A living history park that had been my home away from home for several years, closed to the public in 2007.
I have been a living history interpreter for more that 20 years and have taught many skills from that early time period. This is different from being a re-enactor, although the two have some crossovers. One of the crossovers was the annual 1700s camping event for all the volunteers of the 1750s fort.
Every year in early spring, the weekend before the park opened to the public, all the workers and volunteers from the fort area spent the weekend at the fort in full 1750s style.
My son and I, in full 1750s attire, arrived on Saturday morning. Our first task was setting up our floorless A-frame canvas tent. We then set out to collect some wood for a fire and I used my flint and steel kit to get the fire started.
There were a dozen or so people at the event. Each of us brought tools, supplies and miscellaneous items to share with the group for the weekend.
A small group broke off to harvest anything usable from the woods – early spring fiddleheads, etc. Some folks cleaned all the winter debris from the camp area. Others went to collect more wood to keep the fire going at all times. There were a couple of individuals who had bullet molds to make lead balls for the flintlocks. They sat by the fire producing a nice stack of lead balls to shoot later.
When the chores were done we gathered in the field to do some target practicing with the “flinchlocks” (flintlocks). We measured the powder for the distance to the target, poured it into the end of the barrel, and then used the rod to pack the patch and ball tight against the powder. After the barrel is loaded, the cock is pulled halfway back (it’s not good to go off half-cocked!) and the pan is primed by adding a small amount of powder. Once the trigger is pulled, the shooter must hold still and continue to aim until the process completes, which may have a brief delay. The shooter must hold a steady position while knowing there is about to be a bright flash erupting right by his face. Hence the nickname “flinchlock.”
When the trigger is pulled, the cock, which holds the flint, falls and hits the frizzen, or steel, above the pan. This produces a spark, which falls into the pan, igniting the powder in the pan. When the ignited powder flashes, it forces a spark into the flash hole igniting the powder inside which explodes, thereby thrusting the ball out of the barrel.
• Going off half-cocked means to do something prematurely or doing something without preparing or thinking about it.
• A flash in the pan is something that is short lived or fails to fully deliver or someone who had brief success.
• A flintlock has several parts that could be purchased separately or all together. The parts are the gunlock (the flintlock mechanism), the stock (the support, usually made of wood), and the barrel. When you buy the whole package you are buying the lock, stock and barrel.
Lead in the 1700s was expensive. A skilled frontiersman or longhunter would know exactly how much powder it took to successfully kill the prey but have the lead ball stay in the animal. When field dressing the animal, the longhunter could retrieve the lead and melt it down to form it into another ball.
The first day of our campout was filled with chores, cards and other colonial American games, target practice, telling jokes and laughing, throwing knives and hatchets at targets, drawing, and other leisurely activities – no cell phones, TVs or computers.
As the sun began to set, we all gathered around the campfire for dinner and storytelling. The air was a crisp 36 degrees and clouds gathered overhead. Encompassed about the fire was an assemblage of different foods brought by everyone: venison backstrap roasting on the spit, a pot of soup nestled in the coals, and some veggies and beef strips sizzling on a flat skillet.
The night grew darker as the clouds thickened. We all decided to clean up and head to bed. Shortly after my son and I bedded down for the night, the clouds opened and down came the rain.
In the morning, the sun greeted us with its warm beams and the rain began drying out. My son and I, in our canvas tent, stayed completely dry all night while everyone who stayed in the cabins weren’t as fortunate – the cabins all leaked.
Breakfast was in a similar manner as dinner the night before, consisting of eggs, bacon and any leftovers. We all chatted and lingered awhile before dismantling camp and heading home.
Pulling away from the rat race of modern life to enjoy nature and the fellowship of friends can be a much-needed break to reset the beautiful uniqueness within each of us.