Read the latest dispatch from the What's It Wagon

11 Jul 2010 Gettysburg

19 Feb 2002 Olustee

27 Jan 2002 Alafia Mountain Man Rendezvous

19 Jan 2002 Brookesville Reenacment

21 Feb 2001 Battle of Olustee 2001

27 Jan 2001 Alafia Mountain Man Rendezvous

19 Jan 2001 Bitter Weather Makes Reenacting A Chilling Experience

23 Oct 2000 Hunsader's Revisited

16 Oct 2000 The Photographist

04 May 2000 Off to the Ancient City

31 Mar 2000 Cow Cavalry Wedding at Hunsader's Farm

21 Feb 2000 Front Lines at the Battle of Olustee, Florida

12 Feb 2000 Return From The 1840s

19 Jan 2000 Mountain Man Rendezvous, Alafia, Fla.

19 Jan 2000 Brookesville Raid Reenactment Brookesville, Fla.

03 Jul 1998 Mountain Man Rendezvous, Fla.

Alafia Mountain Man Rendezvous

27 Jan 2001

Dear Steve,This is a shortened summary of the trip to the Alafia Mountain Man Rendezvous, as I was only a day visitor to the event. Still, the happenings were interesting enough to comment on. Early Saturday morning I pulled myself up off the sick bed and headed through the Super Bowl crowded streets of Tampa. I was traveling south from Plant City to the wilderness area that still makes up a large portion of the state's interior.

I made a pit stop at a jiffy market only to be approached by people in period dress who had stopped for one last trip to flush toilets and other modern conveniences. Surprisingly, they were looking for me. At least they announced that I was one of the main reasons they were headed to the event. They wanted period pictures and I was the man for the job.

I followed them down to the gate entrance. I made my apologies at registration for not having been on hand for more of the event. The lady who greeted me said my wagon had been missed, and there were many people who were concerned as to my where abouts. What a lovely thought to be considered so fondly, or at least for my work to be so well accepted. I drove right up to the stockade and unloaded my basic equipment. Considering I usually am carrying everything from home except the kitchen sink, just having the camera, a focusing cloth, tripod and box of plates provided a wonderful feeling of movement.

I had the people I met at the convenient store pose against the rough texture of the log stockade fence. The lighting was bright and a little glarey throughout the day, but not as harsh as direct sunlight. Nearby forest fires from the drought stricken weather had filled the air with smoke.

Inside I found my friend Suzanna, and set my camera and tripod at her lodge. She graciously fixed me cup of java over the fire. Then I was off to seek out the rendezvouers who I knew would be wanting their "images struck." Over and over again, people said they were concerned about me as they had not yet seen the wagon, and they were counting on having their annual portraits made. I assured them that the only reason I had not been there earlier was due to a cold/sinus/flu-type illness and the wagon in its new and refurbished glory would be on hand for the next Alafia Mountain Man event.

Trudging through the various camps I hollered out my vendor's song. "Preserve your image ere the flesh doth fade! Life is fleeting! Life is transitory! The grave will capture us all, but not without a picture from the master photographer, Fritz Kirsch!" Acting as a hawkster surprises some, and fascinates others, but it does get attention and announces to everyone I am in camp.

At the Alafia event, there must be five hundred tee pees, wall tents and marquis structures. Some are dressed out with camp stoves, collapsible tables, beds and hutches. The lodges are far more complete to home comforts than are found at Civil War reenactments. The center of the encampment is where one finds the majority of traders usually in very large wall tents or marquis tents. They sell everything the pioneer citizen would have wanted from iron cookware to fur pelts, feathers, and beads. I found one trader who was willing to barter a photograph of himself and his friends for a marvelously constructed leather pouch with cow horn sides. It was a deal I couldn't pass up since it would be a great way to carry my store of plates and address book with customer information.

The encampment is perhaps a half mile wide and two or three city blocks deep, if one can transfer the idea of city to such a primitive encampment. There are perhaps fifteen hundred people in period dress covering the time period from the middle 1700s to the 1840s. My photography sneaks in just under the time line restriction, as photography had been invented in 1839. Of course, the style of work I do is better suited to a slightly later period.The hosts of this event, however, allow me to practice my art because it gives people a chance to show off the rendezvouers' hobby to all their non participating friends who have no idea about their particular brand of lunacy.

My last stop of the day was the annual picture to be taken at the Road Kill Café. I had a buffalo burger there and then the stuffed wild animals were put on the counter. Everyone looked like the dangerous desperadoes they wished to depict themselves as. I pulled the slide on the plate and made my final exposures of the day. Shortly there after my friend, Suzanna helped me carry my gear to the van and I returned to Safety Harbor. It is sad to leave these people who still take seriously the dream of an America where there was an endless frontier. This was in odd contrast to the huge traffic jam I traveled through caused by Gasparilla Day and the Super Bowl weekend.

Copyright ©2000 City Gallery.