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War Mongering

On Saturday morning, as planned, Liv, Graham, Crianza, Chicken and Celosa were driving down 290 with me at a wholely unreasonable hour. Right at Hempstead, around 7:30 am, we noticed a billboard in a field that said "Civil War Weekend" and I immediately exited. We followed the directional signs that said "Civil War Reenactment this way" and ended up on Liendo Plantation. Right as we drove in, we were greeted by a lynched mannequin hanging from a tree with the word "spy" on it. We passed a check-in station, and then drove on past the US encampment. The camps were using canvas pup-tents, that appeared to be laid out pretty orderly, and it looked like people were just getting up for the day. Someone in the car commented that our Obama sticker on the back of the car was probably really foreign to this sort of setting, but then we were passed by a small truck with a "war is not the answer" sticker and peace sign. A small platoon of US soldiers, in their blue wool uniforms, was marching down the road, and we followed slowly behind. We ultimately ended up near a big house with lots of larger canvas tents set up around it, but we figured that we were there way too early for anything actually to be going on. Liv and Graham were snapping pictures while I drove through the various encampments. Ultimately, we decided that a) we were way too early to see anything, and b) my parents would kill us if we didn't get Liv to the ranch sooner rather than later.

So, we left Liendo Plantation, vowing to return once we figured out what the schedule of events was. We got to the ranch about 45 minutes later, met up with my parents about a half-hour after that, and crashed for mid-morning naps about half an hour after that. Except Chicken and Celosa, who declared each other very best of friends and played for about 16 hours straight.

The ranch was lovely. It was raining when we picked up Liv and got her to the ranch, but by the time we woke up from our naps, the rain had stopped, and we were able to spend time both outside and inside. I took on decorating the house for the Christmas Tree Cutting Party, while the menfolk went for wood for the fire. We got some crap done inside, and then I made puff pastry sticky buns, my dad made some awesome cibatta, I made some roasted vegetables (which Graham kept an eye on the fire) we had barbeque from Snows. Everyone went to bed relatively early, and Chicken and Celosa started their whole run around and wrestle routine all over again at six the next morning.

Liv and Graham found out via someone's iPhone that there were battles scheduled at 2:00 on both Saturday and Sunday, so we decided to leave our pooches with our parents and head back to Hempstead around one on Sunday. Our timing was perfect: after paying $10 a head, we pulled into a space around 1:45 and walked to the battlefield right at two. The parking lot that had been compeltely empty at 7:30 the previous morning was nearly packed. There were vendors in canvas tents set up in tents by the big house and near the battlefield, and we walked through a mock hospital to get to the battlefield. A good twenty to thirty percent of the population at this thing was in some sort of period dress. We were informed that the place we initially chose to stand was where some cavelry would be coming through, so we had to move closer to the crowd. The crowd was actually pretty big, and there were even bleachers set up so some people had better views.

We were there not a minute when the first cannon fired. It was loud. And with every subsequent cannon blast, I jumped. Graham laughed at me. Soon, we took a look at the field and saw that the numbers were significantly skewed. There were probably three times as many confederate troops as there were federal, though the feds had better firepower. There was also some cavelry movement on the far side of the field that we couldn't really see. The feds had the left side of the field and the rebels had the right, and by and large, each sent about half of their people to the middle to fight. "Fighting" generally consisted of shooting their guns in the general direction of the other side. The feds had a couple of cannons with them, and they used them for awhile until the rebs were able to drive them back and leave the cannons. Every now and then someone would die.

For the first twenty minutes or so, we watched with only our own commentary and that of the people around us. I think that the guy in front of us was highly amused by my comments and questions. But then we moved closer to the middle of the field, and we heard the play-by-play on the loudspeakers. This was clearly a pro-Confederacy event, and we started getting a little uncomfortable. Liv said she heard something about coffee drinking Yankees. Graham started talking louder and louder about his being a Yankee. Eventually we found Liv, and we decided that a) it was probably best that we get Graham out of there before real violence ensued, b) it probably was a good call to beat traffic and c) Liv said the port-a-potties were disgusting. We took our time leaving, though, and we stopped in a bunch of the vendor tents. A lot of them had gear for the reenactors: uniforms, hats, dresses, weaponry. Some of them had general Confederacy pride stuff. The vendors were all wearing period clothing and they sort of talked period. No one was rude or mean or anything, but I think we generally were a little uncomfortable by the whole thing.

When we hit the highway again, we got stuck in a mini-traffic jam because the folks on the highway slowed down to gwak at the Civil War Reenactment taking place in a random field on an otherwise unremarkable Sunday afternoon.

Liv later researched and discovered that the battle we saw was a sort of "what if" and not a battle that actually took place in the Civil War. In some ways, I'm sure that this makes the action a little more fun, in that the result isn't preordained like the real battles are. The various leaders can try out different tactics that were popular at the time and see what happens. On the other hand, there was a bit of a creepy "South shoudla won" vibe to the whole thing.

Having grown up in a state that was part of the Confederacy, but ended up in a state that continues to be part of the Union, I've never really understood the concept of taking sides. I fully understand that the Civil War wasn't entirely about slavery, and a good hunk of the people who fought for the South didn't have slaves and never would. But to pretend that slavery wasn't a big part of it is being really, really blind. And ultimately, we're one big ass country, so we're both sides, regardless of where we grew up and were raised. Graham has Texas and Ohio flags tattooed to is shoulders, and he joked that they'd have been a little mystified by him if and when they got around to lynching him too for being a spy. I can honestly say that I've never seen this sort of Confederacy thing before in all of my years of being in Texas. I think part of it is that Texans are generally prouder of being Texan than any of the various countries we've been. I mean most of the conflict in the state prior to the 1840s was with points south, not with Yankees. So if we're going to enthusiastically waive some non-US flag, it's going to be the Lone Star.

Graham said that this whole thing proved that rednecks, too, can be dorks. And the level of detail that went into this thing was pretty impressive. Unforms, tents, equipment, saddles, weaponry. There were food and craft demonstrations near the big house, and I got the impression that the Civil War Reenactment gear business is a brisk one.

It was a strange, strange thing, and I'm so glad we made it. Next year we may show up to peace protest.