Skins & Sales

01/25/2013

 
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At Rendezvous, you can see all kinds of skins.  As in animal skins.  As in dead things.  My kids love this.  I do not.

I’m the type of girl who avoids the coat department in stores.  I don’t want anything made of fur to touch me.  I don’t even like stuffed animals if they feel too real.  The idea of wearing or touching a dead thing just grosses me out.  Now, for those of you who are about to point out that my leather shoes are a dead thing, please don’t.  I know they are, but I don’t have the urge to pet my shoes.  However, if a coat is soft and furry, it shouldn’t be wrapped around me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan or anything that involves “veg.”  I eat meat.  I eat eggs and cheese and hamburgers; quite often, in fact.  I wear leather.  I can’t think too much about the meat I eat, or I might become a vegetarian; however, I’m not one.



All around the commune (Colony?  Settlement?), you can see dead things waving in the wind.  There are skins and hides.  There are skulls and bones.  There are purses made of turtle shells.  (The ultimate gross-out in my book.)  I even saw a purse made of a frog yesterday.  I’m not kidding.  You put your money in the frog’s mouth, and it drops into the belly.  I should have taken a picture, but I was too busy being disgusted.  I’m such a girl.

The Beetle has a badger face hanging on his wall at home.  The Goose bought it for him last year, because his name means “Badger.”  Talk about cursing myself with the name of my child.  Little did I know that naming a child “Badger” would mean that he would fight like a wild animal when he was cornered!  Oh, sorry.  Back to the 1840’s.

Skins drying is a pretty common sight in the field (Village?  ‘Hood?).  There is a guy who tans hides using the brains of animals.  I don’t even want to know.




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Another common sight, especially on the public days, is blanket sales.  This is the 1840’s version of a yard sale.  People put their stuff out on blankets by their tents.  As you walk by, you can stop and look to see what you want to buy.  This is a great way for the historically clueless, like me, to find items to wear and use at Rendezvous. 

I must say, I love the blanket sales.  I love a good bargain.  I will shop through the clearance rack all day long, even if it means sifting through junk to find a treasure.  I love the hunt for a good deal, so the blanket sales appeal to me.  I can not walk by a blanket full of stuff without stopping to see what they have to offer.

I love the sense of community that these blanket sales create.  I love the fact that people can leave their treasures out in the open and no one steals them.  I love the fact that if you stop to look, the owner does not rush over and stand over you like you are going to take something.  That is one enchanting thing about Rendezvous.  People are honest and trusting.  It's a great feeling.



That's one part of returning to the past that I do like.  I like that I can send my kids off to play or work or hang out with friends at Rendezvous and not have to worry about where they are.  I like that the Goose can leave her shoes out in the open, and they are there when she comes back.   I like the sense of community and friendship and comradery .  I guess when you're standing around in a field wearing old clothes, you have to trust the people around you.  They are obviously as crazy as you are, so they must be good people.  As much as I can make fun of their crazy outfits and strange ways, I actually enjoy being around the Rendezvous nuts.  It's a fun time of friends, family and possibly some fungal infections.  I can say I do it for my kids, but the truth is, I enjoy it too.  All in all, it was a good week.  I enjoyed returning to the past, and I will look forward to doing it again next year.  (Just don't tell anyone.)  -Al

 
 
There’s a man at Rendezvous named “Burrito Bob.”  I’m not actually sure if that’s his name or if that’s just what my kids have named him.  Regardless, he’s Bob to me.  He sells burritos from his tent.  He has a sign that says, “World Famous Since 1989.”  I’m not sure what he is famous for, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the burritos.

Mr. E and the kids love these burritos.  In fact, they were so hooked on them that they successfully duplicated them at home.  They opened a can of Hormel chili with no beans and put some on a tortilla shell with some cheese.  Then, Mr. Everything folded them just perfectly (of course they were perfect), and he and the kids toasted them in a pan.  They loved them.  I found them disgusting.

The home version is not nearly as disgusting as the Rendezvous version.  I think that’s because of Burrito Bob’s appearance.  He runs around all week barefoot.  He has a scraggily beard, and he just looks dirty.  He typically doesn’t have a shirt on, though he does put it on for special occasions, like days when the general public will be at Rendezvous.  More than anything, he’s got a wild look in his eyes.  He might be the nicest guy you’ve ever met (I don’t know because I’ve never talked to him), but I just don’t have a good feeling about him.  I certainly don’t want to eat his burritos.  I caught a rare glimpse of Bob with a shirt.  Let me just assure you that the photo does not do him justice.


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Disguise added to protect Bob
What we find interesting is to watch Burrito Bob’s prices during the week.  To start out, burritos are $1.  I’m pretty sure that’s to get the men and children hooked.  Then, the prices climb through the week and vary day to day.  He uses a chalkboard for his price sign.  Smart man.  On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when the public is allowed into Rendezvous wearing their normal 2013 attire, Burrito Bob’s prices skyrocket to $5 or $6.  Plus, he looks neatly dressed (as much as possible) that day.  It’s amazing.

I’ve noticed that all the prices go up during the public days.  I guess they figure if people want to pay money to gawk at us as we wear old clothes and stand in a field, they should pay for the privilege.

The butt-cheeks are there for the whole week, but they certainly come out for the public days.  They are just down the road from Bob and his burritos.  Those would be the Native Americans.  They are a breed all on their own.

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If you look around, you can see the butt-cheeks of men old and young.  And again, the photos do not show the whole picture.  You have to see the loin cloths in person when the wind is blowing.  A still life just isn’t the same.

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I’m pretty sure this boy is not Native American, unless it goes way, way back in his ancestry.  I hope he was wearing sunscreen today, or his pale skin is going to be hurting tonight!  Don’t you know, some day, when he’s married with kids, he is going to blame his mother for letting him wear this?  Somehow, it’s always the mother’s fault.

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The Native Americans have their own section of camp, and they pretty much keep to themselves.  It is fascinating to me to see their tipis with smoke coming up from them.  They have a circle in the middle of their camp that has to do with their religious ceremonies.  It has poles with feathers tied to them marking the sacred circle.  At night and in the mornings, you can hear their drums playing.  They really do add an element of authenticity to the whole Rendezvous experience.  That doesn’t mean I have gotten used to seeing the men in loin cloths.  There is nothing that can make you get used to that.  It’s a shock every time I see a half-naked (more like ¾ naked) Native American walk by.


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Now, my little Indian is a different story.  Isn’t she the cutest?  Of course, she had to add her own little “Goose” element to the outfit with the striped socks.  Only my child…
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She wanted to be a Native American.  I couldn’t afford $300 in leather to make her a costume, so I did the next best thing.  The first year she wore this outfit, she looked like a homeless child wearing a brown bag.  Luckily, the more we have washed this outfit, the more realistic looking it has become.  Also luckily, I’m not very good at sewing, and I made the outfit way too big!  It has lasted 3 years now.  Maybe, someday, the Goose can wear this and get married at Rendezvous.  Oh, I really shouldn’t even joke about that.  With my luck, she’ll really want to. -Al


P.S. Here's a picture of the Beetle too.  I didn't mention him in the story, but he's too cute not to show.  I think he is in the witness protection program.  That's why he's hiding his identity with his tomahawk.  And, yes, apparently, I am crazy enough to trust my children with sharp objects.  Notice the Goose's knife above...

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Today was full of plaid.  In fact, it was a sea of plaid.  Why?  Because today was the Parade of Tartans and Highlands Games at Alafia River Rendezvous.

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The dictionary defines “highlander,” as “a native of the Highlands of Scotland.”  Rendezvous defines “highlander” as anyone who is willing to wear plaid.  The Highlands Parade is a chance for grown men to get together and wear skirts and feel good about themselves while doing so.

My daddy has always joked that our family is Scotch-Irish, mainly Scotch, because there is an alcoholic tendency in our history.  I’m pretty sure the same can be said of the people wearing kilts today.  They were mainly made up of Scotch, or more accurately, mead.  So, today was all about Scotland.


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The old men wore kilts.

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The middle aged men wore kilts.

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The little boys wore kilts.  
There were kilts everywhere.

I must admit that I missed the parade and games this morning.  Sitting on my warm sofa in my pajamas was much more appealing to me than standing in a field wearing old clothes.  However, I got there in time to see the plaid.  They all wore it.  It was everywhere.  There will be plaid in my sleep tonight.  I don’t regret missing the parade, because the leftovers were still there.

Besides, I’ve seen the games before.  Once you’ve seen grown men wearing skirts and trying to throw big, heavy poles, you never forget it.  I can’t imagine it changes that much from year to year.

And, now for the hooters…..

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The hooters are the bathrooms.  That’s what they are called.  Why?  I have absolutely no idea.  I’ve never asked.  I’m not sure I want to hear the answer.  However, it is not uncommon at all to hear someone at Rendezvous say, “I need to go to the hooter.”  Strange but true.

For a week to two weeks, depending on the level of dedication, these people live in a field wearing old clothes, and they use port-a-johns.  Picture the lady’s dress from yesterday’s photo, or better yet, go look at it.  Now, imagine trying to use a nasty, stinky port-a-john wearing all those layers.  The mission is to keep your skirt out of the hole.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  You have to be careful, though, because there is no shower if you mess up.  Ewwww…..

Some of the really prepared people have their own restroom and shower facilities.  When I first heard that, I though, “Oh, that wouldn’t be so bad!  I could camp here if I had my own bathroom and shower!”  Then, I put some thought into it.  The shower would be great, and I know there are ways to heat the water using propane or solar power.  The bathroom, however, doesn’t sound so great.  In theory, it does.  In reality, I know that I am usually the one who ends up cleaning the bathroom at home.  How would I like to have to clean a portable bathroom in the middle of a field while wearing old clothes?  No thank you.  I’ve told you before that I don’t handle bodily fluids well.  I don’t think I’m up for that job.  Come to think of it, though, Mr. Everything is good at everything.  How do you think he would be at cleaning a chamber pot?  I bet he could do it!  Something to think about…  -Al

 
 
Today was a great day at the Alafia River Rendezvous.  Mr. E and I spent half the day in the car, working.  Since laptops are not period-correct for 1840, we resorted to sitting in the parking lot.  Picture this…the two of us, in the same outfits as my photo from the last blog, sitting in the back seat of the Suburban with the doors open.  We’ve got laptops on our laps, and we are working feverishly.  I should’ve had someone take a picture.  However, that would have involved speaking to someone and risking a conversation, something I generally avoid.

So, when we finally went inside the compound (Fort?  Settlement?), we found ourselves surrounded by frybread and fruitcakes.


First, the frybread….
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What you see here is a “Mountain Taco” made on frybread.  What is frybread, you ask?  Well, it’s the end of my low-carb eating plan, that’s what.  It is dough that has been deep fried.  Think elephant ears, and you’re on the right track.  Now, this frybread can be prepared as a dessert (my favorite) or as a meal, such as the taco.  Everything tastes better when it’s sitting on fried dough.  I'd even be willing to eat venison if they put it on frybread.  (I really hope that was beef I had today.)

It must be really good for me to eat it.  Just remember that these people are camping in the middle of a field, with no electricity and no running water.  Most of them, including the man who prepared my meal, did not look like they had bathed in weeks.  I don’t know how they are washing their hands or their dishes, and I’m not sure how they are managing to keep foods to a sufficient temperature.  Yet, I still ate the frybread taco.  It’s really that good.  In fact, I wish I had one right now.  Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.

And, the fruitcakes…. Boy, oh boy, the fruitcakes.

Let me preface this by saying that I, indeed, was out there, dressed just as strangely as these people.  So, I really shouldn’t say a whole lot about them.  But don’t worry.  That won’t stop me.

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Here is an example of how many women are dressed at Rendezvous.  Rumor has it that they even wear period-correct undergarments.  Really?  Why??  I’m pretty sure improvements in underwear have been made since the 1840's for a reason.  It wasn’t because someone sat around saying, “Hmmm.  This corset is really comfortable with the bones sticking into my skin, but I think I’ll change it just for the heck of it!”  No, I’m pretty sure we have gained a level of comfort since then.  So, why do we want to go back?

What kills me is how serious these people are!  They are all very, very busy.  They are walking here and there.  They are working.  They are shopping.  They are cooking.  These people are on the go, and they are living life just like their forefathers did.  I’m doing good just to walk in the long skirt, let alone work in it!  And why work?  We’re in the middle of a field.  I want to tell them, “Sit down and relax, people.  Have some frybread.  You’ll feel better.”


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Meanwhile, the kids are busy playing.  They run and throw sticks and balls.  They meet and greet friends.  They climb trees.  Here’s a photo of my always-compliant child when I told him to climb the tree so I could take his picture.  Thanks, Beetle, for cooperating, as usual.

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Here’s a photo of Beetle and Dillon sitting in a tree when they didn’t know I was looking.  My child and my pseudo-child touching a real-live tree instead of holding an X-Box controller….it warms a mother’s heart.


Once Mr. Everything and I went in the village (Colony?  Commune?) today, we basically spent our time joking about what everyone else was wearing.  


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This guy gave us a lot of material.  I followed him to the restroom (We’ll be discussing the restrooms another day..) and waited for him to come out just so I could get his photo for you.  That’s how dedicated to you, my readers, I really am.

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And what is this group of normal, average citizens doing?  Why, they are attending a wedding reception, of course!  I’m not kidding.  Someone got married there today.  They wore their 1840's garb and not even a fancy white dress or anything.  I could only tell who the bride was because she was carrying a bouquet of wild flowers.  Do you think they spent their wedding night in a canvas tent?  I’m sorry, but that’s over the top.  What a great way to start a marriage, with a little insanity!  Next week, maybe they can arrange for some counseling.

So all in all, it was a great day for people-watching.  The Goose is sleeping there in a tent tonight with a friend, the Beetle and Dillon are happily playing video games in the year 2013, Mr. E and I are still working, and all is right with the world.  -Al 


 
 
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Last Year's Lovely Portrait
This is it, folks!  You may have not even realized it, but the 
official, “Wear Old Clothes and Stand in a Field” week has finally arrived!  Hurray!  Are you excited?!?  I know you are excited.

Okay, so in case you aren’t aware of this annual event, let me tell you about it.  My kids love it.  In fact, my kids live for it.  It’s that great.  For them.  Not for me.  Of course, it is (trumpets…dum, dum, dah!) the Alafia River Rendezvous.

What is it?  Well, it’s a chance for a bunch of crazy people to get together for a week.  Allow me to explain…

Alafia River Rendezvous is a pre-1840’s rendezvous reenactment.  It’s a way to make history come alive for grown ups and kids of all ages.  Basically, people come together for a week (I actually think some of them are there for 2 weeks or even more) and they camp together.  They wear period-correct clothing (some more than others) and camp in period-correct tents.  They reenact how a rendezvous (or a meeting to sell and trade) would have taken place.

Many of these people are hard-core.  They have authentic canvas tents.  They bring in furniture.  No lie!  They bring authentic old beds to sleep in and wooden tables to eat at.  Some of them even bring dressers and shelving units and all kinds of stuff.  They bring real dishes to eat from.  They sleep there and cook over an open flame.  I think in some cases, there is booze involved, and I know in most cases, there is insanity involved.

Now, those of you who are homeschoolers (or at least homeschoolers in spirit) are thinking, “Cool!  How can I get involved?”  The rest of you are thinking, “Why in the world would people do that?”  I must say, I have asked both questions.  Today.

So, how can you get involved?  Sew yourself some clothes that look old and come join the insanity!  Don’t brush your hair or wear a bra.  You’ll fit right in.

And why in the world?  Like I said, insanity.  It actually is a great chance for kids to learn history through living it.  My kids have learned more there in the two years we have been than they ever have from a history book.  That’s why we go.  As far as why there are grown ups with no children there, I have absolutely no idea!  I’m pretty sure it’s just an excuse to play dress up and not shower for a week.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  We aren’t quite THAT crazy.  We are day campers.  We just go during the daytime and then shower and sleep in warm beds at night.  We’re only borderline insane, but we haven’t crossed the line yet.  I have friends who have crossed over, and apparently, once you go Rendezvous, there’s nothing better to do.


I’m excited to see what this week holds.  Today, as Mr. E and I were walking around, looking at the set-ups of camps, I was smiling.  (Apparently, I don’t do that often.)  Mr. Everything asked why I was so happy.  (A rare occurrence?)  I told him that I was thrilled because I knew I had a week’s worth of blog stories at my fingertips.  I bet I’ll see a whole lot of crazy this week, and I will be sure to share it with you!  There's nothing I love better than a whole bunch of crazy!  I can’t wait.  It’s going to be fun!  -Al