Monday, July 31, 2017

"Much tormented with Ticks" . . and Occam's Razor

"Friday, May 26th, 1775. Proceeded up the River. Met 2 Canoes bound to Redstone. Shot an old Buffalo Bull that had his ears marked. Passed a bad rapid which took all our force to tow our Vessel up. Much tormented with Ticks, a small animal like a Sheeplouse, but very tough skin. They get on you by walking in the Woods in great numbers, and if you don't take care to pick them off in time they work their heads through the skin and then you may pull the body away but the head will remain in the skin, which is very disagreeable. If they are not removed in a short time they grow like the Ticks on a Dog. Beechy bottoms. Camped at the mouth of Elk Horn Creek. Our company still continues to be crabbed with one another and I believe will be worse as Bread grows scarce."  N. Cresswell journal

 When this post was first conceived, I thought I'd do it mostly to the effect of how a day spent in the woods went.  Something to the effect of guys that are really interested in research and documentation (call them progressives if you like) can also go out and do stuff, and aren't afraid to get dirty and destroy their gear.  Something to convince the masses that research + woods time = sublime.   So I went to the woods today, packed my gun and wallet with bare essentials and hoped for something awesome to happen to write about.  Nothing awesome commenced.  Haha, that's the way it goes when a feller needs an adventure I suppose.  I missed two squirrels, both about 35 to 40 yards.  I walked and walked, sometimes through some pretty rough and brushy, rocky ground.  I sipped some rum and I took a nap.  Admired some wild flowers, watched some birds.  Sweated my butt off, made a little fire, melted some lead and poured some ball.  I cut an X in a tree and shot at it.  My camera battery died and I didn't get to take nearly as many pictures as I wanted to.  Managed to appropriate 47 ticks, 16 of them on my nether regions.  (I counted as I plucked merely for purposes of this write up . . . . )

 But as I sit and ponder on a pretty uneventful day (granted a ton of fun) it strikes me that all too often in the living history world we want some crazy epic time in the woods - with weather as spiteful as Satan, awesome shots on game, a bunch of cool pictures to show everybody what we did, maybe some huge revelation on a better way to use our gear.  I've decided to take a different tone with this post, something simpler.  Something more in tune with the principle of Occam's Razor.

 Period journals are rife with pretty boring days.   Mundane days.  If we as living historians wish to accurately portray these men of long ago, we need to embrace the mundane.  It's essential.  There is dirt to be found in a boring day, and boring day dirt on gear and clothes adds credibility.  The sweat adds honest dark lines along a shirt collar.  Fresh dings against the butt of a rifle convey a sense of a guy who does more than mowed lawn events.  So my plea is this - Get out, do something.  Yes, it's summer and there is ticks and skeeters.  But the truthful sense it adds to gear is second to none.  That's all it takes, get out and do it.

-Matthew Fennewald-


  1. Stephen HathcockJuly 31, 2017 at 7:42 AM

    Excellent entry.

    Life happens in the mundane.

  2. David McGlothlinJuly 31, 2017 at 7:26 PM

    Good entry. Thought provoking

  3. Really enjoy your work Matthew.

  4. I have found that it is always best to have a PLAN. That way ... when real life intervenes... you have an idea of how far away you are from the original PLAN! Great article, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the near future!