Before they had a football team, as we all know, the Vikings did a bit of marauding and exploring. We have enjoyed attending mountain men reenactments in the past, so when we found out our newest neighbors, Colleen and Mark, were reenactors, and that they were coming to northern Missouri this weekend for a Viking gathering, we made arrangements to attend. The event is being held on a private farm where, over the last several years a Viking fort, called Ravensborg, has been constructed.
This site is only open to the public twice a year: in the spring for the Return of the Sun observance, and in the fall for the Return of the Dead. Three different groups were represented here, with reenactors from as far away as Canada and Ohio. They are required to live, eat, and function as authentically as possible during the weekend. There were people using card looms to weave strips of twill that would be used as belts, straps for horns and purses, and decoration for clothes. The previous day, they had dug a pit to fire pottery and were in the process of gradually uncovering it to bring the temperature down slowly and avoid breakage. An armory is the most recent building under construction, and displayed helmets and weapons.
Our neighbor, Mark, is the head cook--a position he said he didn't have to battle anyone for. When we arrived, he was serving lunch of soup, cheese, eggs and apples. The reenactors must provide their own dishes of wood, horn and pottery. Mark was in the midst of preparing the night's feast. He was expecting to serve about 100 people. A wooden outhouse had been converted to a smoker by charring the inside. He was smoking a pig, several pork loins, a beef roast, and 48 Cornish hens. He would also serve salmon that had been previously smoked, pickled herring, and a cabbage and leek dish. Authenticity is fudged for the children--they were going to have hot dogs and Goldfish. The kitchen is a long building with a large fire pit and baking oven. The feast would be served in the mead hall, another long building and the first built on this site, entirely lit by oil lamps with raised platforms on both sides.
The main attraction for the public visitors were the battle demonstrations. First they staged an attack on the gate house. Casualties were high. Then they demonstrated how the various weapons--swords, staffs, spears, etc. were used and the importance of the shields in defense.
I think we tend to think of early cultures as entirely isolated and homogenous, but there were constant reminders of the Viking contact with other people. Ornamentation that was typical of Slavic people who joined the Vikings was worn by some members. More elaborate armor indicated that the warrior was probably a Byzantine mercenary. Food and tools gave evidence to the huge amount of trade that went on. It was a fascinating afternoon.
We have not been camping this week but luxuriating at a lovely bed and breakfast just south of Branson, Missouri, courtesy of our daughter and son-in-law. The hosts at the White River Lodge, Bill and Becky couldn't be more welcoming and this amazing log home has all of the amenities. A variety of bird feeders on the decks brought us glimpses of an indigo bunting, gold finches, cardinals, woodpeckers, and a large crow or something who thought the suet block was for him.
On Wednesday we drove to Dogwood Canyon, a nature preserve privately held by the guy who dabbles in Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas. It's a beautiful area, but the signs that give warning that this is a wilderness area and watch out for poisonous snakes and other wild fauna are somewhat belied by the mowing and landscaping going on. When I asked one of the employees if the numerous waterfalls were natural, he said mostly but they had been 'enhanced.' Your ten dollar entry fee only gets you in the gate and into a museum, restaurant, small nature center, and of course the gift shop. If you want to walk on the paved trails back through the canyon, that is ten dollars more, with other forms of transport (bikes, trams, jeeps, horses, etc) proportionately higher. We hesitated at first, balking at the $10 charge to use our own feet to explore, but finally decided we would go the bike route and sprung for $15 more apiece.
The trail back through the canyon floor runs very gradually up hill, which is still a challenge for us old folks, and we stopped several times to rest and enjoy the scenery. At one spot, we visited with an employee who explained what he was waiting for. There is apparently a senior tour golf tournament being held this weekend at the Top of the Rock golf course (also owned by Mr. Bass Pro), and he had graciously invited the golfers out to fish and relax in the Canyon after a rough day of practice rounds. The staff had established ten sites along the trail where the golfers would be dropped off, provided with poles and equipment--I didn't see any bamboo, by the way--and helped in their fishing efforts by expert guides to catch the wiley trout. The staff seemed to be 'enhancing' the number of trout at each pool by providing little fishy snacks.
The golfers were supposed to be dropped off at any time, but had not yet arrived by the time we came back down the trail, returned our bikes, and left the park. Perhaps the golfers were expected to pay for their 'wilderness' fishing experience, but somehow I doubt it. However, being Senior citizens ourselves, we appreciate Mr. Bass Pro's attempt to help out these retirees who are no doubt on fixed incomes and mostly dependent on Social Security, and if they were not being charged, we were certainly glad to donate our $50 so that such a charitable cause could be carried out.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.