Jena-Estrella-art - 10/31/10
"A report about Jenna's trip to the Estrella War" by Baroness Jenna of SouthWind, OP.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
A report about Jenna's trip to the Estrella War
by Baroness Jenna of SouthWind, OP
Estrella Mountain Park, Goodyear, AZ (west of Phoenix)
February 17-20, 2005
I promised a report, and here we are. First, for those who don't know, the history group I am in, the SCA, has these things we call wars. It's something like a science-fiction convention held at a campground, and something like a Boy Scout Jamboree, and an awful lot like a hell of a lot of fun. Somehow or other two sides are created and the fighters put colored electrical tape (usually red or blue) on their helmets so they know who to kill. Various 'scenarios' for battles are worked up, some of them ridiculously elaborate, some involving making 'bridges' or 'castle walls' out of bales of hay to make things interesting – "You trip over this row of hay bales, you have 'fallen off the bridge' and drowned." that sort of thing.
My Mom and I like to Feed Things. I make beef jerky to feed to the fighters before battles, and we make chicken soup to feed to them afterwards. During battles the Waterbearers' Guild that my Mom founded gives the fighters water and diluted Gatorade and oranges and pickles. Doing these things is why we go to wars. Most people who aren't there to fight will do things like shoot archery, or teach or attend little classes about various topics, or sell medieval-sorts of thingies or go shopping to buy medieval thingies, or to play music, or dance, and I know one lady who goes solely for the amusement of cooking medieval sorts of food over a campfire in cast-iron pots or roasted on a spit. (Me, I prefer to trot down to Merchant's Row where the bigger wars have attracted the sorts of portable food booths that you get at county fairs, and to pay for nice hot tasty food I did not have to cook.)
This year there has been a lot of rain all winter in the American Southwest. I have been attending this 'war' off and on for 20 years now and I have never ever seen that mountain next to camp be all green with vegetation, but this year it was. The grass was long, there were lots of weeds and even wildflowers, and the cacti are looking really rather fat with all that stored water. Most fun for me personally, was the fact that there has been a population explosion among the gophers. There are always gopher holes to look out for, and you usually see one or maybe two holes where there has been fresh digging or even sometimes an invisible rodent miner is kicking out dirt. This year, there were gophers visible everywhere, kicking up new holes and stretching out to grab cheek pouches full of nice tasty grass. Gophers are very stupid and single-minded. I saw people put food next to their holes, lean over and scream at them, and one guy was bopping a young gopher in the rear with his staff. None of the gophers cared. But my favorite gopher story involves one of our members from Nebraska, who is a licensed falconer. He had gone through goodness knows what amount of paperwork and bother to bring his peregrine falcon all that way. When not sitting on his fist she would be resting in the safety and privacy of her own tent where she was either in a cage, or a leash.
I gather she was just on a leash attached to a nice perch. The tent had no floor for obvious cleanliness reasons. One day, that 'floor' developed a hole and the gopher popped out. The falcon tried to keep the gopher from popping back in but her leash kept the gopher alive. Word was that she spent the rest of the weekend staring at that hole…
Fortunately the park has pretty good drainage and despite the fact there were flash floods the weekend before our war we didn't get rained out. It did rain a lot, but it was usually the kind of soft rain that you can dash through without a raincoat. It did keep the dust down, which is actually a major health problem as you can imagine. (The number of people who come out to the Estrella War without any concept that they are going to a desert, in Winter, and it's going to be cold at night and mild at best during the day and dangerously dusty when it's not rainy, is just amazing. My Momma taught me better.)
The first day there weren't any battles, and the weather was pretty good. They were doing lure coursing with hounds. You run a string through pulleys on the ground, and attach a white plastic grocery bag which experience worldwide has proven to be the best lure there is. Then you let one dog at a time chase the 'bunny'. It is too much fun to describe properly. Especially since we don't limit it to the rangy sighthounds that hunt on the run like greyhounds and saluki – last year the crowd favorite was a bulldog, and this year there was a Yorkshire terrier that was hysterical for another chance to catch that Evil Bag! Afterwards I went shopping on Merchant's Row. I bought some silk to spin into yarn, and a basket woven in Ghana, and a cane because I'd hyper-extended my knee two weeks before and I figured having a cane handy would keep me from needing a cane handy. (That's my family's idea of logic, and it works for us.) I also bought some wonderful hand-made glass beads and a small loom that I hope to use to weave the yarn I spin. In other words, I did my best to uphold the American economy.
But the most important activity was to stop at the shop where my friend Drix sells ribbon and trim. You see, last fall his "alter ego" Mr. Steve Boyd was on "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?" and February 17 was the day the episode was finally being aired. Drix had been sworn to secrecy, but once it aired he held forth and told an enthralled audience how he had won $100,000 that he flatly refuses to use to replace his worn-out minivan. Once we'd congratulated Drix I looked at the sky which looked rainy, and got Mom back to the hotel.
Next day was battles. The Falcon Army of Calontir was still mustering when we got there, and we immediately began to feed them things. The battles were right in front of the Royal Pavilion, which looks just like a round purple and yellow circus tent. We set up our chairs in its shelter from the cold breeze and intermittent rain and watched the fighting.
After battles, soup, and showers. Our monarchs King Garrick and Queen Yasamin had announced a royal court to be held to give awards and stuff. As we gathered in the Royal Pavilion Rhianwen the Excellent One got ahold of a woven rope and an empty beer bottle and tried to set up a trap on the rug in front of the thrones. Those sitting around commented that no one would go for an obviously empty beer never mind one with a not-inconspicuous purple rope around it. His Majesty generously supplied a bottle cap so the beer would not look so empty. Still no takers. (Which was surprising, because any straight male or gay female would agree that Rhianwen is extremely Excellent in appearance not to mention all her other fine qualities, and being caught by one so desirable is generally considered to be desirable.) So a real undrunk beer was substituted, a Samuel Adams if I read the label right. Still no takers. At this point His Majesty, full of regal jocularity, took the beer and suspended it from the chandelier in the Royal Pavilion with a length of duct tape. Using the name of the most beer-centric of our fighting orders, the Fyrd, someone shouted, "Fyrdpaper!" But unlike flypaper, this didn't catch anything. His Majesty draped the rope strategically so that someone reaching for the beer would have to pass their hand through the loop, and he took the other end of the rope and waited expectantly. No takers. (This is not surprising, because although any straight female or gay male would agree that Garrick is as handsome as he is noble, he is also married to one of the very few ladies as pretty as Rhianwen not to mention that his beautiful bride Yasamin is an authorized armored fighter.) Not until His Majesty was distracted for the briefest instant did the beer get grabbed, and it was gone before he noticed. Undeterred, Garrick tried again with the beer on the ground and the rope around it. He waited like Wiley E. Coyote by a pile of "Free Bird Seed", and with equal luck – the royal herald slipped his hand in and got the beer. But when his monarch noticed the herald suddenly remembered his place as a member of the Royal Retinue, and he quickly wrapped the rope around his wrist shouting in dramatic fashion that Alas! He was Caught! The herald was then dramatically hog-tied. How long he would have remained that way I don't know, but it was time to start court and you have to have a herald yelling, "Oyez!" to start court so they let him go.
Court was not very long despite there being at least one pause to send someone to fetch a laggard who had chosen to go rest at their tent rather than attend court. (Royal court, at least under Garrick and Yasamin, is nothing like the boredom of a court of law. It's more like watching the Harlem Globetrotter play basketball – great skill combined with great fun.) I think that everyone's favorite bit was when His Majesty had the story of The Boots of Pain read out by a man whose rich voice makes James Earl Jones sound like a parakeet. (I'm sorry, I just can't describe The Boots of Pain without telling the whole story, and it is a long and colorful story full of Pain.) Hearing the story in full, King Garrick decided to buy these priceless items. He then announced that he would be donating them to the next fundraising auction held in our kingdom. (My mother immediately looked and me and snapped, "NO!" It can be so annoying when your Mom can read your mind, I was thinking how much fun I could have owning The Boots of Pain.) I can't remember much after that, perhaps because I was laughing so hard that I was crying.
After court everyone began to frantically set up for what was supposed to be the party of all parties, the 21st birthday of the Kingdom of Calontir. Before you get too blue about not having been at this party, let me tell you that it began to rain again, harder. Everyone told me the next day that the party went fine but I'm suspicious. Standing around in the desert in winter in the rain is just not most people's idea of a good time.
The next day the battles were supposed to be in a scrubby piece of land but this was determined to be a Bad Idea given the amount of rain so they were fighting right in front of us again. And again we stayed under the Royal Pavilion to stay dry in the off and on rain. During one break a brief royal court was held, and one of our warriors was inducted into the order of the Iren Hirth. This order is named after the ancient bodyguards of the Norse and Saxon kings, and a Huscarl of the Hirth is roughly the equivalent of a battle-hardened sergeant. (My studies of American history, my time in high school Naval ROTC, and my biological father who was in the Army during the occupation of Japan have all taught me to consider the Sergeant-Major as the military's highest lifeform, equaled in nobility and dangerousness only by rare individuals like my great-Aunt Ciel the one-eyed substitute teacher.)
Post-battles the rain stopped and they did the hound coursing again and it was great. This time when I packed up Mom we found that a couple of the park entrances had been roped off due to standing water or mud. That night it rained. A lot. Being the biggest wuss this side of the Mississippi, I refused to try to drive out Sunday to a park that I would not be able to get into because I was not about to let my 71-year old Mom walk a quarter mile or more on slick wet grass or damp-to-muddy ground. So we stayed in bed in the hotel.
As awful as this sounds, we actually had lots of fun, particularly with the gophers and watching the dogs course. We got home and begged our own dogs for forgiveness for having been away so long. And due to the damp weather I did not come down with bronchitis the way I usually do. Instead, I caught a head cold from one of my friends. Sigh
And that, more or less, is the tale of the Estrella War. A very much nicer war in every way than anything any of our American armed forces are involved in. And because of the men and women of our armed forces upholding our way of life, weird people like me and Mom are able to go out and Feed Things to men and women in armor who like to hit their friends with sticks. God Bless America.
And thus, able to be a bard, historian, and inter-kingdom anthropologist.
PS: Jenna of SouthWind's (questionably) Mundane persona Miss Janice R. Gaulke likes to occasionally mail cartoons and jokes and news about her pet mice and SCA event reports to SCA gentles who are also members of the Armed Forces stationed in real war zones like Iraq or Kosovo. Any such noble person willing to give their APO/FPO mailing address to a (rather strange) total stranger can get things mailed to them, too. Please contact Miss Gaulke at JennaSW at aol.com
Copyright 2005 by Janice R. Gaulke, 9114 W 100th Terr Overland Park, KS 66212-4117. <JennaSW at aol.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.