Is Starshower the new Honey Cowl? Only time will tell (but it looks good).

Outward Bound, Buffy Style

elkriverscarf.jpg
Dear Kay,
What a day. My sister Buffy is in residence these past two weeks, which means that I have been involved in banana bread baking and exercise classes and cottage tours and all manner of exhausting field trips including the extraordinary launching of the Shayne family in canoes down the Elk River. Never have I been on such a slow river. At one point I was certain we were going the wrong way. After hours of flapping my paddle, I stopped caring. By the end, I wished those guys from Deliverance would show up and put us out of our misery.
Buffy doesn’t merely seize the day; she carpes the diem by both shoulders, ties it to the back of her SUV, and drags it down the mountain. Oh wait–that was ME she tied to the back of her SUV.
Today’s field trip was to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. Never mind the fact that four out of the six in our party are under the age of 12 and don’t really know what alcohol is, what whiskey is, or what a barrel is for except the storing of monkeys. We learned a lot about charcoal and sour mash and we copped a nice buzz when Chris the be-overalled guide gave us a whiff of the 94-proof mellowing tank. Maybe I’m drunk. I don’t know what else could account for my lethargy.
I did have an excellent textile encounter. So there we are in one of twenty gift shops lining the Lynchburg town square, and the fellas are deciding which kind of Civil War bullet they want to buy. (The 58 gauge minie ball was the choice.) A guy walks up, looks at a framed bayonet that is bent into a wicked-looking hook shape, and says: “I’ve never actually seen one of those in real life before.”
I look at him, and he says, “I’m a reenactor.”
Music to my ears! I love a Civil War reenactor. What a strange, obsessive hobby. Almost as weird as knitting. I ask him what his rank is, he tells me he’s a private in the 27th Alabama Infantry, and I say, “So, do you have, like, great uniforms and stuff?”
His eyes light up, and he says, “Yes, I make them myself.” Which is what I was hoping he would say, because a lot of reenactors work hard at their uniforms. Civil War reenactors are the gold standard when it comes to the concept of Love Your Gear. They ADORE their gear. Gear is KING. It turns out that he’s apprenticing in hat-making with a Civil War reenactor whose hats are so good that he has to label them REPLICA to keep them from being sold as authentic relics. ANYway, we had a nice long chat about fabrics of the 1860s, about fabric weights and weaves and vegetable dyes and wool versus cotton and honestly, if we weren’t standing in front of a case of Civil War weapons, you’d swear it was the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival.
I ask him where he gets his fabric, and he says, with admiration in his voice, “Ben Tart.” The guy’s a genius, apparently, reproducing all the fabrics used in Civil War uniforms. He dyes his fabrics 24 yards at a time in a fire-heated vat. And he stocks Federal AND Confederate fabrics–the Civil War really has ended, I guess. Or not, come to think of it. Take a look here; they really are beautiful.
He explained that the average uniform was designed to last about three months, which was the expected lifespan of a soldier in a Civil War army. Pretty sobering. As he turned to leave, I asked, “So what’s so special about that hook thing up there?” pointing at the bent bayonet.
“Welllll,” he said. “They used those for retrieving bodies from the field.” And that was when I realized that we weren’t at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival.
A Bit of Knitting
The scarf at the top did go down the Elk River (or up, or whatever the hell direction we went), but I did most of the knitting around here. A group of women here are knitting blue scarves for the women of Blue Monarch, a program in Grundy County, Tennessee, for women working to overcome domestic violence and addictions. Very cool organization. I didn’t have enough blue yarn for a whole scarf, so I went for semi-blue, in a fluffy Misti Alpaca which is sort of unpleasant to knit when it’s 85% humidity. But warm!
Tomorrow’s activity: Buffy leads us on a 46-mile hike to the Chattanooga Aquarium. We carry our provisions on our backs. Back by midnight. It’s going to be great.
Love,
Ann

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53 Comments

53 Comments

  1. Well, if you do make it to Rhinebeck, I think you can rest assured that the closest thing you’ll find to a body hook is a shepherd’s crook.
    And when you’re canoeing on a slow river, the point is not to try to get anywhere. You just float. Preferably with a little chilled hard cider. That’s what summertime is for.

  2. Civil War reenactors are crazy. But then, I prefer recreation (as in R&R) to re-creation (as in reenactment). However they do make the rest of us look semi-sane! What a brilliant conversation, I wish I could have been in on it.

  3. You KNOW how I love the Buff. I still cannot believe I met her (and y’all) and it has been 2 years! (Stich DC) How is her competitive eating going? And any state fair entries from you this year, Miss Ann?

  4. You KNOW how I love the Buff. I still cannot believe I met her (and y’all) and it has been 2 years! (Stich DC) How is her competitive eating going? And any state fair entries from you this year, Miss Ann?

  5. Wow! What a cool encounter with the re-enactor. I had no idea they were so into the construction of their uniforms…and I thought just knitters were obsessed with fibers and construction! Enjoy your hike tomorrow–I’ll be thinking about you as I sit in my little windowless office pushing papers!
    Deb in Nebraska

  6. Why haven’t I been reading this blog, you make me laugh so much. That carpe diem spiel is genius. I love your book too, BTW.

  7. So one of the re-enactors I chatted with (mentioned in my book) should have made her own wheel, rather than use a modern one? She did make her own uniform, though.
    Really interesting people you meet at those events.

  8. Can your reenactor friend do the “bloat”? If anyone has *not* read Confederates in the Attic, run right out to the library and get it (for reading after Harry Potter, of course).
    And just so everyone knows, Clif is back in Tibet for the summer. He asked if I wanted any more wool, and I said, ummmmmm, no. I made slippers out of the last batch; I thought the idea of exfoliating and moisturizing all at the same time was too, too terrific. Of course, they are super itchy, though, and also (still) smelling strongly of sheep.

  9. The Chattanooga Aquarium is outstanding–you’ll love it, even considering the hike. You may well go right past the Knife Museum (I swear)–another fun stop. :)

  10. Dear Sister Buffy,
    Much as Ann has enjoyed coming out to play these last few weeks, she will, unfortunately, have to be excused from any further exertions due to mental and physical exhaustion. She is able enjoy brief visits to her sick room, however, all conversation must remain calm and tranquil so as not to disturb the patient’s rest. Several hours of knitting are prescribed per day and delectable little morsels may be delivered quietly, warm from the oven, to tempt the convalescent’s appetite. If you could mind the children for the rest of your visit, the employment of a live-in nurse may not be required.
    Dr Sympathetic-regarding-active-siblings.
    20/07/07.

  11. If Buffy had come any time except after “finals” (you know, that book thing you did a bit of work on) you might enjoy the march more. Be less exhausted, all that. I’ve been tired myself and not up to doing much and I have not even written a book recently (but I have work and grad school and kids, so I get tired sometimes too.) Maybe you can beg off one day citing malarial malaise or something. At least aquariums are good; you can sit with your yarn and watch the fish.
    I have great sympathy. You must renew! revive!

  12. We Civil War reenactors do get a bit obsessed about our clothing – the women as much as the men, you know. Thanks for the link to the wool. It’s getting harder and harder to find good wool for uniforms. I wish I had been there for that conversation.

  13. I used to live near there, in Bowling Green, and got talked into a canoeing trip. We actually did have to paddle upstream for part of the way, there were snakes, and there were teenagers rocking the canoes. That was 15 years ago and I’m still recovering. I doubt I will ever get in another canoe. :) By the way, I love that scarf.

  14. people in SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisim) are just as nutty. no knitting allowed, because nobody knit in those days! ack! cooking over fires lit with iron & flint! the only thing that isn’t authentic? their weaponry. they tend to use foam wrapped in duct tape. very period, lol.

  15. Ann Shayne! I normally refrain entirely from judging people’s parenting, but honestly, your children “don’t really know what alcohol is”??? Don’t know what whiskey is? What On Earth are you and the hub DOING down there?
    Perhaps it’s time you and the hub REFRESH your memories, I think it might help REFRESH your SPIRITS, so to speak, for the aquarium marathon. Every reenactor should know about the massive quantities of whiskey reinforcement that were used during the Civil War. And before. And after. Seriously, like fish, those guys.
    Ok, ok, I’m off the soapbox to go see if there’s any cool linsey-woolsey in the reenactor’s circle of crazy…

  16. That rocks! Love the conversation with the reenactor.

  17. Oh, the memories of the south you just gave me, I remember being so in love with my husband that I too went on a canoe trip down the river 13 miles between Mississippi & Alabama, it was wonderful for a few miles very dry that summer, the river was low,beautiful day.Then I spied the 5 foot rattlesnake sunning himself on the bank, followed by the a snake in a tree and that was IT! What was I nuts? Love-smove get me outta there! That nowhere paddle got some fast milage and that was the end of my love of nature ( still love the husband on dry land!)…..great laughs with you this morning! Hope the aqua fun trip is going well! Can’t wait…..hey on the next book tour please land in Boston, I want to meet you!

  18. oh man, what fun adventures you’re having! isn’t the jack daniels distillery a trip?! I went over a year ago and my nose-hairs still feel singed from that mash room. you don’t forget that quickly!

  19. Reminds me of the time I had to take a cab ride home from Logan airport (a 40+ minute trip) with a guy who, after learning through a conversational sequence I cannot now recall started talking about the weapons they used at the Battle of Hastings and how “we really got our tails kicked at Antietam”. I finally asked if he was a reenactor, and he replied, modestly, “No, I am talking about experiences I had in my past lives.”
    Okey-dokey, then. How ’bout them Sox?
    They might need to use a hook to remove bodies at Rhinebeck, you know. The crowd at The Fold got pretty intense last year.

  20. Best. Post. Ever. I laughed, I cried, I learned not to ride in canoes. Thank you!

  21. I love the fact that you have a sister named Buffy :)
    And it is never too young to teach the young’uns about the love of whiskey :)

  22. I love the fact that you have a sister named Buffy :)
    And it is never too young to teach the young’uns about the love of whiskey :)

  23. I was sure you were going to offer to knit the guy socks! Was it you who once showed us these socks….
    http://tinyurl.com/2lb8sk

  24. Love the scarf, hope the recipient appreciates the knitting with wool in the heat!

  25. Our tour of the Jack Daniels distillery made a convert out of me! Still remember that whiff… I think it’s funny that it’s located in a dry county, but fortunately we can get JD pretty much anywhere. Nothing like a glass of it on the rocks consumed outside at 10 p.m. watching the fireflies and chatting with hubby.
    You sister sounds like a hoot! Lucky you…

  26. So do you like SCA folks too?

  27. How funny! I was just driving through Davidson and saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that read, “Paddle faster. I hear banjo music.” :)

  28. I love it when you go on Adventures.

  29. Good God must have been hell growing up with Buffy. She sounds like a force of nature.

  30. Good God must have been hell growing up with Buffy. She sounds like a force of nature.

  31. I’ve toured Jack Daniel’s, too — what fun! My favorite moment was when the tour group descended into the cellar where the actual aging takes place. It’s got that distinctive smell, and it’s cool and dark…
    One of the men in our tour group turned to his wife and said “Oh, honey! A rockin’ chair and an afghan, and I’m HOME!”
    Cracked everybody up, maybe even the 12 year olds!

  32. Buffy sounds like my husband’s brother-in-law. He took his family to Disneyland in Annaheim. They saw everything (they said) in under 3 hours.

  33. Lord, how I needed a laugh today, and your witty account of Buffy carping the diem had me laughing out loud. Thanks for taking the time to write about your adventures.

  34. Lord, how I needed a laugh today, and your witty account of Buffy carping the diem had me laughing out loud. Thanks for taking the time to write about your adventures.

  35. Thanks for the link to Ben Tart. Enjoyed seeing the authentically faded jacket. Kind of made me think about getting fabric to make something (gasp) modern.

  36. Ha ha! I’ve toured that distillery twice-when my aunt lived in Tullahoma! and I believe I WAS 12 at the time! I still remember the STIFLING smell of that room where they are aging the sour mash stuff-it was enough to knock you out!! My dad even let me taste the whiskey while we were there and perhaps that is the reason I have never and will never ever like it-it was like drinking fire, I tell you!!! Glad you got out alive :) Drink a bunch of coffee and hang in there tomorrow!

  37. I recommend the book “Confederates in the Attic” by Tony Horwitz. It is about Civil War Confederate reenactors. He is an excellent writer and it is a good read.

  38. Once again, I am having crazy childhood flashbacks about Monteagle. You guys don’t reeaallly have to hike to the Nooga Aquarium, do you? I have made that as a part of a commute before and even that was sort of a chore.

  39. LOVE the post! I love “re-enactor crazy”; after 20+ yrs in the SCA we now are “living history interpreters” (read “reenactors) of the Fur Trade, 1750-1815. You’d be amazed how much you learn about fibers, skills &c! When I’m portraying the Acadian widow I’m a knittin’ fool…but the Metis woman? Nope, but I’m learning twining which is also mighty cool. Wusht I was with you, I don’t mind sayin’.

  40. The only people I meet on vavcay are grumpy and dull. Guess I should choose better places to go.

  41. The Aquarium is awesome. I do not know about the 46 mile hike. i rather be knitting.

  42. hi every one remenber lasts years red scarf
    project norma hs a big posting this sunday morning mason dixon had a scarf on the brochure
    last year i do think early mailings this year
    i think we should have big knit in north america
    the hats are adorble -its to hot to hike any where in florida really

  43. You must have read Confederate’s in the Attic right?

  44. You must have read Confederate’s in the Attic right?

  45. You must have read Confederate’s in the Attic right?

  46. We have a civil war reenactment group in the village I live in – in Cambridgeshire England. I think they’re all completely nuts. In a nice, nutty sort of way! Good to know that they’re the same the world over!

  47. Congrats on contracting finishitis. My latest concoction to avoid finishitis is to put a ton of projects growing (into a mountain on my chair) in one of those big plastic containers with a lid. Voila! Off the chair. I absolutely love the Abe Blanket now. The dark blue border is the perfect answer and gives it just a bit of “umph”.

  48. Ooooh! Flashbacks of my Tennessee vacation 3 years ago. TN Aquarium, JD Distillery and Nashville. Oh, and Ruby Falls & Lookout Mtn. Did the whole touristy thang. Totally cracked up in ‘Nooga at the “International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum”. Looked like they set up shop in an abandoned grocery store. Ah, the Kodak moments.

  49. Abe Blankie! Bluetiful!

  50. Ohh, nice blankets! I especially like the log cabin one.
    I also lovvvve that scarf – it looks cozy and I love the color combination. So what is that, just… oh, maybe 2×2 rib on about a size 11 or 13? Beautiful. It would be cute with a ruffled end too.

  51. We up here in Canada do not get the re-enactment thing. We go to war, and then try to pretend it never happened. Except for the burning down of the White House (twice) in the war of 1812 (ended in a peace treaty, was NOT won by anyone) we like that one. We will not mention the burning down of our Parliament Building (once).
    Funny that you can find a fibre fanatic anywhere even if their other interests are odd.

  52. There are Canadian Reenactors…I meet them when my 18th C unit goes to Quebec!!!!! And some of them went to NJ with us last month.
    But there are inaccurate Civil War reenactors just like inaccurate Rev War and SCA people (and lots of 18th C people who believe that if it’s workth doing it’s worth overdoing…) Last year at a time line several of the women who’d done the most research, one Rev, and one Civil war led a mixed group of women around, pointing out _good_ and inaccurate clothing adorning the participants. I learned that if you can see the hoop lines under a 19th C skirt….she isn’t wearing enough skirts. The 19th C women learned that sleeveless bodices (where the white shift sleeves show) and gathered circle caps (commonly called mob caps by modern people) did NOT exist in the 18th Century. And we saw lots of well dressed people, and admired them, too…

  53. I love reenactors. My friend’s family did Revolutionary war reacting for a bit. I got to do it for a year or two. It is an absolute blast. There are no papers or tv, but there is a lot of history and handicrafts, what more could a girl want? Usually the evenings when the tourists have left are the most fun. People wear machine made clothes, but the proper way is to hand make the clothes.
    It is always fun to run into fellow fiber enthusiasts!
    Cheers!
    Laura