Here is the latest news from the front: Friday my "Whats it Wagon" headed
South over the Sky Way Bridge to cattle country east of Sarasota. During
the War Between the States this area provided beef for the Confederacy as
well as the Union. Ostensibly the ranchers were loyal Confederates, but
they were not above making a profit where they could. Cattle was sold to
Federal forces as well as to a booming Cuban market.
At Hunsader Farm another confrontation was taking place between the boys
in gray and those in blue. Hunsader Farm also hosted a lively harvest fair
in conjunction with the reenactment, so there was plenty of activity to
keep a spectator occupied over the weekend.
When we arrived early Friday morning the weather was much warmer than an
October day should offer, even in Florida. The temperature seemed to be
hovering close to ninety. Friends came forward with just a little
encouragement and helped me unlimber the wagon from the trailer. Others
lent a hand in raising the wall tent to store provisions and camera gear.
The sun was so hot it was necessary to put up a canopy extended from the
side of the wagon. In shorts and tee shirt the work would have been a bit
more comfortable, but I always arrive in period clothing and leave the
same way. Over the years there are many reenactors who have never seen me
in contemporary clothing. I like keeping the period impression.
Somewhere around noon friends, Nancy Spanial and her daughter, Sara,
dropped by my encampment. They had their guitar and fiddle in hand. I was
invited to come over to the festival across the street and sing with them.
Since the reenactors were not yet in camp in any great numbers, I did just
that. It was fun to work the crowd like an old time huckster. We sang
Civil War songs, Irish ballads and even church hymns. It was wonderful
when we could get people to join in with us. One elderly lady even managed
to out sing me and my bull like voice on "Amazing Grace". Young Sara was
amused at the woman's vocal force and occasional off note, but I thought
she was marvelous for the zeal she put into her singing.
After the concertizing we walked through the merchants known as sutler's
row. I presented Miss Nancy and Miss Sara with Irish harp pins for their
minstrelsy and then bought Miss Sara a parasol to preserve her delicate
complexion from the harsh Florida sun and a snood to hold her lovely locks
in place while she fiddled away. For her mother, I presented her with some
pictures I had taken twenty five years ago of the Old Crowley farm and the
little community of Old Miakka. This was the area she had grown up in when
Florida was not as crowded as it is today.
Throughout the weekend I photographed an artillery crew with their cannon,
a scarlet woman and her children from the Gentleman's Refreshment House, a
young boy fresh off the boat from Scotland and new to a Federal uniform,
and various families representing both the Union and Confederacy.
All through out the weekend, in addition to my busy camera work I played
my own guitar and banjo. I was my own "drummer" for business with other
musicians including Miss Nancy and Sara who dropped by to accompany me. I
did drop by the ball Saturday night to listen to the 97th Regimental
String Band that I helped to start some fifteen years ago, but when one is
as "outstanding in my field" as I am, the feet get tired and the eyes grew
heavy quickly. After seeing Miss Sara's lovely new ball gown and wishing
my apprentice, Doug, good success with the lady I headed off to my wagon
for a night of repose, ready to do my image making all over again on
By the end of the weekend, Doug's friend Matt graciously offered to take
the "Whats It Wagon" back to his plantation for a much needed overhaul and
paint job. I look forward to taking to the road again in January if not
before with a fine new paint job and plenty of fresh plates. That's all
the news from the Florida battlefront. Keep your powder dry and remember
to duck when the bullets start to fly. Your pard in the field, Fritz Kirsch