“It was so, so cold”

This morning I woke up to a new video at Not Your Mommas History called “Best Worst Reenactment Ever.” Thank you Cheyney for sparking memories and a laugh this morning!

It just so happens that this morning was rather chilly compared to the last several weeks. I already was a bit chilled. So, every time she mentioned how cold it was, I was cold and colder. I also kept remembering various “best worst” event happenings.

Please laugh your way through these, as I do now.

Cold? Early on in my reenacting, I did a fall event at Granger Homestead in Canandaigua, NY. This event was a Thursday through Sunday event, the last weekend of September. My tent mate and I were so careful about trying to bring accurate things, bedding included. Keep in mind we were two new to this teens. Well, that first night, it got so, so cold. Our little bit of accurate bedding, ie a couple cotton quilts each, just wasn’t cutting it. It was Cold!  After a few hours, we gave up. The town happened to have a 24 hour Walmart. (this is back when Walmart was new, 24 hours was unheard of and I actually was willing to go to Walmart.) We got up, found my car and headed to the store where we each bought sleeping bags. I know, awful. It was Cold! We got back and went to sleep. Come morning, I awoke to find my contacts were frozen in their case. It was Cold!

Another cold event was a similar time of year, in Ohio, also early on in my reenacting career. I can’t remember the name of the place. It was a small event, partly in a park and partly in a ‘field’ that recently had been overgrown brush with saplings growing. Well, that recent culled and cut habitat had been the home to a great many six and eight legged critters, some of which were quite large and hairy. FYI, I do not do bugs and spiders! To add to the fun, I had the brilliant idea of taking a friend to the event. Now, of course, I wanted to make sure the friend was comfortable and had a good time. I gave her my good wooden and canvas cot, along with my sleeping bag and blankets. I borrowed an aluminum cot from someone else and had a bed spread. Anyone who has had the “luxury” of sleeping on a modern aluminum cot with its colorful nylon canvas knows these things suck up and radiate cold, while having zero protection from moisture. They are the harbingers of a bad night’s sleep. So, when the temperatures dropped, no plummeted, from the pretty sunny, late summer day, to fridged, cold, damp…. I curled up the best I could wrapped in my otherwise comfy blanket, attempting to sleep as I shivered all night. Come morning, I “awoke” as best I could having not actually slept, with every muscle tight and cramped, and to find the cold triggered my otherwise like clock-work cycle. I think this was my all time suckiest night’s sleep at an event ever.

The mention of the fire….. Oh, what memory this one brings back.

Fast forward several years and several learning curves from the events above. I believe this was the summer of 2003, Alexander, NY. This field event happened to fall just prior to the start of Girl Scout camp I think. Kitty and I were both attending. It had rained a good deal Friday making the ground pretty saturated. I don’t recall anything eventful about setting up the tent other than the discussion of the straw. I saw the straw as a fire hazard and allergen. Yet, the ground was so wet, it was also good for soaking up the wet. We opted for straw. The tent set up, it was time to turn our attentions to dinner and a fire pit. Just about this time, the sky opened up starting the night’s drenching. It rained and rained. Having both built a great many fires in all sorts of weather at the previous summer long camp session, we had a solid fire pit building plan. Multiple layers and a ditch to move off the water. Within about a 20 minutes, we dug a beautiful pit that was going to nicely hold a fire despite the pouring rain. We were also covered, caked with mud. Luckily, there were automated showers at the other end of the field. Off we went to clean up, planning to start the fire when we got back. We came back to find someone did not think our fire pit was big enough and had re-dug to a single layer and tried to start a failed fire inside. Basically, were were looking at a mud pit and soaked wood. We re-dug the fire pit as best we could. We repeated the mud removal. This time when we returned, we found that those who needed fire had either gone to dinner or borrowed a braisure for their dinner. Oh, did I mention our dinner didn’t actually need to be cooked? (This may have been the beginning of “I do not cook”.) This event was also the one of the “straw spat”, mini-tart claiming, and the “leaving early.” I’ll let Kitty chime in if she wants to share about that last part.

Hmmm. I suppose out of 20ish years, those are the worsts on my list. Well, other than heat exhaustion, a broken foot and last year’s sun incident. But those are less humorous. I think that is pretty good.

btw, I can now sleep comfortably in the coldest of weather

Oh, the exploding car battery! A couple years after the above Granger event, I was demonstrating a Lady’s Aid Society. This meant two tents, and the most “stuff” I brought to an event up until then. I artfully packed the little Dodge Shadow I had in college. I was rather proud of myself. I set both tents up, and dressed them nicely. As I didn’t own tables yet, I decided a few straw bales would serve. I hopped in my car and drove to the back of the parking area where the straw was. I turned off the car. I piled four or six bales on top of the trunk and roof. I got back in the car. Turned the key. Kapow…sisssssss…. smoke….. Jaw dropped. I got out of the car. Popped the hood and just stared at the pieces of battery that were EVERY WHERE. I walked back up to the camp area to find our unit leader, Frank Cutler, to get my straw moved. I also needed my phone to call AAA. I was surprisingly calm at this point. A couple of the men, Frank and Rick included, came back to see the car. Well, this is when I learned how bad, or actually how potentially bad this was. It was described in detail how some of those battery pieces could have come through the dash of the car and impaled me. I think I was still pretty calm, considering. The tow truck came. He hooked up the car. I gave  him directions to where I wanted him to take the car. He looked at me funny, and asked “aren’t you coming with your car?” I pointed to my two, not small tents, and explained those are my responsibility for the weekend. I deal with the car on Monday. Off he went with the car. That weekend also happened to have a tornado warning that resulted in collapsed tents (not mine). Come Sunday, I found I couldn’t fit as much in my Dad’s truck as I did in my little car. Go figure. The car turned out just fine with a new, non-exploding battery inside.



I should highlight some of the lessons or learning curves from above:

  • Aluminum cots are evil. It is better to create a pallet or sleep on the ground than to bother with one of these.
  • Wool bedding and layers are your friend. I am all about layering for sleep –  a wool rug under the bed/cot, a wool blanket draped over the bed/cot that reaches the ground/floor on either side (within an inch if the ground is wet), cotton or linen sheets, cotton blanket/quilt (or two), a wool blanket/quilt or two on top. The wool carpet keeps moisture from coming up. The bottom wool blanket traps warmth under you. The top wool layer keeps moisture from coming down.
  • Proper night clothes can make a world of difference. On the truly freezing nights, for me this means a long thicker linen night dress, flannel drawers, wool stockings (that eventually get kicked off), a bed jacket in wool and a night cap.
  • Put your contacts case and deodorant under your pillow while you sleep. I also suggest putting your next day’s chemise and drawers in bed with you as well.
  • Don’t leave your shoes/boots on damp ground.
  • Bring food that doesn’t need to be cooked.
Published in: on September 12, 2016 at 6:45 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My husband has a few, from his days with Thompson’s Rifles (RevWar). Best of the worst was the night he slept in a flag.

    Well, not really. He slept in a nylon pup tent (that had to be dismantled early in the morning before the public came in. “Early” was the first part of the worst-ness.) This was an event on Lake Ontario, and the overnight wind was awful. The tent rattled and shook and made whooshing noises all night and poor husband didn’t sleep much. Which I guess made “early” a little more acceptable. Unfortunately he also got up temporarily deafened, and now blames middle-age hearing loss on that night.

    He also remembers the time they had war games on some farm or other in the middle of winter, two feet of snow on the ground. That was the first time he fired his gun with live ammo (at a target, not each other), and the kick of course was impressive. Even more interesting was when the gun kicked and he couldn’t step back to compensate, because…snow up to his knees. Yup, he fell down. Brrr.

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