[Ansteorra] "The rings are hung, the course is clear--charge, Sir Knight!"
peterschorn at pdq.net
Sat Aug 29 19:34:18 PDT 2009
Spent the afternoon at a joust.
No, it wasn't at a Renfaire or a Vaguely Medievalish Tymes dinner theatre.
It wasn't even at an SCA event, God save the mark. It was at the 143rd
Calvert County Jousting Tournament at Christ Church in Port Republic,
Maryland. That's not a typo: they've been doing this for 143 years, through
two World Wars and a Depression. Ring Jousting is the state sport of
Maryland, as it turns out--yet another strange thing about my strange new
I wondered whether the event might be rained out due to the tropical storm
that dumped a lot of rain on us yesterday evening, but it stopped during the
night and the skies cleared gradually all through the day. Turns out I
needn't have worried: they hold these things rain or shine. They're part of
a statewide circuit of jousts that's held from mid-April through
mid-October, and results in a State Champion being chosen.
The jousts are done on a course of fixed length with three stations, each
with a ring hooked to a pin suspended on a lanyard. The largest ring size
was 1-3/4". They're wrapped in cords and whitened with chalk to make them
more visible, so when someone catches a ring on their lance you'll sometimes
see a little puff of white dust that looks like smoke: very dramatic.
They were running four classes of jousters: Beginners (who were all very
little kids riding at a walk with an adult beside the horse), Novice,
Amateur and Professional. Most of the Novices and Amateurs were kids too
(several riding schools sent contingents), but slightly older. There were
even a few teenagers in the Professional category, which I found
They ran the kids through first, letting the Beginners and Novices each have
one pass. The Amateurs were actually competing, and they got three passes
each. You were scored on the number of rings you caught, and amazingly at
the end of three passes there were several competitors with perfect scores
of nine apiece. So they started downsizing the rings by a quarter inch on
each pass. They got down to 1", which I think is the diameter the pros
started at, before they were able to declare a winner.
Afterwards there was a dressage parade, and I have no idea where the women
went to get into those dresses. One actually competed in hers: a blue
chemise and red dress, riding a white horse-she was a Novice, I believe. I
noticed that while the kids, without exception, rode English, most of the
pros rode Western
After that they ran the professionals through which included one State
Champion. I stayed for a little of that. It was interesting, but you could
see that, to the grownups, it was just another sport. Albeit it was fun to
see some ol' boy in blue jeans, t-shirt and gimme cap "couche hym hees
lonce" and ride, quite literally, full-tilt like something out of Mallory's
Morte d'Arthur--then again Mallory and his cronies were just good ol' boys
of a different era and social class.
But the kids--oh man, the kid were livin' the dream.
There was one boy who had the whole outfit: tunic, sword, boots that weren't
from a riding catalog. You could see that, to him, it wasn't sports
equipment: it was war-gear, it was arms. I don't think he won anything and I
don't think he cared. He was like Reepicheep playing chess --he didn't see a
game of strategy but an actual battle whose course might be changed by the
courage and skill of a single knight.
The girls took it just as seriously in their own way, from the one who
competed in a dress, to the one who rode all her courses sidesaddle, to the
one who had matching hot-pink shirt, saddle blanket, bridle and reins-and
made it a point to ride harder and faster than any of the boys.
In general, the girls were more methodical: they tended to ride just as fast
as it took to complete the course in the allotted time so they could
concentrate on getting the rings. But there were exceptions, like the
aforementioned lady in pink. Or one other girl, who seemed barely more than
eight and small even for that age, yet she was competing with much older
children in the Amateur rank. She rode fast and hard, with an intensity and
focus that was almost eerie. Strange to see the killer instinct in someone
so young, I suppose. I didn't get her name, but I wish I had: when she's
older, I want to make sure I never, ever piss her off.
Christ Church is a bit of history in itself: the current church was built in
1772, the congregation is a hundred years older. The churchyard is like an
anthology of stories told in haiku: a lot of young men who died between 1916
ad 1918, others between 1941 and 1945. They don't just play at arms, here.
And, finally, I saw a t-shirt that I just had to have. It read:
ENJOYED BASS ALE
Every now and then
he wrote a novel
Which I seem to have done. Cheers!
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