[lit-ideas] Re: Foote, Re-enactors, Duck Punt Gun

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 16:34:10 -0700

on 6/29/05 11:21 AM, Andreas Ramos at andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> I don't understand these "re-creations of battles". The Americans do this over
> and over 
> again with Civil War battles. And now the Brits are doing naval battles.
> These can only be events that are stripped of all meaning. People die in
> battles. Battles 
> happen because difference forces are trying to destroy each other. But none of
> that happens 
> in a re-creation. The event is literally only "recreation", as in "a bit of
> fun".
> War is a horrible thing and I simply don't see why it should be turned into
> amusement. 
> War-as-amusement only encourages militarization and makes war into something
> acceptable.
This is as good a moment as any to mark the fact that Shelby Foote died on
Monday.  If any of you have a long road journey ahead, you couldn't spend a
better $29.95 than on the cassette version of "Stars in their Courses," an
excerpt from his three-part narrative on the Civil War (American).  The
publishers have the gall to write on the package, "Complete and Unabridged"
--which the *excerpt* is-- but that aside, Shelby reading his own very
peculiar prose is a memorable joy.

Anyone trying to understand re-enactors should pick up a copy of
"Confederates in the Attic," Tony Horwitz's book on the subject, and then
try his even weirder work on Captain Cook, which features re-enactors of
voyages of discovery--not un-horrible things that are also turned into
amusements.  I cannot promise that at the end of these two works you will
have understood the phenomenon--re-enactors are complete loons and cannot be
understood--but you may see why I find them interesting.  It's akin to why I
think a duck punt gun is interesting, as a reminder of how strange our
species is.

What's a duck punt gun?  A nine foot long cannon-like barrel that you attach
to a punt--flat-bottomed boat.  You fill the barrel with metal detrius and a
charge.  You then paddle up to ducks and let fly.  Boom!  You go scooting
backwards, somewhat deaf.  There is a chance that the released mayhem could
have hit a duck in such a way that one could take it home and eat it.  Then
again...probably not.  It's the ultimate "my gun is bigger than yours"
thing, pretty useless and--I think-- very funny.

I should have mentioned that the American sailors in the Royal Navy, like
many sailors in the Royal Navy, were probably not there by choice; they were
likely pressed men.  Pressing American sailors was one of the practices that
led to the war of 1812.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

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