Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Arrowing Experience, I won't spear you the details!

So. Some (most) people may have questioned my sanity as to why I decided to subject myself to the stones (explanation as to stones located below) and arrows of the Archery Booth(e) at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in beautiful Gainesville, FL. To tell the truth, so have I. I mean, what normal person dons 50-75lbs of kit and caboodle and purposely gets pelted for 5 to 6 hours for 5 semi-continuous/contiguous days? Hmmmm. Just set myself up, didn’t I?

Well, let’s just go back to the core of the issue, shall we? SCA fighting. SCA fighting is something I never imagined I would ever do. Seriously. Growing up, I was that sickly, allergy-ridden geekish jerk that seemed to randomly collect other people’s fists on a regular basis. I was assured of at least 2 good, knock-down, drag-out arse whuppins and a double handful of random acts of violence every school year, pretty much from 3rd Grade to 12th. 

Not that I didn’t know how to fight, nor that I just gave up and rolled over and submitted. Noooo, that would have been too darned easy. I, for some strange reason, subscribed early in life to the ‘Frack-It’ fight philosophy, you know, the one that states, “Well, you’re here, DO SOMETHING!” Which means I, in my measly wimpy ways, didn’t ever know when to quit. Add to that the potential fact that I sprang out of my mother’s womb as a complete smart-arse and only got smart-arsier the older I got, well, not all pummelings were, maybe, totally unwarranted.

Artist's reconstruction of what Beans looked like to everyone around him when he was growing up.
Artist could not understand that Beans was skinnier and not nearly as good looking.
But, well, you get the point, right?
(Image courtesy of free clip art actually)

Add to that, all the really really goooood allergy drugs made me look like a, sorry folks, a spastic hit by a taser (Have I ever tripped?  Oh, yeah, Ballsy trips, bloody nasty, all on legal drugs.  And Sudafed?  Handfuls of the stuff, enough to make my heart explode, but it was either risk death by exploding heart or drown in snot, seriously, as in actually drowning in one's own snot.  Yuck.)  Hand-eye coordination sucked as a kid. My hands fluttered all by themselves, flappy naked hummingbirds, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. Baseball was… interesting. I could catch, but throwing was ungood, and hitting, well, I was assured one triple a season, that is I would hit the ball once the whole season, and get a triple out of it. Soccer was… running, well, yeah. No chance at football. Never ever got anywhere near the minimals in the Presidential Physical Fitness tests (remember those torturous tests? Fracking hated them things.) Except for sit-ups. I could always rip through sit-ups.

Not saying that I didn’t do stuff. Friends and I used to have tar-ball and palmetto frond shaft battles on the beach near Patrick Air Force Base, FL. Wear a white shirt, toss a gooey tarball from the beach at your enemy, and it was like sticky paint-ball (the tar-balls are from natural petroleum seeps off the coast, Florida could be energy exporting in a big way but noooo ‘teh-envirogenment.’) And we used the palm-frond shafts to wail the tar out of each other. That was fun. Kinda hard on t-shirts, but, well, kids. And that wouldn't be any old palm stalk, no, that would be too painless.  We used saw palmetto because, well, free and SAW!

So, one day, sometime in 1979 or 1980, I read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about the Burro Creek War at the Burro Creek campground in Arizona, a ‘war’ fought by SCA people and, wow, I was hooked. But never got a chance to get active until 1986, in Gainesville, and didn’t get into fighting until the year after. Totally hooked. But like most of my ambitions, totally hooked in a 'well, one of these days' unfulfilled ways.

SCA fighting is, well, hmmm. Imagine boxing. With football padding. While holding an axe-handle. In a Rugby scrum. And your head is the ball, stuck in a cooking pot. Yeah… Fun. No, really, fun! Real Fun. If you enjoyed dodge-ball, or its evil twin Smear-the-Q....(1), this stuff is made for you. Still to this day I practice my fighting footwork and body moves (usually where no-one can see me…) Seriously, after getting my arse handed to me all my childhood, I found as an adult I was actually good at some physical sport thing. Not the best, but I could and did hang with some of the best. You know the prizefighter? I was the dude the prizefighter practiced against before the big fight. But I could get in my own hits on the best, on about 20% of my shots. Not good enough to be ‘Best Quality’ but good enough to be ‘Good Quality.’ Good enough to make the Best have to work for a win.

I found that all those years of tenaciously chasing other people’s fists with my face and body during the good old school days gave me a large amount of ‘don’tgiveadarned’ over minor to major aches and pains. No serious blood loss, no broken bones, no penetrating trauma?  Then okay, walk it off, and return to fun.

Also, though I am not the fastest person, seriously, not fast at all (I can run almost as fast as I can walk…) I have staying power. Thus, at wars and archery booth(e)s where hang-time is critical, I could hang better than most. In fact, I was pretty much in the top 10% of gutting it out.

Hey, one gets one’s thrills where one can, right? Still cheaper and less dangerous than motorcycles, flying, parachuting, excessive drinking, hanging with Mexican gangs, trying to make socialists see the light...

Now, the Archery Booth(e) was/is an actual tent, on one side of a service road at the fairgrounds. We use the road as the shooter area, lining them up at the edge of the road. The targets stand about 40’ back from the road, on rough gravel, in front of a large dirt backstop. Standing on gravel. For hours on end. Really good shoes are a requirement.

So, as a target, you are facing the service road, an access gate to the grounds will be to your right. Towards the left will be the Booth/Tent, and the road will be ‘closed’ with a rope barrier that can be removed for service vehicles or ambulances to drive through. To the left of the Archery Booth(e) is the Northstar Archery booth, run by that Sir Erika lady, and then about 5 booths until a beer booth. (Hmmm. Erika. Nice lady, sweet, bit of a smart-arse. What is it with ladies named 'Erika'?)

How can a target stand being targeted with blunted arrows while standing on gravel for hours on end? ('On your feet' is the smart aleck answer some of you are thinking, amiright?) I hinted earlier in my comments that the comradeship of fellow fighters (whom we were allowed to hit, because, fighters) and the witty banter and heckling of us versus the fair(e) visitors and potential shooters, and… the scenery. Yes, the trees were nice, and occasionally a plane would fly over (one time a B-17), and we’d see some nice cars go by, but… scenery. 

Ren- and Medieval Faires tend to attract visitors and workers who kinda tend to dress to their interpretation of what Renaissance or Medieval clothing looks like. So… Everything from every bad movie (including that really horrible attempt at remaking the King Arthur legend from a few years ago, or that really bad Viking movie starring Lee Majors (“The Norsemen” using a jon boat with plywood sides as a ‘longship ,’ seriously bad,) to really good reproductions of period clothing to, er, uh, stuff you’d see from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to people wearing ‘mundanes’ (meaning regular old clothing, normal stuff.)

Picture this. Lots of college-age and older people of the fairer sex dressed so as to display, well, uh… lots of scenery. Lots of scenery bending over to pick arrows up (to which the targets are perfectly placed for best visual recognition thereof.) And excited people of the fairer sex bouncing up and down when they shoot what they consider a good shot (sometimes that means it actually left the bow, rather than the 1 in 1,000 that would shoot the bow and be left holding the arrow – a major heckling offense, if ever there ever was.) And just… lots of scenery. Hey, last I checked I was still a semi-functional male person.

For several years, my friend S and I were the stalwarts at the Booth(e). And three booths to the left of the Booth(e) was a ‘magic wand and magic jewelry’ booth. Which had, as one of their workers, a really, uh, nice landscape scenery lady who wore a really skimpy interpretation of Pirate-Pron dress with high-heeled lady-of-the-evening boots and fairy wings (yes, translucent iridescent fairy wings.) And every hour on the hour she would put on a little fairy dance for about 5 minutes which involved lots of motion in a 3-dimensional manner and sometimes using contra-rotating motions and, uh, well, uh, yeah. So S and I would just kind of stop actively blocking non-faceplate shots and stare, I mean ogle, I mean observe, yeah, observe the fair(e) fairy lass and the female shooters would light our fat arses up like a low-flying Zeppelin over London in 1917 while the male shooters wouldn’t be doing much shooting as their attentions were diverted elsewhere, sometimes resulting in some spectacular rib-punches from accompanying females and at least one accidental discharge of arrow into some poor schlub’s nether regions which was rightly deserved and that only happened once, thankfully. The female booth(e) workers encouraged the female shooters to rightly punish us for admiring the performance, rightly, served us right, yeah. (Jealous female booth(e) workers, vindictive to the last drop.)

Men are pigs. (Hey, Mistress Andrew gave me permission to look at the lasses, just no touching and no being too uncouth, and she’d better not hear any stories, which, of course, she didn’t have to because, well, I love Mistress Andrew, and her mundane counterpart Mrs. Andrew, which does have something to do with her amazing collection of knives but NOT related to any fear of her using said amazing collection of knives on some poor schlub named Beans. And, well, I’m a pig.)

Now, the scenery was also pretty darned good for the ladies, as the professional jousters all seemed to look like a combination of Fabio and pro-football players, flowing locks and all (lots of swooning and following going on down at the jouster’s encampment. Bastiges…) And lots of other males that looked good or great or attractive, I suppose, but I like land… So the ogling was’t one-sided. Just wanted to clear that up. 

And it was always wonderful when Sir Studley or Master Fabio or Loose Ren-Shirt Good Looking Dude would wander over to our area and attempt to impress the ladies and we’d heckle the living daylights out of Lord Shmuckatelli as he’d have problems pulling a 30lb boy-scout bow. Oh, we’d lock our heckler systems on a target like that, get tone, and unleash heckle-hell upon our hapless opponent like a squadron of B-29s fire-bombing Tokyo, but with heckles, burning hot, phosphorous sticky heckles. Nothing says total humiliation as having a squad of teenage girls (usually the line workers were teenage girls, evil tends to congregate together for some strange reason) point at Muscle-Man and laugh while making lackluster bow-shooting moves to the soundtrack of a good Beans trashing. Pity not the Fool.

And then there were the guys who are wheelie-bowers (compound bows, they have training wheels) who could not master the startling simplicity of the self or recurve bow, apparently only a skill being mastered today by Boy and Girl Scouts. Seriously, how hard is it to hold an arrow between two of your fingers? Seriously, trigger releases? Robin of Locksley would die from an aneurysm from laughing so hard.

And there was the enjoyment of watching some snotty fighter who thought he or she was better than me get blasted. Oh, yeah, that’s right, forgot to tell you the target line was open season for cheap shots not just from the shooters but from the other fighters. So Mr. Better-than-me would get shot in the inside of the thigh or armpit by an arrow right before Beans hollers “Lay On” (being the SCA phrase for 'Fight' or 'Hit Each Other') and catches the unfocused idiot with a shield blast (take your ‘sword’ and hit your opponent’s shield really friggin hard. If you hit the shield hard enough, it will numb the arm behind it for a moment. Pain is funny in other people, no?) 

Much humor also when someone stupidly turns their back to the shooting line and gets bum-shot. (Never turn your back to people with loaded weapons..) And much much humor when someone is in mid-heckle and gets hit on the faceplate (it’s rather startling if you’re not paying attention and you get hit right in front of your eyes.) Not to mention the complete humor of watching someone swallow every curse-word and negative statement that has ever been invented because the 6 year old just nut-shot him, again. Ha. Laughing myself silly at memories. Schadenfreude, it exists at the Archery Booth(e). So does stupidity, which often leads to Schadenfreudistic actions resulting in Schadenfreude. (Beans can be a rather savage Richard when he’s having a good day.)

Then there's Chop. A nasty nasty Squire/Knight game. The Chopper goes to the Choppee and whacks him/her/it with the forearm. Choppee canna chop back, but must find a new Choppee or much shame will fall upon the Choppee. Rules are: No Chopping non-Fighters.  Can only chop on the upper chest if no arms or other body parts aren't in the way (blocking one's choppable chest area with arms, knives, boards covered in nails is A-Okay, just make sure the nails are pointed outward.)  Armored may only chop other armored, unarmored may chop anyone (yes, you can chop an armored chest with an unarmored arm, it just takes practice.) If you chop a person with a developed... landscape, must make sure to chop above developed areas, if you know what I mean. Chopping while getting shot at is an artform that Beans developed way past complete arseholeness. Heh heh heh.  My first, middle or last name is not 'Richard' but people seem to call me some derivation of that name, especially when being Chopped.

Oh, other good things about the fair(e) would be spending time with Mistress Andrew, doing some shopping at various booths for strange and unusual things (The Spotted Pony was/is a booth that sold furs and sundries that went well with medieval to American Civ-War reenactments, things like buttons, sewing supplies, bottles and such.) And there was always the 5pm half-price sale at Das Bakery Haus, which made apple strudel and other appetizing treats, yum. And so much more!!!

So. To those who questioned my sanity and asked if it was worth it? Yes. Yes it was. Very much so. Be doing it still if life hadn’t intruded. I need to get life unintruded and lose some weight and get my kit back on.

Now, about that Elephant…

(1) Smear-the-Q.... is the evil twin of Dodge Ball. Played against a wall, using a handball or racketball, the object is to throw the ball as hard as the thrower can at the target, called 'the Q.....' If the target is hit, the target continues to be the target. One throw per player, cycle through, repeat until recess is over or the target is missed or the ball is caught. If that happens, the bad thrower is now the new target and the game continues. 

As you maybe can tell, this was some sort of unauthorized fun-torture that we kids in the late 70's thought we invented. And some teachers tried to get it banned. Wiser heads prevailed. Surprisingly, though I could not throw for poop, I have always been able to shimmy out of line drives. Self-preservation powers most of my body, just not my mouth. 


  1. Well that was a very ....thorough....explanation of the whys and wherefores of being a walking ,talking Human Target. An informative post, thanks Beans. Finding a hobby/pursuit/lifestyle that you enjoy is a good thing on this journey called life. Tennis, hunting, shooting, and fishing, especially the last were/are my pursuits, but tennis has declined the older I've got. If what you like to do gets nobody else hurt then..... 'Murica!

    1. Thank you. I could never be completely normal, oh, no, not me. Just wait until Next Time. Gonna be full of big grey things that aren't ships or planes, and stupidity so stupid it burns.

  2. A brilliant tale, well told.

    We seem to be turning into an episodic, long-running, Norse saga sort of blog, at least you and I seem to indulge ourselves in these multi-part stories.

    A blog post can be "too long" and people will hint that it was "too long;didn't read" (tl;dr) when mentioning it. I confess, I have gone to various of the blogs I like to read, seen the length of the post and said, "Maybe later." Which never arrives.

    While brevity may be the soul of wit, it's tough to tell an epic tale in one post.

    I'm liking this tale, looking forward to the big gray, not-a-ship-or-a-plane, part of the tale.

    1. Some of your earlier posts were rather episodic, so this is nothing new. Once the large grey thing is over, expect epic rants and such to return.

      As to "TL;DR" well, I always wondered what that was. Weird, just never got curious enough to look it up.

  3. Oh, that ball game. We played that, but we didn’t call it that. I remember one of my times in the barrel, the biggest, meanest guy wound up and let fly with a perfect 90mph fastball nut-shot that I caught — without using my hands. Fun times, was gradeschool.

    1. Yep, fun game. I am pretty sure Neandertal children used rock or bundles of hide to do the same thing. Maybe OldAFSarge can tell us, as he was probably there.


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