When I was eight years old, I read Little House on the Prairie. For several years after that, I became Laura Ingalls. I had the dresses, the bonnets, and I collected any Little House book I could find. By nature I am kind of obsessive, so when I get into something I go full force. I can’t help it. So at home, I was a pioneer girl. (My family will attest to this! It was pretty funny.) Fast forward a few years, I am eleven years old, and somehow my daddy found a group of buddies that was into French and Indian War reenacting. As a family, my parents, brother, and I first went as visitors to Martin’s Station. It was a really neat reenactment, they even had a little building that they caught on fire to add to the realness of their battle reenactment. This is pretty cool, I thought. Well, while we were there, we met two men named Carroll and Alan. They were playing some music and cracking jokes and it was really fun. Only a few months later, my daddy and I went together to Fort Loudoun in Vonore to start dressing out with these guys, these reenactors.
I was only a little girl then. These were my formative years, I guess you could say, and some of my fondest memories were at the Fort.
Every month, there was one weekend where we would “dress up” in period clothing and go hang out without electricity or TV for a whole day, sometimes a whole weekend. Just me and my daddy for the first few years. This sounds totally crazy and boring to most people. I was ok with that, being a pre-teenager. I never did care what others really thought about my hobbies. My daddy was really good at blacksmithing, so he did that. I pretty much walked around, talked, and played.
I was surrounded by these people who would argue over the historical correctness of a pair of shoes or a gun. I learned so much as a young’un about history! I loved it! Not long after my daddy and I started coming to the fort regularly, the guys I mentioned earlier, Carroll and Alan, became dear friends. Charlie, Steve, John, Kelly, Jeff, Will, Eric and Krista…I know I’m missing some names and I wish I could think of them all. Sorry if I’m missing important names. There was a sort of camaraderie between reenactors, I guess you have to be one to know what I mean! (We always dressed as civilians, not the soldiers. But we were friends with those guys, too.)
I’ll never forget sitting by the lake listening to hilarious stories from these guys. I came to the realization at the fort that it was such a blessing to be able to sit with someone for hours at a time and just talk. Just to enjoy someone’s company without being distracted by electronics or the busyness of our “real” lives. A year or two after we started reenacting, Bethany and Anna came onto the scene. They also came with their dad. (I think it’s a great father/daughter thing!) We became fast friends. Like I said, learning how to entertain each other while being without anything modern all day was great fun.
The highlight of my year was the annual Trade Fair at Fort Loudoun. This was where vendors from pretty much all over the US would come and sell their goods. Just like it might look in 1765-1767. I saved my money all year to buy 18th century stuff. One of my favorite topics to learn about was how women dressed and the work they did, so I would buy books or little trinkets to go in my collection. I loved early American life and wished I could live 18th century every day! (Well, if you know the history of Fort Loudoun, it may not have been such a hot idea to live there exactly…)
By the time I was in high school, we had made even more lifelong friends. Frank, Carol (Maggie)…and also lost one, Kelly.
When I was 18, I slowly got out of reenacting. Not that I hated it. I just didn’t have time anymore. My mama started coming, too, so she and my daddy still went. I came as a visitor a few times. But like I said, I just got busy with other things. This part of my life got put on the back burner…way in the back. When I was a little girl, I would dream of coming to the fort with my children one day. I loved the way little boys would play all day with their little wooden swords and guns and chase each other and never get tired! I thought to myself all those years ago, how nice it would be to raise boys that loved playing at the fort.
I got married and always made my husband come with me to the Trade Fair. Sometimes I dressed in my period clothes, sometimes I came as a visitor. Every time we went, I always wanted to start reenacting again!
Well, seven years of marriage, three sons, and almost 10 years later, we went back to the fort. I, my daddy and mama, and my three little boys! (My husband will come with me to the Trade Fair, but he won’t dress out with us! What a shame, haha!) My boys loved it. I held my three-month-old little baby in my lap the whole time, while my three and two year old boys were with my parents and our friends. I was thinking to myself that this is just what I had pictured when I was little…
And this is how reenacting completed my life. My dreams I had when I was so young actually came true. I thought this was pretty neat, to see something like this come full circle. And so many of my friends are still at the fort. They, unlike myself, stuck with it for all these years. There are so many new faces to me but it’s still kind of the same, too. We miss seeing Charlie. (My friends who may be reading this will understand the void without Trader Benn.)
It’s fun to look back and it’s fun to start doing something old again.