It’s the curse of history – over-reacting to re-enacting |

It’s the curse of history – over-reacting to re-enacting

Mike Drummond, Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

As commander-in-chief of the Clear Creek Ranch Irregulars, my road association’s militia, I just finished hosting a post-battle bash for a few hundred men in blue and gray – a bunch of Civil War “re-enacters.”

They are gone now, except for those two hanging around the empty beer kegs, re-enacting a scene from TV’s “Cheers”: Cliff Claven and Norm at closing time. Let’s hope they fade to black and go to commercial soon. That show was cancelled long ago.

Every year, a local park becomes a Civil War battlefield where a whole bunch of men and women, dressed in costumes that are authentic down to the longjohns recreate a 140-year-old battle, dodging half-buried lawn sprinklers, candy wrappers and picnic tables as they charge into oblivion. They call it “re-enacting.”

I call it nostalgia for the good old days – days when exhaust fumes came from the rear end of your horse and there were fewer state capitals to memorize in geography class. A simpler time when, if you survived all those contagious childhood diseases, you could look forward to losing all your teeth before you went to an early grave.

With no television, you made your own entertainment – singing, playing musical instruments, word processing with a quill pen, or thumbing through the family Bible, praying that none of your acquaintances knew how to play that old banjo in the corner. Or perhaps watching the flickering flames in the fireplace as they slowly converted that same banjo into a smoky unplayable memory.

Later this month, the little town of Rough and Ready (named for an American president) will re-enact that metropolis’ pre-Civil War secession from the Union. No soldiers at this one. Join the festivities and see folks dressed like gunslingers, carpetbagging politicians and boomtown floozies. It is cheaper than airfare to present-day D.C. to see the same sights.

And I know bearded “black powder” re-enactors are lurking in the woods nearby. Surviving in lean-tos with piles of muzzle-loading rifles and bowie knives. Learning first-hand just how hot the inside of a buckskin shirt can be in August. Cooking rodents on a stick over an open fire. Those rodents were the original fast food, although not quite fast enough.

Most of the re-enacting out here at the ranch falls under the category of superstition or some sort of quasi-feng shui aimed at remediating my own shoddy workmanship.

Every year, I re-enact the ritual planting of the corn, complete with burnt tofu offerings from the barbecue and my special prayer to the manure god. Has anybody out there got that guy’s e-mail address? No matter what I do, the harvest is never as bountiful as it was in ’87, when the llamas that contributed to my compost HAD to have been on steroids. Or were they?

Sheesh! All these backward looks are giving me a headache. Excuse me while I re-enact a scene from that old comic strip “Blondie,” the one in which Dagwood curls up on the couch for a nap.

Wake me when something new and interesting happens. And not like that curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

I have a feeling there won’t be enough survivors to re-enact another war, should it come.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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