Dear Steve, The weather here in Florida continues to be a focus of
attention. It has been extremely cold, frequently going down below the thirty degree mark. If I was an indoor person it wouldn't matter too much. The reenactments are held at this time of year, so this puts things in a different perspective. Last Friday was one of the so called professional days we find in teaching, so I took it as my own and headed to the Brooksville Raid early.
The wagon looks like new having been painted, patched and spruced up. I also had it equipped with new signs. The wagon currently has that new wagon smell, like when you go down to the wagon master and order a new buckboard or carriage. You get to kick the tires and all that good stuff.
My hopes were high for the event until I saw the weather forecast. A cold front was moving in and the temperature would drop like a bullet.
Friday was beautiful. It was actually hot with the air temperature up to about eighty degrees. The boys, Doug and Matt, two young men who often accompany me, wanted to sit around and talk that night. They camped in the big wall tent I have. We sat around after it got dark. I drank my usual two beers and relaxed with my apprentice and Matt, who did the work on the wagon. We had taken the precaution to tie a gum blanket over the sky light the wagon has. Such a good idea.
About two o' clock the winds which had been fairly calm during the day picked up and blew in the rain. The wagon rocked as if someone's hand was on it trying to get my attention. Although the rain fell fairly hard, for the first time, the wagon remained dry! Halleluia!!! But the temperature headed south like a bullet, dropping thirty degrees in about an hour.
In the morning the air had cleared but there was a strong wind of twenty miles an hour gusting up to thirty or so. No customers wanted pictures. Everyone kept moving to stay warm or huddled over fires that blew dangerously too big. The camera would never have stayed still for the three second exposures necessary any way.
Doug, my apprentice, Matt and I went to dinner at Doug's girlfriend's family trailer. They were also visiting the event. The trailer is a home made conversion of a large horse trailer. There are stalls for transporting three horses as well as living space. There was no heat since there are no electrical hookups at the event, and the generator made such noise as to make talking impossible. We had chili and something to drink and then went back and lay down for a while. Doug and Matt overslept and I was still in my wagon taking some ZZZZZZZs as well.
Sara, Doug's girlfriend showed up and was as mad as a wet hornet because Doug hadn't shown up to take her to the ball which was being held in a large circus tent. She upbraided him thoroughly for failing to pick her up at the appointed time. He went running after her and managed to put things back together. I was glad for both of them that there night returned to the happy times they usually generate together. They are so evenly matched in interests and personality.
I got myself up and found a P coat I have as the warmest article of clothing and stumbled in the dark over to the tent myself. I said hello to a number of friends, looked at the lovely ladies in their ball gowns and listened to the band. About 11'o clock or so I headed back to the wagon, crawled into my sleeping bag, pulled my hat down over my ears, drew blankets and a poncho up over me, blew out the oil lamp and went to sleep.
The winds calmed down, but the thermometer continued to drop. I got up once during the night to answer nature's call and quickly hopped back into the wagon.
In the morning there were several cannon blasts to wake us up and then bugles and drums to finish the job. I got up to find Matt had made a fire and was making cocoa. He also had bacon and eggs that were pretty greasy going as well. The bacon was good. The eggs were not. I had some toast roasted on a stick. A lady came by to tell us the temperature had gone down to eighteen degrees during the night!!! That was nice to know we had survived arctic conditions.
Soon some navy fellows came by in their period attire. I walked about a half mile with Doug and Sara to photograph the job and then returned to the wagon. I loaded more plates and traveled to the Confederate camp and did I think, three more jobs. People were still too cold to really want to pose for pictures. Usually I do very well at this event. I was
disappointed, of course. I had my eye on a new digital camera but that is out of reach at this time.
Thursday through Sunday I am supposed to take to the field again to do the Mountain Man Rendezvous but if I have to go through the same scheduled weather forecast I am reconsidering. There's no point in going if the weather and wind make picture taking impossible or low in volume. There is still the Battle of Olustee to take place in February. Weather may change by then. But there we can get rain as well as the cold and winds. This El Nino stuff is definitely causing some grief. This is a long report but I did want to let you know what has been going on. I wish we had our familiar warm Florida back again. Your servant reporting lately from the field in sunny but freezing Florida.- Fritz