Getting Started in Rendezvous
This is a collection of thoughts for those who think they might interested in getting started in this reenactment game. It is intended to be just that, a collection of thoughts and perhaps even a bit of advise. I don't claim to be an expert. I might even be found by some to be in error in some of my thoughts and opinions. I even welcome any additional thoughts, which I will gladly consider and contemplate adding to this collection of thoughts. Most of my thoughts and opinions on getting started are a result of my personal experiences.
It is easy to make many mistakes when getting into the reenactment game. Mistakes can mean expense. Unnecessary expense at that. The mistake I made and I know many others have made, was to jump into it blindly and much too quickly without enough forethought. I attended a few events, looked around at what seemed to look good to me and started spending money to put all those things I thought looked good together. After a couple years of collecting "Stuff", what I had accumulated amounted to just that, a bunch of "Stuff". The key word here is "Research".
There are many things to consider. First of which is what time period are you really interested in. The 1700's? The French and Indian War? The Revolutionary War? Perhaps the Longhunters or maybe one of the many craftsmen of the time or even one of the eastern woodland Indians. Or perhaps your interest lies in the 1800's. The Mountain Men or the French Courier du Bois or perhaps a member of one of the western Indian tribes. One of your more expensive purchases is going to be your gun. Knowing what time period you want to reenact is crucial here. You surely wouldn't want to show up at your first event as an eastern Longhunter toting a Hawken style cap lock rifle, which wouldn't have been made for another hundred years. In the long run it will pay big dividends to have a clear path in mind before you jump headlong into it.
I would advise going to as many events as possible geared toward any or all of these time periods and talk to folks. You will find the people attending these reenactments to be some of the friendliest folks you will ever encounter, and more than happy to answer any and all of the questions you can muster. This should prove a valuable resource in trying to determine the persona you will finally settle on.
Read! Go to your local library and read everything you can get your hands on about these time periods and the people who lived in them. Look for the "Book of Buckskinning" series. There will be a lot of useful information in this series of eight books dedicated to the sport ( Scurlock Publishing, RR 5 Box 347-M, Texarkana, Texas,75501-9403 800-228-6389 ).
Once you have decided on a time period and a persona, it is time for more research. Learn what types and styles of clothing are period correct. What type and style of footwear is proper for your persona. What is the proper type of gun and accoutrements for your period and persona. Clothing can be purchased outright or patterns can be purchased and your garments sewn by you or someone you can recruit for the job. The same holds true for footwear. As for your gun, there are a multitude of styles, depending on your time period, from a multitude of sources. Everything from production guns to custom built. Generally speaking, you will get what you pay for. Quality costs. But a good shooter can be had for as little as a couple hundred dollars.
Once you have your persona picked, your clothing and equipment together you can begin researching your shelter. First, what type of tent or shelter is right for your period and then what is right for you. Again, there is a variety of types and styles to chose from. From as simple as a square piece of canvas you can crawl under to the most elaborate tipi. There are many considerations. First of which, what is period correct. Then how much is enough and what is too much. Ease of set up and tear down. And of course the cost.
I suppose the message I am trying to convey here, is that a lot of research and a good amount of forethought will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. I mentioned earlier that I made a lot of mistakes jumping in blindly. As have a lot of other folks. We just didn't know any better. I have two separate piles of "Stuff" for rendezvous. A little one and a big one. The little one is the stuff I take along to rendezvous and the big one is all the junk that I never take along any more because it is just that, junk. Money wasted due to a lack research or forethought.
Following the plan I have laid out could mean it would be a long time before you ever get to attend your first event as a participant. But that isn't so. Keeping the above plan in mind to get yourself to your final persona, you can still get yourself to an acceptable level to attend your first event and fit in without dumping a ton of money into it. A cheap pair of cotton breaches and a calico shirt either purchased outright or made from an easily obtained pattern along with a fairly inexpensive moccasin kit will have you presentable enough to join in. Make yourself a haversack made from a light cotton canvas and pick up a tin plate, a tin cup and eating utensils and you're pretty well set. Folks around the rendezvous are always happy to take a "Pilgrim" in and feed them.
Want to stay the entire weekend but you need a shelter? This can be done easily enough without a great deal of cost. One of the many styles of tents you will see around the camp is called a Diamond Shelter. A Diamond amounts to nothing more than a square piece of canvas. You can get by with 8'x8' and 10'x10' will afford you a little more room for gear. My personal preference is 12'x12' which sleeps my teenage son and myself and accommodates our gear as well. (The draw back to one so large is weight. You may find yourself at sometime wanting to pack it on your back for a trek into the woods for a weekend and by the time you get a shelter up to 12'x12' it can be fairly heavy.) The Diamond Shelter is simple in design as well as set up. Basically you will stake three corners to the ground and lift the fourth corner up on a poll or tie it off to a tree. Ready to use diamonds can be purchased complete with loops sewed on or holes with grommets (note: the grommets are not period correct but in most cases can pass muster). Also another way to stake them down and is very "period correct" would to fold the canvas around a .50 caliber or larger round ball and tie it off with rope and then use the rope as a loop to stake it down. To learn more about these Diamond Shelters, see my page "The Diamond Shelter"
The only thing left to get you started would be some sleeping robes and your start-up would be complete. I searched around some discount stores and found a couple of large wool blankets (anything but army green). I took them and laid them out one on top of the other and folded them over together. Using yarn I whip stitched them together across the bottom and two thirds of the way up the side to make a comfortable blanket bag.
So although it will really take some time to develop a persona, research it and get your clothing, accoutrements, and gear together in such a manner so as to bring your character to life in an exact and period correct way, you can get involved right away without a lot of unnecessary expense and in the long run, with a lot of stuff that will find yourself not needing.