Ah Friendship. There is nothing quite like this event for us. I knew going in that this would be a difficult blog post to write simply because I don’t believe I fully possess the language skills necessary to convey the magnitude that this event is to us. Nevertheless, I will attempt it. (I will also be wondering what kind of people will read this through to the end...I’m sure this is too long for a blog post. Sorry.)
We arrived at Friendship in the early evening on Friday, June 11. For any of our longer events, we camp in a conical canvas tent. Interestingly enough, we traded away a bow and some arrows that Joshua had made in exchange for the tent with our friend Carson Herrman several years back. Good trade. (You’ll often hear the phrase “good trade” around camp when a transaction/trade is complete.) A little rain came in as we were trying to set up but it was nothing to really delay us. We always camp up on the hill by the Bow Cabin. This was a year for cicadas so we tried to avoid the tree up there.
“Nice Mike” (Mike Avey) is always up there as well since he helps so much at the bow range. Mike doesn’t always know the positive impact he has on people by just being himself. This is a man who has a period correct, metal rooster silhouette in front of his camp. When I asked him about it he said that it was to remind him of the story in the Bible where Peter denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed and that he was to never deny Christ to others. I love this. This also provides him with the opportunity to share this story with others as he continues to get asked about it.
Once we were set up, we decided to make a quick run around the circle of the camp. (Side note: we used our bed from the van build-out and it worked out great!) The only people we knew for sure from our usual hang-out group were Terris Mullenix and Brian Huffman. I think they do something with powder horns,..? Terris is going to read this and then give me a hard time about the fact that I have no idea what they do…. I know they always have a great trade blanket though! We ended up staying up way too late talking. It’s one of the few dangers at Friendship; you stay up all night talking and visiting with people. (The other danger is having a frog jump on you in the shower. Ahh!) While we were there with Terris and Brian, someone we don’t know came up to Josh and ended up giving him a ball-headed war club with a long handle on it. That’s another amazing thing about being at events like this. People are very generous.
Saturday dawned hot and muggy. It ended up, at the hottest part of the day, being at least 90 degrees with high humidity. I finally caved and ended up wearing a small leather top in place of a trade shirt. Josh has found plenty of documentation for women in the southeast wearing, not exact, but similar tops. If I were TRULY authentic,....well, this is a family event folks. (Even Disney covered Pocahontas’ left boob, lol.) During registration at the front gate, I ended up finding out that another good buddy “Tipi Paul” (Paul Toney) was in fact there but just wasn’t camping in his tipi.
The first Saturday and Sunday are usually the biggest days for putting out a trade blanket. Due to the way our camp layout ended up (darn cicadas, we camped too far from the view of the circle road I think) or due to the fact that the flat-landers (name that is sometimes used for the people that are just the public and aren’t re-enactors….now that I’m thinking of it.. I wonder if that name is offensive somehow..? ) anyways, they don’t want to walk up the hill, we didn’t really have anyone looking at our trade goods. Some friends of ours from the modern world came through so we went to the big flea market with them and their kiddos. You can’t hardly beat the Pineapple Whip soft serve for $3.00, especially on one of the hottest days of the year. Josh’s dad also stopped by for a quick visit.
After all that, we settled back into camp to relax. A guy we had met at Vincennes (Matt Bartlett) stopped by specifically looking for the hickory bow he had shot at the previous event. He and the two guys with him hung out for quite awhile talking and trying to get re-hydrated. He ended up buying the hickory bow and now he and two of his brothers are registered for Josh’s bow class! (At the time of this writing there is only one spot left for the July class.)
That evening we had taco salad. Our food packing was a real triumph this round. When we first got into this, there was so much to learn that I think we took the food aspect for granted. We were eating Pop-Tarts and snack crackers -- basically just junk -- and then wondering why we didn’t feel as good. Other than having pre-cooked and pre-seasoned some ground turkey for taco salad, we brought: fresh carrots, hummus, grapes, bananas, turkey, eggs, mandarin oranges, string cheese, cereal, almond milk, tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, mixed nuts/dried cranberries, apples, etc. WAAY better than we have ever done. We always freeze all our water bottles prior to leaving so that we can use those to keep the cooler cold rather than having loose, melting ice all over everything. It seems to work out much better that way as long as you have a cooler that will actually keep things insulated. Further, since we don’t want the cooler showing at a primitive event, we keep it covered with a wool blanket which I think also helps with insulation.
I ended up going to bed around 8:30. I think I was just so tired from the heat and having stayed up too late the night before. Josh hung out at the hawk range and met two people new to us, Steve and Heather Kleiner. They are the niece and nephew-in-law (is that a thing?) to Melissa, the “Hawk Range Lady”. Before we really learn peoples’ names, I usually give them some kind of camp name so I can keep up. Steve was “Fuzzy Hat” for a day or two until I got it. (He was wearing a coon skin cap.)
Sunday was another hot day. Navio (the guy that originally taught Joshua to make bows) asked me if I was any good at making signs. If you hang around Navio long enough, he will put you to work. He gave me a board and a Sharpie along with a quote from The Bowyer’s Bible. I was kind of amazed that he just handed me this stuff and trusted that I would do it. I mean, for all he knows, I write like a kindergartener. I’m not great at hand-lettering but luckily for Navio, I’ve been mildly interested in it so the sign turned out, at the least, acceptable.
At some point during the morning, Josh got a cut on his toe, no big deal. However, we ended up going to the big flea market and walking through the creek on the way there. Several years ago Josh had gotten a cut on his foot and walked in the creek and it ended up infected… so we figured we had better get it cleaned up. Of course, we didn’t have band-aids and all that so we checked in to see if our friends Jan and Reggie had any supplies but they weren’t home (just meaning, not at their camp). So we had to run over to town and grab some supplies. We stopped back by their camp when we got back. (We met Jan for the first time at the Old Northwest when it was held in Glencoe, Kentucky. She sewed our ripped shade fly and braided my hair. We saw her here and there over the next few years and then saw her again at the Tennessee Classic 2021. We met Reggie there. He’s a hoot! You can’t help but have a good time when he’s around.) Anyways, when Jan said, “Come on in!” I was not prepared for how cool the inside of their tent was. They have an oval marquee that is way bigger on the inside than what it looks like from the outside. It is approximately 13x18. They had a full size bed, an area curtained off for a makeshift bathroom for those middle of the night tinkles (5 gallon bucket, anyone?), a dining area with a table, 4 real chairs (two of them rockers), a pantry area for food storage, another table as counter space, and an assortment of other interesting and useful things. I decided; I must have one. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes.
Jan and Reg have also been hanging out with a living legend, Jeannine Marchesseau. We got to spend some more time with her here at Friendship. (We have always seen her around but we got formally introduced to her when we saw Jan and Reggie at the Tennessee Classic this past spring.) She currently holds several records at this National Shoot and has, unknowingly, inspired me to start seriously shooting bow and arrow. My goal is to beat Jeannine. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?
We meandered around camp and visited a little here and there. We got to meet some friends of Tipi Paul’s and were invited to play music that evening. “Tall Curly Hair Man” ended up being Daniel Bishop, one of the regular singers/guitar players. Another fun character in that area is Steven Redlin. One of the kids down at that camp put a cicada on a string and was flying it around after Paul told a story of people having done this in the past. It was funny to watch. Paul is always good for funny stories and you can count on him to give you a laugh if you tell him a story.
Monday we decided to go ahead and do some shopping over at the town flea market since we had already visited the big flea market. We left after breakfast and, due to talking to people most of the morning, we never made it to the flea market and finally left the sheep sheds at the shoot around 4:00-4:30. We love it though; there is such a sense of togetherness.
Over at the shoot, we bought several things from Timberline Traders. They primarily make handmade clothing but they always have a few other odds and ends that interest me. Josh finally got a shirt he had been looking at for about 3 years and I found a lovely green print shirt on the sale rack. We picked up a few baskets and candles as well. I told Josh it was the start of my collection for when I have my oval marquee. “Oh, yea?” was the response. Haha.
Moving along the sheds at the shoot, Josh stopped and talked to a blacksmith named Simeon England. (At the time of this writing, his website is under construction but you can also check him out on Facebook and Instagram. You probably should.) His tomahawks had a different look to them than what a lot of other smiths around seemed to be doing. I didn’t realize what a big deal he was until Josh was still there talking to him TWO HOURS later. I ended up eating a chicken salad croissant from the shoot cafeteria (side note: you can get delicious ice cream way cheaper here and at the Friendship store than you can from vendors...but you have to walk/drive, so it’s a trade off). I finally convinced Josh that we were going to have to go back to camp and leave Simeon to his sales. Before we left, the topic of Simeon’s name came up when I asked, “Like Simeon in the Bible?” Simeon immediately responded, “Yes, there are two Simeons in the Bible, who are they?” (I won’t give it away in case you want the thrill of finding out for yourself. You’re welcome.)
Now, on Monday nights they always do a “Shooters Night” where the vendors in the sheds stay open from 7:00-9:00 and people put out snacks and drinks. It’s a great time to just go and hang out. I was carrying one of the twined bags that Joshua made and a guy called me over to his booth to ask about it. I explained that my husband had made it and that it was hard to try to sell them on a trade blanket because people don’t understand the amount of work that goes into making them. He said he had tried to make one himself once and that he knew they took a long time. He asked Josh if he had more and if so, could he see them. Josh brought back the twined bags he had and the guy went straight for the one made of natural nettles. (Josh had just told Jan that morning that he would probably keep that bag because he most likely wouldn’t get anyone to pay anything close to it’s value because the nettles alone had cost $20!) Josh explained to the man that he would feel bad for even naming a price due to the cost and time he had in it. The guy insisted so Josh said, “I would have to have at least $100 I think.” The guy said, “Sold!” and handed over the cash on the spot. As it turns out, he was Jason, the guy in charge of Muzzleloader Magazine. He said he wanted to do an article on Josh in the section about “People to Watch”. I’ll keep you up to speed if/when that happens. Cool!
Another little highlight from this evening was the slide show of old photos they had projected at one of the booths. Someone shouted to Jeannine (remember, living legend lady) to come over and see her picture from way back. I got the perfect photo opp and captured this shot of her standing next to her own photo. What a beautiful and talented lady! Too bad I’m going to have to beat her archery record,...(Let’s be honest, it will probably take me about 20 years to do that, if I ever can.)
Simeon was still at his booth so Joshua gravitated back to him again. I kept worrying that we were hogging his time from people that were going to purchase something rather than just talk his leg off about designs, techniques, and all other manner of stuff. He reassured us that we weren’t bothering anyone and it was fine. Throughout the evening and night, the conversation extended and meandered through many topics. Simeon has been blacksmithing for around 15 years. He has made his own gun barrels too! It was super neat when Josh would ask a question and Simeon would pull out a sketchbook with notes from personal research he had done. We also found out that he really knows the Bible, not just the two references from his name. What a joy to share history, conversation, and the love of our Creator with someone. Josh described it like this, “It is rare for most people to ever have an experience like this in their entire lives.” We both truly believe God placed him there as a guidepost; he was able to speak into our lives and we hope we can be such an encouragement to others. At the end of the evening, Josh decided he didn’t need to wait to have one of Simeon’s tomahawks; a new “jewel” was added to the collection. I hate to use the phrase “kindred spirit” because it sounds too hippie… but it was truly something to watch Josh interact with him. Hmm,... maybe something along the lines of Jonathan and David in the Bible? Sure, I’ll go with that.
Tuesday and Wednesday Joshua always works with Navio at the bow class. So while he was busy with that, I wandered around the town flea market taking pictures of things I wanted to show Josh. That evening, we ate dinner with Melissa the Hawk Range Lady along with Fuzzy Hat and his wife (remember? Steve and his wife Heather!), neighbor John, Mike, and Navio. They had made shepherd’s pie with cornbread and apple cobbler, all prepared over the fire. Delicious! There was also a lot of talk about Josh taking over the Bow Range and the class. Lots of logistics to work out yet on that; yet another thing I will keep you posted about.
Wednesday we knew we would have to leave. Josh helped finish up the bow class while I wandered around. Jan and Reggie’s is a good place to hang out so I was over there for a bit. (I was also scoping out their oval marquee again. I’m still determined to have one someday.) Jan is interested in a variety of handmade crafts as well. Her and Josh had spent some time on Monday discussing twined bags and techniques. Long story short, we ended up making TWO good (nay, great!) trades. She had a hand sewn printed shirt and a table and we ended up trading two twined bags for them. What a lovely feeling when both parties are pleased with the exchange. Jan went with me to the flea market and helped me haggle over some pieces that Josh had already previewed. We chatted with the Basket Man and several others. Ended up with a few new items. Gotta keep my collection going for my oval marquee that I don’t have, YET (wink).
Joshua was pretty tired after the bow class (there were a few errands we ran for Navio during lunch and Josh did most of the running around for things to save Navio all the walking). We rested at Jan and Reggie’s and then decided we’d better start packing if we were going to make it in a reasonable time. We, overall, have a pretty small camp and can set up and tear down pretty quickly. It all fits in the van. (Now one day,... when I have my oval marquee,...) Fuzzy Hat Steve helped us pack up which was really nice of him. We started our rounds for our goodbyes. Navio had to be first since he goes to bed so early. As we were finishing up our goodbyes in camp, Jan and Reggie came over to see us off. Mike Avey was there since his camp was right next to ours. Hugs and laughs all around.
As we were driving away, we heard Reggie say, “So, Nice Mike, what’s this chicken for?”
Oh Friendship, until we meet again.