I suppose the most memorable parts of Saturday came in the jousts. First joust I did not do well at the obstacle course, only earning 16 points. Oso was a bit wonky, veering close to the ring racks and not really responding as he usually does. I thought it might be the cooler weather, but... after the games were done, we rode into the center for the ‘challenge’ to be issued thus setting up the joust itself. As I rode Oso back to the pocket, I felt him limping. I pulled him up, called to Robin (who is in charge of the stage left pocket, and thus has a headset to communicate with the stage right side) and we scrambled to make alterations. As I’d never even practiced jousting on Rusty (Robin Hood’s horse), we called to Jeff (playing Miles Falconet, all around bad guy) and he let me use Dante. Now, I LOVE riding Dante, but as there are about three people training on him this year, I’ve ridden him very, very little. I knew I could do passes on him, though, and Jeff kindly let me up on him. Jeff’s stirrups are far, far longer than what I ride with, and so it was I did three passes with no stirrups at all. You know what allows a jouster to hold lance and shield steady as they aim and hit? You guessed it... stirrups! You rise into a sort of half seat and let your legs take the motion of the horse so you can hold your torso and arms steady. Well, I still did it. I’m glad I’ve been doing a lot of no-stirrup riding in practice (which I do to improve my seat), and that I’d ridden Dante bareback the previous Tuesday.
Regarding Oso, he had picked up an appallingly long screw in his left foot. Not his hoof... the flesh of his foot where it meets the hoof. He was trundled off to Argus Farms, where he can stay in a clean dry stall and get a course of antibiotics. He should be recovered for next weekend.
I rode Dante again in the final joust. Jeff rode Smoke (he usually does anyway, preferring Dante in the first only because Smoke freaks at the obstacle course). First pass, Rusty went first. Dante shouldered past her near the end of the rail, as she was running too slow for his liking. I couldn’t even see that he’d come up on her. I felt terribly about it, but neither the horses or the jousters involved were hurt. Seven more passes to go... On the next pass, also a double, I went first. Jeff hit my shield solidly, but a bit too far to center. The lance skidded off the shield and slammed into my leather helm just above my left eye. Remember the scene in A Knight’s Tale where the helm goes sailing through the air? That is just what mine did. Apparently it was really fucking scary to behold. For my part, I went into a bit of shock. I rode into the pocket, looked down into Robin’s white face and said "I think I got hit in the head with a lance." Then, after a moment, I said, "I need my helm." I turned to see Kelley holding it up to me. It didn’t occur to me at the time that she’s normally in the center of the joust field, and that (as she later told me) she never knew she could run that fast. As I put it back on, the audience near me started to applaud. I turned my horse to the list and continued the show. Six more passes, and Jeff was a bit shy of hitting me again (understandably; I would have been, too). The final pass, which is supposed to be our double fall, he was so far from the rail and had his shield so tucked that I had to reach horizontally across my body and nearly throw the lance to tag him. He didn’t even touch me, but I had to be off so I merely threw my shield, flipped my helm from my head and went to get my weapons for the ground fight. As I passed Jeff, I spit at him (in character; somehow I thought this would let him know I was OK).
He came to me a minute later and said "Are you green?" Of course I’m green, I thought. The good guy lances are ALL green. "Green is a good thing," he went on, and then I got it. "I’m green," I said, meaning I was all right. We did the ground fight, and the re-coronation of the Queen (during which time Lewis surreptitiously made sure I was OK, eyes focusing and all that), and then got off the field. As I was getting out of armor, I felt the adrenaline quit my body and tears start to prick at the backs of my eyes. My chest got tight and all I wanted to do was sob. I had to get to pub sing, though, so I swallowed it and focused on breathing. Lewis came back and said "Way to hold it together." High praise. Kelley got me out of armor and back into costume. I recall very little of the walk to pub sing. What I do recall is having a beer pressed into my hand and singing and dancing my ass off during the show. It helped. It helped a very great deal.
I don’t know how I managed to avoid serious injury. I don’t know how I managed to avoid a concussion. There is paint from the lance on my helm, and it starts dangerously close to the left eye-hole. I could have lost an eye. I am talking to Chris this week about getting a metal helm.
As a little bit of an aside- I want to say that 1: I work with the best joust ground crew EVER- every one took such great care of me, in both shows and 2: I feel so badly for those I care for who had to watch as this happened to me. I know Don was beside himself. He told me the evil Duke of Norfolk was awfully close to rushing to Maid Marian’s side. Kelley, Robin, Laura, Nick, Kyle, Lewis, Alen, Karen... so many I haven’t mentioned... were all so concerned for/proud of me. I am eternally grateful.
OK... one really lovely thing. During ‘Meet the Band,’ I saw my friend Viv, his wife Carol and their son Benjamin. I’ve known Viv since college, when I started in community theater. He kept telling me he was so proud of me, and he’d tell anyone who would listen that I was one of the best actresses he’s ever known, I was boundlessly talented, etc. So good for my ego. Add to that that Carol is a complete sweetheart and Benjamin could not be a more adorable child... nice. Very, very nice.
Spectacular weather. High 70’s, next to no humidity, clear skies and a lovely breeze. KILLER crowds (enough so that most pubs ran out of beer and booths ran out of food by the end of the day).
First joust was a bit of a trial. I have NEVER ridden Dante through the course, and he would not listen to me at all. He tore through the pattern. I swear, flames must have been trailing from his hooves. I lost my stirrups early on, got them back, lost them again (and this, my friends, is why you should treat them as a lovely extra, and not your sole tie to staying on the horse). I tanked with a score of 15, but I’m told I looked rather spectacular riding him at breakneck speed. I’ll take it! I rode to my crowd after and told them, "You must know that the horse I normally ride is one I refer to as ‘Mister Pokey-Pants.’" He danced and chafed a bit as we waited for the last two riders to do the course. I sat deep and talked to him. He calmed down enough (and got used to my touch on reins and weight in saddle) that he was a dream during the joust passes. He still danced and spun and backed up while waiting to go, but I didn’t need anyone to hold his head, and I could see when the other rider was ready. Brilliant. Can’t ask for better. Oh, and I got a solid hit, at LAST, and had a really good break hit.
There were a few children who just made my day... Katherine (who has come for a few years) gave me a purple coin to carry during the final joust, for luck. Tori was there with her mom and brother; she gave me an enormous hug and insisted we have our picture taken again. The kids at ‘Meet the Band’ were lovely, especially a sweet young girl named Brianna who is going to be Catherine Zeta-Jones stunning when she grows up. Sisters Donna and Tatiana, who I remembered from the past couple of years, were there, too... so cute! Best of all were the ‘Edelweiss Girls (aka Barbara, Valerie and Emily).’ Three (or is it four?) years ago, Cat met three friends (8 or 9 years old at the time) who had gone to camp together, and there they were all in a production of ‘The Sound of Music.’ They sang ‘Edelweiss’ for Cat. She grabbed Kelley and I immediately and made them sing for us, too. So our mutual admiration was born. Every year since, their parents bring them to the Faire. They’ve done songs from ‘Annie’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ all of which they have embellished with choreography. They made a tape for us last year, so we could have their songs to hear all year round. This year they sang for us (we found an empty stage), and as we watched it became apparent that they ARE Cat, Kelley and I in miniature. Valerie is a little chubby and decidedly bossy (Kelley), Barbara always has to be center stage (Cat) and Emily is pretty and smiles and laughs a lot (me). After they sang, they gave us each a beautiful pair of beaded earrings. After about a million hugs, they had to go, but they’re working on their parents to bring them back on Labor Day.