Sunday, June 17, 2012

Living on the edge of the fringe......

My husband and I take wet plate collodion photographs at Civil War reenactments. Just by virtue of attending a Civil War reenactment, we must accept that we fall within a sub culture aka a "fringe element".  We tend to believe we fall towards the more normal side of the fringe....albeit, within the fringe. But I decided many moons ago that what is perceived as normal is boring. Abby Normal is far more entertaining and fun. I embrace the fringe! Below - just a little insight into the fringe.

The most entertaining aspect of participating in a reenactment has very little to do with the actual battle. I haven't actually watched an entire battle scenario since the 145th Anniversary of Gettysburg - Pickett's charge. I stood within spitting distance of the engagement with re-enactors shooting within point blank range with no casualties. Please....nobody is that bad a shot. Even my dear departed Aunt Mary who was  blind and deaf could have taken out a few soldiers.....reenactors, however, pay for the privilege of participating and want to "burn powder". But really, somebody has to die! (and I don't mean the out of shape, well past their primes, weekend warriors who also participated in the 125th cycle - achieving actual death). Unless a commander has ordered certain participant to die, (or if it is really really hot or really really cold) - nobody takes a hit. This is why I don't watch battles. But, watching the bad impressions aka FARBS, can be extremely entertaining. Nobody knows the actual origin of the term - and it can be considered pejorative (although few FARBS believe  the term actually applies to them).
A FARB is one who tends to show indifference to historical authenticity with uniforms, material culture, and anachronisms- but there are myriad levels of inauthenticity. Some errors in authenticity are outright dangerous - such as the ubiquitous acetate ball gown worn to a country dance....it is a fire hazard...other offenses - wearing cosmetics, synthetic fabrics, carrying a modern cell phone, wearing  modern eye glasses, no corset for a woman, a firearm from the wrong decade, zippers, belt loops, the wrong hairstyle, with a few documented exceptions - women in combat....

This weekend we attended an event at a lovely site in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania hosted by some wonderful people who work to improve the lives of abandoned children. Profits from the registration of participants and Sutlers (merchants pedaling period wares to reenactors and visitors) will be donated to charity:   http://www.brittanyshope.org/.  Check out the website - the Abel family is amazing!

The dedication of many reenactors who research the soldiers they will portray is amazing, crazy, fringe,
obsessive, amusing, and an honor to those who came before. There is camaraderie. People come from all over the world for these 150th Anniversary events. It is mind blowing to realize that people reenact the American Civil War in England, Australia, France, Germany, and Finland. A friend from Scotland comes to the USA a couple of times per year for hard core events (those that try to recreate the actual conditions a Civil War soldier would have encountered) and is so mesmerized by the history that he has Stonewall Jackson's face tattooed on his calf.

I know I've strayed and written some Joyce stream of consciousness paragraphs - but I'm new at this and.....it is what it is.....

Vivian



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