll take that."

      My lady, my love is right next to me every day.

      As to Pensic, well, the 'loser gets Pittsburg' war? Never got a chance to make it. About the time I got the bread to start going, Gulf Wars started, and cash went to that.

      Delete
    2. Why would it even occur to me that Duke Sir Mich...of Bed...was a rhino-hide. Never in my life did I ever hear such a thing. Knew him well enough to be practically family once upon a time. Hated the combat rules of starting sword and shield. I was a katana fighter. Stupid shield just got in my way. Rhino-hide aside, he was good people.

      Delete
    3. The worst time I ever had with, ah, that certain Atlantian Duke Sir, was the first time I got squired (long story there, full of much woe and unhappiness.) Before belting was the above incident. After belting, at the next battle, I struck him fulsomely, and he looked down at my new belt, and the arms emblazoned at the end of said new belt, and said (no kidding, actually said it,) "Hmm, I know him, yah, I'll take it." Social gauging (Where you don't call the shot unless the shooter is of the correct social circle.)

      And, yes, off the field he was good people. Even on the field he was good people, as long as you actually didn't hit him (other stories about him will remain untold.)

      As to Katana, well, when I got first authorized, in Sword and Shield of course, I then immediately authorized in two-handed weapons (specifically bastard sword) and fought without a shield for a year and a half, having much fun being a 'bastard.' But tourneys and some field competitions emphasized shield work, so...) Still loved bastard sword, glaive and spear, but sometimes you just need a good shield to push with.

      Delete
    4. Okay, does it freak you out as much as me that we each know who we are alluding to, we being faceless inputters on a blog run by some guy in Rhode Island (friggin Easterners, I tell ya)?

      Weird world, this whole 21st Century. Weird world...

      Delete
    5. Nah. It just reinforces the "shrinking" of the world. The pool of folks with similar experience cannot be but so big.

      Delete
  6. Andrew:

    Nice tale. Have you read the " Dies the Fire " book/series? It/they revolve around an SCA group in Portland, OR.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok, the nice part of it was that your friend was ok in the end. I meant the part telling us about the background to how your friend came to be there was a good tale.

      Paul

      Delete
    2. Thanks, I was glad he was okay. Typical bone-headed Marine...

      Never read the "Dies the Fire" book. Sounds good.

      First thing I read about the SCA was an article in the Smithsonian magazine about the "Burro Creek" war in the Southwest USA, back in the late '70s.

      "Murder at the War", later renamed "KnightFall" by Mary Pulver, is a good 'starter' book dealing with the SCA. And a good murder mystery, too.

      Delete
  7. Oh, yeah, forgot to say, you know you've been doing something for so long that you actually can recognize someone from their footwear and lower legs. Weird, huh?

    ReplyDelete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)