Smoke Signals

Jan/Feb 2012



Stitches in History


Staff Writer


I have been involved with living history in some form for the better part of my 39 years. Attending events with my father as a child, on my own as a teen, and then with my husband. I have forgotten more about 16th century Ireland than some college professors have ever known as that was my area of focus for over 15 years. Alas the subject exhausted its self and it was time to move on and broaden my knowledge base. So I hopped the pond and went forward about 200 years and landed right in the 1750's. I have studied clothing construction for every time period under some of the best in the nation and the world. I completed my studies of historical clothing construction at Fullerton Community Collage under Mella Hoyt-Hayden receiving my degree in 2000. I am an avid animal lover and include my animals in my historical adventures whether it be at an event with my beloved Irish Wolfhounds or in the woods with my horses, they are never far from my side.

Tracy Maccarthy

NAF Associate


Stitches in History

When Buck approached me about writing for Smoke Signals I was in truth surprised, then he explained why and it made a bit more sense to me. I really like the idea of having another view point of living history told. What women see and how we experience things is vastly different from how men see them, thatís just a fact not feminist rubbish. I have a background in clothing construction but I also do period horse rides and have period correct dogs. Many of the articles I write will focus on, clothing, horses and dogs. I also will have guest writers who will discuss their areas of knowledge. You never know what your going to get so you will have to read each article. This month I wanted to try and give a small in-site to what I go through to get ready for a big event, again this is MY Point of view. So with out further rambling on my part.....

What does it take to have a successful camp at any event? Well I asked several friends that I do events with some men and some women. Their answers were from broad to specific. Some of the men said a good jug of rum......shocker there!! Some of the women said a tent big enough for all of our stuff. The list was long and varied and would take days to type out so I wont, but you have the basic idea. I attend several events a year some of them small and some of them big. I'm going to focus on the biggest event tried and give you all an idea of just how much work goes into having a successful camp.

We (meaning my family of my 2 daughters, 4 dogs, 4 horses and oh yes the husband) have attended the Fort Bridger Rendezvous for 15 years in the same spot every year by the watering hole just east of the museum. We love our site do our best to represent our time period as accurate as possible in this modern age. I start planning for Bridger in July even though the event isn't until Labor day in September, WHY do you ask.......who knows some times I wonder that myself. Then when you over hear others complementing your table or your kitchen box you remember why. If my girls need new gowns or Kevin needs new shirts or britches I make sure I have all the clothing for family and friends alike finished by mid August so I can start on Food.

Food is always a big deal at this event. In years past we have feed what at times felt like the whole fort. Ours is an open camp and for those of you who have been by to say hi you know there is always a cold drink of Shrub and something tasty to eat. The pineapple carved into the table says it all WELCOME. I and Larry Hall who is an amazing cook (he specializes in period cooking, yes you will be reading several articles written by him in the future) start planning in August the meals and I start cooking and doing prep work 3 weeks in advance. We cook breakfast and dinner for any ware from 7-15 people and there always seams to be leftovers that then get shared around the various camps. It is a lot of work but a lot of fun and we thoroughly enjoy it.

Now camping with 2 girls can be challenging we have to make sure all the necessary clothing is in their boxes and that we have plenty of socks....which never get worn and gloves which are always worn......where's the logic who knows OH and I cant forget my youngest's rope collection!!! I then make sure the husband has everything (he is pretty self contained but he still needs a reminder or two) and then there is me....I will admit, I forget more than the rest of the family. This year I forgot ALL my clothing except for what was in my box. Thank heavens for my good friend and trail companion for stopping by my house and grabbing all my gowns so I didnít have to look like a vagabond all weekend.

I have set the standard high for myself and for other women as well. I am not a peasant or a servant and there fore don't dress as one. I dress as a lady should and I have made it my mission to open the eyes of women to the same train of thought......not much success there yet but that is for another article. So to only have a set of riding stays a skirt and a shirt for the entire weekend would NEVER DUE!! I wear something different every day and sometimes change twice in one day.....why because I can and because you cant slave over a fire making dinner with your gown on you have to have camp chore clothes.

So now we come to what happens once we arrive at the event. This is where the men folk are needed. We all unpack the trailer and truck. First to be unloaded are the dogs and they are taken out to potty and then placed on their tie outs and watered. Next is the rest of camp and it is staged into areas of use IE: kitchen stuff, tent stuff, bedding, clothing, etc I do help set up the tent but thatís all Kevin's area of expertise.  He knows that when its all up its all me and he gets to go and have a soda or more likely help some one else set up because he is that cool of a guy.

Once the tent is up I go to work, moving in all our boxes in which has made things much easier.  We each have a large box for our clothing and goods. They line the north wall of our tent and then the bedding goes down.

Our beds are made of sheep skin hides laid out to cover the entire floor, it takes over 24 hides to make enough softness for 4 of us to sleep. Then there are the blankets and such, next is the stove because cold girls make for grumpy mom, where as warm ones make for a happy mom!! and everyone knows the saying ďif momma isn't happy NO one isĒ.

Once all the inside of the tent is set up I go to work setting up our kitchen and then its time to get all of our non period goods back in the trailer and get the trucks moved off the site, then its time to get dinner going. All in all it takes over 3 hours once at the event to be fully set up, and months before that, its a ton of work but it is totally worth it. I enjoy having all our family and friends come into camp and know they are always welcome and will be greeted with warm smiles and cold drink.

So to answer what it takes....yes you have it, it takes a lot of planning and hard work from everyone for our camp to be successful. And if you asked Kevin he would probably say it takes Tracy's touch to make it look as good as it does.

cheers do anois mo chairde



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