As an adult headed toward the ½ century mark I know, as many of you do, that childhood is short. One minute you are playing with friends in your grandma’s backyard; the next, you are driving your own kids to school or planning your retirement. It sure goes fast, but this past weekend I was afforded a rare opportunity to be a kid again, even if just for a day.
Each year local historian and funeral director, Richard Phelps sponsors an invitational Rendezvous event at his rustic Adair County farm. This year he was kind enough to invite me and my family along for the fun. I had attended a few muzzleloader shooting events at Richard’s farm and had been vaguely introduced to this alternative lifestyle known as the “Rendezvous” or “Longhunter reenactment”.
Through my own research I learned that folks all across the country travel many miles to attend these events. The rules are simple; nothing is permitted in the camp that was not readily available for use from 1840 back to the beginnings of our great country. Canvas tents and Tipis are erected, cooking is done over open fires, simple clothing is worn, and primitive weapons take center stage.
As a kid, I grew up pretending to be Daniel Boone; no, not the short guy from the history books – Fess Parker, the actor who played Boone in the early 1960′s television series. He was about the coolest, buckskin clad hero I had ever seen, and even to this day I hold him in high esteem. So when I learned I would get to dress up like an extra on my favorite old television show and carry a flintlock rifle, I signed up immediately. Only a few obstacles remained – this stuff is expensive, and they don’t sell any of it at Wal-Mart. Fortunately Richard was able to direct me to several quality suppliers and, after signing a few simple home mortgage documents, I was able to walk away with a custom built 1730 Virginia Flintlock Rifle and enough clothes for me and the entire family. Over the course of the next few weeks I obtained the remainder of small items necessary for shooting the rifle and wearing the clothing properly.
Saturday came as slowly as Christmas to a six year-old, but at last it was here.
I arrived early at the camp in full costume and marveled at the degree to which these folks kept their sites authentic. Ladies in long dresses were already loading iron skillets and Dutch-ovens with food for later in the day. A young boy in a hunting frock was playing with an eight month-old baby wearing period correct infant wear and matching bonnet.
The men were gathering for the upcoming “woods walk shoot”. The object of this competitive shooting event is to hit the greatest number of targets placed throughout the wooded area. The targets vary from plastic spoons to a candle flame; no, you can’t shoot the candle!
The men’s clothing was as varied as their choices of weapons. Everyone had a hat of some kind. Some wore buckskin. Others wore wool or cotton. Some wore knickers, others pants, and the most adventurous wore leggings and loin cloths. No, I don’t know what they wear under the loin cloths, but with the cold wind blowing steadily I hope it was something heavy and warm.
A couple of targets into the woods walk and Vickie and Jake arrived in their 1700’s regalia. I hadn’t invested in outer garments, so I know Vic was putting on a good show for me even though she was freezing.
Jake quickly made a new little friend, and would not have cared if the temperature had dropped to freezing. The two boys spent the remainder of the afternoon cavorting through the woods while pretending to shoot the same toy muzzleloader I had carried at their age. As I watched my own son tote my childhood heirloom I was carried back to the very day when I discovered the rifle in the toy section of Rose’s Department Store. I made a mental note to thank Mom again for the gift that had now kept on giving.
We capped off a great day with a potluck meal that would have made any revolutionary soldier green with envy.
We made new friends, tackled new challenges, and stepped back in time over 200 years. Problems and worries were put on hold. Cell phones were turned off. Most importantly, we all got to be kids for a day. And each time I stepped to the firing line I was, at least in my mind, Daniel Boone – yeah the cool one from TV!