"Timeline of History." Taken from the Days of Knights official site.
Several months ago I made a fairly important resolution for 2017. This was not one of those half-hearted pledges to give up some enjoyably bad habit most people make on New Year’s Day only to succumb to temptation a few hours later. To be fair, like more than a few other resolutions I have previously made, there was not exactly a considerable amount of critical thinking involved. Nevertheless, it would require a major personal commitment to accomplish: I was going to the Days of Knights this year.
For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the Days of Knights is billed as “a public educational event that strives to bring you a historically accurate re-creation of several time periods from the era known as the Middle Ages.” It is also one of the largest medieval living history events in the States, uniting re-enactors from the Viking Era to the early Renaissance. The thing that sets it apart from practically every medieval festival or faire is that all participants are required to meet very specific standards of historical accuracy.
I had first heard about the Days of Knights a couple of years ago through the social media pages of a couple of its organizers, Ian LaSpina of Knyght Errant and Tom Biliter of Historically Patterned Mail. Unfortunately, the event had always been held within a week or two and on the opposite side of the country of another must-see annual event: the Tournament of the Phoenix. With the Phoenix currently on an indefinite hiatus, I decided 2017 was the year. There was only one small obstacle standing in my way. I did not actually own any medieval camping equipment.
Shortly after unilaterally making my big decision, I knew it was time to request approval.
“I think I know what I want for my birthday this year,” I said to the wife as nonchalantly as possibly over a cup of coffee after the kids were in bed. She took a sip from her mug as she looked up from her news app.
“Oh? Please tell me, good husband,” she wordlessly conveyed with a sigh and roll of the eyes. Actually, that is not exactly the message she expressed, but this is a family-friendly story.
“I want to buy a tent,” I replied with a smile, willing her to agree.
“Don’t you have a tent?” An astute reader will infer that she already knew that we owned a tent. In fact, it is a relatively nice family-sized one purchased several years ago from Dick’s Sporting Goods. An experienced husband will additionally know this is all part of the deliberation process.
“I mean a medieval tent. I want to go to an event this year where everyone camps out.” I calmly took a sip of coffee.
“Where and when is it?” She sat her phone down. Now I had her undivided attention.
“The first weekend in October. Somewhere in Kentucky.” I started looking up the details on my phone.
“Kentucky? You’re going to drive all the way to Kentucky and leave me here with the kids?”
Expletive! I had not anticipated that line of attack so soon. “I could take [our son].”
“How much does the tent cost?”
Most wives are accustomed to buying their husbands practical gifts such as ties and socks, and most husbands are well-rehearsed in pretending to like them. My wife is fortunately not “most wives.” In fact, I buy all all my favorite birthday and Christmas presents on her behalf. Sometimes they are so nice that I tell her it should count for both holidays combined.
I immediately started looking for a tent that would be appropriate for an English man-at-arms of the mid-15th century. I eventually settled on a 15-foot round pavilion from Tentsmiths in New Hampshire. It was that purchase that opened Pandora’s box. I had no choice but to begin researching period furniture. As a member of the gentry, I couldn’t be expected to sleep on the ground like a common soldier. I would need at a minimum a camp bed and a table and chairs. The good news was that I still had five or six months to get ready.