York, PA - Brandon Booth lay on the ground.
Not in a cot or on an air mattress. No, Booth rested his 60-year-old bones on hard Adams County dirt this weekend.
Anything less would be farb.
Farbity is something Booth, a travel agent from New Market, Md., has worked for many years to overcome. In the re-enactor world, you're either hardcore or farb. For a hardcore, like Booth, farb means poser. The guys whose haversacks are white instead of brown. The ones who bring coolers and gas grills to camp.
"It comes from, 'Far be it for me to tell you it's not authentic,'" he explained Saturday. He'd pitched camp in a field near Gettysburg on Thursday in time for the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Near his makeshift home, hundreds of tourists traipsed along over ruts and horse dung, snapping pictures of him or buying funnel cakes and bottles of water. Men in blue and gray uniforms mingled with women melting under massive hoop skirts. A band played songs like "Buffalo Gals." A-Frame tents housed men with bushy sideburns pretending to be old timey reporters or surgeons.
One-hundred-forty-nine years ago, the average Confederate infantryman -- the part Booth had come to play -- wouldn't sleep in one of the big white tents, he said.
Booth, a member of the 37th Virginia out of Winchester, used his rifle as a tent post. He tied a piece of fabric to it about waist high, spread some blankets on the ground and built a small cook fire.
When the day's festivities drew to a close, Booth slept under the canopy, fried salt-cured bacon in a skillet and shared Old Crow Kentucky bourbon from his canteen with other hardcores whose faces have become as familiar as the conflict they emulate.
By the way, Old Crow? Not farb, Booth said. They started making it in the 1830s.
"It's like any hobby," he said. Sweat poured down his cheeks, bracketing his handlebar mustache. In the 10 a.m. heat on a day that would reach 100 degrees, he wore long underwear beneath his gray cotton pants and vest. "Sooner or later you want it to be as real as you can make it."
Reenacting began for Booth about 15 years ago. He and his son, Merritt, pretended to soldiers for an event in New Jersey.
"We were farb," he said.
Merritt Booth saw the re-enactment-hardened veterans, the guys who know what kinds of seams and fabrics and buttons are completely genuine, and decided he and his dad were destined to be hardcore.
They joined a hardcore regiment and started buying things. Authentic things. Their comrades helped them learn which scabbard had how many fasteners, how large of a square of cloth a mill actually produced in the 1860s. A friend from Mississippi made Brandon his gray tunic. He looked ruefully at the intricate gold-colored buttons.
"They're Mississippi buttons," he said. "I haven't gotten around to getting Virginia buttons."
He reached into his blanket and pulled out a
Are Pall Malls farb?
"Well," he said, laughing, "I'll allow myself that." He pointed at a long stem pipe. "I should be smoking with that, but I figure, when in Rome."
In those days, Brandon said, the two made dozens of events. Merritt is now in his 30s, so he makes fewer shows. Brandon says he'll only make about six shows this summer.
The 11 a.m. show on Saturday was a re-enactment of the Battle of Hunterstown. In front of hundreds of people on bleachers, men and women pretended to be cavalry on horseback. The turned their muskets skyward and fired them. They yelled and charged at one another, pointing their swords and bayonets. Before they crashed into one another, they stopped, circled around began another charge.
A century and a half ago, the actual battle killed 80 to 100 men.
Brandon sat among the spectators.
Brandon said he's happy sleeping on the ground. But he doesn't play soldier just to pretend and live outdoors and drink whiskey from a metal cup. Well, he does like it, but Brandon says all re-enactors take on the gig for "the moment."
The moment could be anything. It could be waking early one morning and watching men get ready for war beside the smoke of a campfire. It could come after a long hard march. Brandon remembers once being drenched to the skin with his comrades, and when he looked at them all marching up a hill, it happened.
"The moment," he said. "It's when you feel like for a moment that it's real. That this must have been what it was like."
The hell you can't
Saturday at Gettysburg was Jason Hartle's first Civil War re-enactment. The 36-year-old from McSherrystown was a member of the Georgia 63rd infantry regiment and wore an authentic-looking Confederate soldier uniform.
One piece, however, was an anachronism -- the electric wheel chair.
Hartle has cerebral palsy. One day he noticed one of his neighbors, 63-year-old Jim Sungy, preparing for a re-enactment event. Hartle told Sungy he wished he could participate, but he doubted he could because of the chair.
"I said, 'The hell you can't,'" Sungy said.
So he helped Hartle join. On Saturday, the two wandered around outside the bleachers as part of the re-enactment's living history exhibits.
"I like it," Hartle said. "I like being involved."
Hartle said he hopes to encourage other handicapped people to become involved in battle re-enactments.
"I get a lot of people asking me, 'Are you hot?'" he said.
Heat of battle
Temperatures for the re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg reached about 100 degrees Saturday.
Kim Bloom of Hanover was one of several emergency-management technicians manning the first aid tent. On Saturday, the job meant keeping people cool.
"It hasn't been too bad," she said. Inside the first aid tent, people drank fluids from paper cups and pressed cold rags to their foreheads and necks.
Bloom has been working at the event for the past 15 years. During big events -- like next year's 150th anniversary, for example -- the large crowds are the complicating factor.
This year, it was nature. After the 11 a.m. show, Bloom's face matched her red T-shirt as she talked over portable radio with other EMTs about "transporting people."
Heat victims could enter an air conditioned tent or an air conditioned trailer. When that wasn't good enough, the emergency employees had designated several nearby buildings as places to take heat-struck re-enactors and their guests.
She wouldn't say how many people had needed care on Saturday.
"It's been moderate," she said.