Saturday, March 16, 2013

The beginning of Olaf

In the fall of 1996, I began attending college at the State University of New York at Potsdam. There were a number of activities to choose from... from intercollegiate sports to music groups, a campus radio and television station, and numerous club activities. One of the clubs drew my attention right away... the campus Medieval Reenactment Club. Meetings were Wednesday nights, and I decided I would attend... I had been fascinated by the middle ages since childhood, fashioning wooden swords from old tool handles and tilting at rings on my bike. There was a medieval demonstration put on for my  6th grade class, and I had a great time. So primed by all of this, I attended my first meeting.
I hated it.
I walked in, met a few people,and went... "meh". I walked away. This was obviously not for me. I stayed away till spring, when I happened across the group fighting in the quad. Aside from the folks doing armoured combat, there were some fighting with "boffer" weapons... swords and pole weapons made from PVC and foam. No armour required, light contact, giving people the experience of fighting without having to get into armour. I was hooked. I immediately hit the local hardware store for PVC, foam and duct tape, and began making boffers. This was in the spring of 97... before the current litigious climate, and campus was pretty laid back. We had furious running boffer battles through the dorms and across campus. This was a year or two post Braveheart, and I, like so many others, was completely caught up in the craze. I made basket hilted boffers and a round shield, and several axes. (yes, even back then, I loves me some axes...)
I continued to fight boffers for a couple of years, but the next semester, I also got into armour. I picked up a helmet and assorted other gear from a local guy, a former squire (or maybe just a man at arms, I dunno) of Duke Morghunn Sheridan. A simple barrel helm, it served me for several years to come. I was loaned a plastic lorica segmentata by Harald Ulfson... who, as it turned out, was the same person who had done the demo for my 6th grade class! I added to that an armoured kilt I got from Gabe, and i thought I was just the coolest. I fought in this gear for a couple of years... the picture here was taken in 1999. My girlfriend (now wife) was tolerant of my interest in teh SCA, and hung around as well... not as caught up in it at the time as I was, but actively participating  if only so we could spend the time together.
I authorized for the first time in sword and shield at my first event against Thorson... at that time not yet a knight, but a squire. It was a "Tournament of Love and Beauty" event, I think Nikki ran it. Suzy (this was before she was Dalla) made me a faux rabbit fur favor, which i still have on the wall of the pub.
I became a protegee to Master Harald around this time as well... I was new to the SCA, and jumped in to it quickly, but he and I hade history. He was the father of my persona... the Harald in Haraldson... even before I had a norse persona.
We began travelling to Northern Army fight practices in Swanton Vermont in 1999 as well... they were being held at a National Guard armory up there. I met Elazar at those practices, and immediately decided that the coolest armour ever was his leather lorica, which I vowed to copy.  This was how I fell in love with melee fighting... I fought sword and shield off Harald's shoulder, acting as his "shit scraper"... because of his size, he got jumped by everyone, and they overlooked me. I got lots of kills that way...

Pennsic 29 was my first Pennsic. That cemented my melee love. We fought the 10 man melee tournament, and our first draw was an absolutely stacked team called "10 Little Indians". The team was made up of knights, dukes, and princes, and it was over in a flash. The woods battle was the next day though... and that was a different story. I found out where I belonged... and that was it.
The years I couldn't make Pennsic were sad, but I still had fun. I never was able to afford to travel much (I still don't) but I got out a bit, and I served as the event steward for Winter War. That event, which started out fairly small, grew into a really excellent winter melee event. I continued to o it even after, in 2002, I had my first SCA burnout.
I can't tell you why I burned out, really. My fighting had plateaued, and I knew it was my own fault... I wasn't pushing to get out and travel, to fight new people, and improve. That wasn't why I burned out... it was just a symptom. Point is, I needed a break, and it came in the form of football. I had the opportunity to play semi-pro football, and I took it. I played for three years, which basically meant that from May till October, I didn't fight. This allowed me to continue to play in winter, and do Winter War... but I didn't do much else. 

The summer of 2004 was my last year of football. I took a beating... I was literally the smallest player in the league, and football is a collision sport. It took a toll on my body... but it also invigorated me. The drills were actually good for my knees, which I had problems with for several years before. I finished football ready to come back and play the game with a new focus... my gear. My wife and had been working on our gear slowly for a bit, making it look more authentic bit by bit. We found that therein lay our passion in the game, and threw ourselves into it wholeheartedly. Cotton and polyester went away, replaced by linen and wool. Period shoes were made, armour was tweaked and re-tweaked. I have been through 11 distinct incarnations of armour in my time in the game. We were rewarded for our effort by King Edward at Pennsic with our King's Order of Excellence. We received it the same way we play in the SCA... together. It was a momentous occasion.

Now, here I am 16 years after starting to play in the SCA. I've had some fun, and intend to have some more. What follows in this blog will hopefully be some descriptions of projects I've done or will do, observations of my fighting, and probably, knowing me, some random and hopefully entertaining stories. Enjoy. Or don't. Either way...


  1. Olaf mentioned that I wasn't 100% into it when I started tagging along with him. I think the first thing that got me hooked was painting banners at a Freehold practice, then seeing them on stage at my first out-of-shire event, Marieke's coronation. That "hey, cool! I helped make that!" factor.

    While he was doing the scottish thing, I was exploring Tudor England as Diana. I picked my Norse name, Dalla, when we switched personas because it was the closest thing I could find to Diana. I thought it would cause less confusion if the new name was similar. In the end it didn't matter much because far more people knew me as Dalla than ever called me Diana.


  2. It will be interesting to read your blog. I am especially looking forward to the in depth look at your handiworks. You have been an inspiration to me since the first time I met you, even though I am playing only in passing at a Norse persona.