The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


February 14, 2014

The smell of burnt hickory

I was out for my daily walk one day early this week, after the storm that unexpectedly dumped more snow on us than previously forecast, bundled against winter’s chill until only my nose and a small part of my cheeks were exposed.

Had a half-dozen people drive by me, probably shaking their heads at that “crazy guy” who doesn’t even know when to come in out of the cold.

Yet, while sliding a bit more than usual down a modest hill in my hometown, I happened upon one of those ah-ha moments I’ve written about in the past.

The air as I walked was fairly thick with the smell of bacon cooking, mixed generously with wafts of burnt hickory from someone’s fireplace, as Old Man Winter did his number on Garfield County.

Can’t remember having a more genuine olfactory flashback to my earlier days as a veteran Civil War living history re-enactor, when some of my old buddies from the Trans-Mississippi Rifles, 1st Arkansas Battalion or the 10th Kansas and I were trekking to far-off re-enactments, to hone our appreciation of America’s greatest conflict.

The Civil War has no peer when it comes to books written about it, from the earliest first-person accounts by veterans who fought in the conflict, to deeply researched and scholarly tomes on subjects ranging from Robert E. Lee’s horse to the everyday sublime details of a soldier’s life in the army.

For the CW re-enactor, nothing is more important than the latter topic, as each of the estimated 50,000 in the hobby during its heyday strived, in his or her own way, to recreate the look and feel and fabric of an American — whether North or South — those 150 years ago.

Now I’m not saying the hobby is for everyone. It’s extraordinarily grueling at times. Like soldiers of any war or conflict America has produced, the re-enactor is subject to all the fair and foul of weather — from 100-plus degree days to bitter wind and bone-chilling cold.

Recreating a battle in the U.S. can range anywhere from 100 to 20,000 Union and Confederate re-enactors, who take to highways for two- and three-days events.

The first nights are the worst, as people show up at all hours to pitch their tents and stoke their campfires in preparation for whatever battle is to be recreated — preparing for historical portrayals.

I’ve been to events from Missouri to Mississippi, Louisiana to Tennessee over the years, at largely rural sites, with about the only amenities you have what you can carry in on your back.

I’ve lost 10 pounds at one event (Honey Springs right here in Oklahoma), to waking up having my period leather brogans frozen to the ground in my tent in Arkansas.

I’ve had to battle fire ants carried on water pouring through my tent during the remnants of a hurricane that washed out the final day at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, La., to shivering so hard on the cold ground at the large-scale national re-enactment at Franklin, Tenn., I couldn’t sleep.

The meat and potatoes of the hobby are the individual portrayals of the common soldier of the period, be he wearing the brown/grey or butternut of the Confederate, or the deep-blue wool and kersey of the Union man. Authenticity counts, and everything from the correct uniform pattern and fabric to the proper shoe to the hand-stitching of button holes on a soldier’s uniform is open to inspection and interpretation.

I remember standing in ankle-deep mud and intense sun throughout the Battle of Vicksburg, Miss., to allow the public to view Confederate soldiers as they were a century and a half ago defending their city.

I’ve forced marched in the dead of night down a narrow dirt lane at Pea Ridge, Ark., carrying everything from a 10-pound musket to food, water and a blanket, to set up and march on the field the next day for a battle recreation.

The wear and tear is palpable on the body and muscles, having broken a bone in one foot, broken a finger, had sprains and been gashed and scratched and eaten on by bugs of all kinds — for my hobby!

Yet, all re-enactors live for those fairly frequent moments when we could step back into time, and see many of the daunting trials and tribulations of our ancestors — without all the blood and gore and mental anguish of those Civil War years.

I’m sure each re-enactor has hundreds of stories to relate, of sitting by a campfire, blankly staring into the orange-licking flame and experiencing the smell of burnt hickory, of the wafts of bacon cooking ... going back to a day when history was reality for our forefathers.

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid

Text Only
  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg David, Goliath at it again in Gaza Strip

    Israel has long seen itself as David, standing firm against a hostile neighborhood full of Goliaths.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • DHS must come up with future plans for NORCE, SORC facilities after they are closed

    NORCE is scheduled to close in August 2015. Currently, 15 residents remain at the facility, awaiting transfer to a private setting, and there also are 60 state employees on the NORCE payroll.

    July 24, 2014

  • Never leave a child or a pet alone in a car

    With temperatures soaring to near or above 100, parents need to know they can’t leave their children alone in a locked vehicle. In 10 minutes, a vehicle’s temperature can climb 19 degrees. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, and it only takes a few minutes before a child can become dangerously overheated, according to Safe Kids USA.

    July 23, 2014

  • Will Rogers web.jpg Will Rogers Daily Telegrams 7-24-2014

    I am beginning to believe that Mellon is the poorest Treasurer we ever had. I would like to be Treasurer. Here would be my policy, and you see if it wouldn’t be the best thing for America:
    Save nothing, have nothing in there. Then Congress and the entire nation could have nothing in view only what they made themselves.
    A Candidate.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg State of the state: Things are not as good as they could be

    Draper wants to split Cali up into six separate states — Silicon Valley, around the San Francisco Bay Area; Central California, including cities like Bakersfield; West California, including Los Angeles and its suburbs; South California, including San Diego; North California, centered on Sacramento and Jefferson, in the far northern part of the state.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Voters have decisions to make in August races

    Democrats will have two runoffs to decide. One will be choosing their party’s nominee for state superintendent. Freda Deskin will face John Cox. The winner will face Republican nominee Joy Hofmeister in the November general election.
    The other race is for the party nominee to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. Jim Rogers will face Connie Johnson. The winner will face Republican nominee U.S. Rep. James Lankford in November.

    July 22, 2014

  • Going postal

    Waukomis residents have the opportunity to have their voices heard in regard to the future of their post office.

    July 22, 2014 1 Story

  • New dorm

    Breaking ground on a new dormitory at Northern Oklahoma College Enid is another step in the evolution of the campus.

    July 20, 2014 1 Story

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Stars in our eyes

    We caught the vision when, in May of 1961, John F. Kennedy told Congress, and the world, that the space race was no longer to be so one-sided.
    “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” he said.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • thumbs up logo.jpg Thumbs up for northwest Okla. communities, where net taxable sales figures are up

    Net taxable sales were up $1,917,774 in Enid, when compared to sales reported in July 2013. The increase amounted to a 2.6 percent increase in sales tax revenue for the city.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads