Two Years Before Estrella
Great Desert War Gate
By Baron Malcolm Alberic
Two Years Before
the Mast Estrella
- 1 Chapter 1
- 2 Chapter 2: Preparation for Great Desert II
- 2.1 Saturday, February 26, 1983 A.S. XVII
- 2.2 March 12, 1983 A.S. XVII
- 2.3 April 9, 1983 A.S. XVII
- 2.4 May 7, 1983 A.S. XVIII
- 2.5 June 18, 1983 A.S. XVIII
- 2.6 July 30, 1983 A.S. XVIII
- 2.7 The weekends of August 20 and September 17
- 2.8 October 15, 1983 AS XVIII
- 2.9 November19, 1983 A.S. XVIII
- 2.10 December 17, 1983 A.S. XVIII
- 2.11 December 31, 1983 A.S. XVIII
- 2.12 January 7, 1984 A.S. XVIII
- 2.13 January 21, 1984 A.S. XVIII
- 2.14 January 28, 1984 A.S. XVIII
- 2.15 February 4, 1984 A.S. XVIII
- 2.16 February 11, 1984 A.S. XVIII
- 3 Chapter 3: Great Desert II
- 4 Chapter 4: The Dismantling of the Dream
THE FIFTEENTH of October was the day fixed upon for the launching of what should have changed warfare in the SCA forever. But I get ahead of myself.
Please remember this account is based on my experiences and memories from when I was an impressionable young man between 18 to 20 years old, and do not reflect the whole story, just the parts that involved myself and my fellow Dreibergundians. This article not only tells of the involvement of many people from Dreiburgen and their place in SCA history, but it also illustrates the foundation of my views and how I play the Game.
For me it all began back in the early spring of 1982 (AS XVI). I was just about to turn 18 and eager to finish my first set of amour; all I needed was a helmet. My brother Aladric had already secured a Freon can, but after attending baronial council at Baron Leo’s home we learned that the Armorers Guild had been very recently established to help people make their own barrel helms. For about ten dollar, these would be more period, so Aladric and I jumped into the Honda and drove out to Perris to attend our first armory meeting.
It was there that Lord Elgil and Roger told us of their visit to the home of Master Zoltan Kovacs, a.k.a Kirby Wise, the SCA’s most famous armorer. To this day he still lives out in the Arizona desert near a small town called Bouse. He had informed Roger and Elgil that near his place a 40-acre plot of land privately owned by another member of the SCA would be used for the next February war.
This was good news in many ways, because the previous war site at Burro Creek was very impacted with “Snow Birds”, retired people in motor homes who came from the Quartzsite rock show to see the weirdos in amour. I never made it out to Burro Creek War, but I heard that the Snow Birds had pushed us into a corner.
Here was the prospect of private land that could be built upon and tailored to our needs, and the SCA would have control of who would come on site. Elgil told us that in October after the summer heat work parties would start to improve the site. Would we be interested in getting involved?
“Wow,” I thought to myself, a chance to get in on the ground floor of something really big! I had been connected with many clubs by that time: Boy Scouts, 4-H, and a half a dozen saddle clubs. So I remember thinking to myself “Nobody really knows what a big deal it is to be lucky enough to get private land for events!” Little did I know how right I was about the “NOBODY” part. The location was ideal — remote but not too remote, just over 30 miles from Parker on the 72. More than an hour closer to Caid than Estrella Mountain Park, it was situated approximately halfway between Atenveldt and Caid.
On a Friday night in October of 1982 Aladric and I arrived at the home of Kirby Wise for the first work party weekend. I was nervous at the prospect of meeting this living legend. Elgil introduced us. Kirby looked us up and down and said “Everyone is in the shop. Why don’t you go on in and tell some lies about your sex life.” My jaw dropped and I stared at Elgil; he just shrugged and said “That’s Kirby!”
In Kirby’s office we discussed the status of the war site. Some earth moving had already been done. The access road had been graded and the round fort’s moat (later to be known as Dunraven) had already been dug with a backhoe, with the dirt being used to make the walls. There was a wrinkle in our plans, however. A few days earlier heavy rains in the mountains had caused an old Army Corps of Engineers dam to burst, resulting in a flood surging down the Bouse wash, annihilating part of our road and partially filling Dunraven’s moat with dirt. We started by undoing some of the damage; access to a road grader and a backhoe had already been arranged.
Early the next morning we all climbed into Roger’s van and drove to site. The flood had left the road in bad shape; Roger had to keep his speed up to avoid getting stuck in the sand. Once on site we grabbed our shovels and started work digging the displaced dirt out of moat and clearing the cholla cactus, while the road grader started laying out the roads to the camping area and repairing the access road. Thus started the work that was to occupy many weekends for the next four months.
The biggest job was the cholla cactus. Every bit had to be collected and burned as to leave no spine unaccounted — this was especially true for the battlefield. The war site would be primitive and harsh enough that first year without adding stories of attack cactus. In those four months a group from Atenveldt dug a square fort and built a drawbridge. We built horse stables, water towers, and road signs and re-dug the moat on the round fort Dunraven. All of us helped pack the roads, clear the parking lot of all brush, and purge the 20 acres of cactus.
Did I mention what a pain the cactus was (and I do mean pain)? The procedure was to carefully dig up the base so as not to shed any needles and carry it to the fire using a shovel or a brush hook. No matter how carefully we kept the cholla at a shovel length’s distance, the spines still managed to attack us, and I do mean attack! I now understand why some people refer to it as “jumping cholla”; the tough spines seek you out. I recall that one spine pierced the heavy welding glove I was wearing and nailed it to my hand. I could get a hold of it, but it would not budge. Elgil had to yank it out with a pair of pliers. This was nothing compared to the one that pierced Elgil’s leather combat boot. He could not take the boot off until I pull it out with the pliers.
Looking back, I wished I had kept records of those work parties leading up to the first Great Desert War.
Friday, February 18, 1983 A.S. XVII
Aladric and I arrived on site eager to fulfill our duties as members of the autocrat staff. I had also just finished my first breastplate and was looking forward to the combat scenarios. My first duty was to work troll gate. I recall thinking that this was the first event in which radios were used to connect gates and autocrats. This was necessary because we had to run two gates simultaneously, the one at the road which was a long way from the site, and the troll gate at the edge of the property.
I wish I could say that everything went smoothly, but there were problems. For example early Saturday morning some jokers thought it would be cool to march through the camp drumming out cadence. I know what they must have been thinking: drumming morning muster, very period. Most of the populace, however, did not wish to be that period before eight a.m.
On the previous day, Duke Angus’ camp carelessly placed flaming hibachis under his tent flap, resulting in a fire that demolished his tent and its contents. (It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy; I could see why he was banished from Caid.) He actually tried to start a rumor that he was the victim of arson, but that did not get very far. Too many people had seen how careless his household was with fire. I actually saved a scrap of his tent as a souvenir, although I can’t find where I put it.
The combat was fraught with problems as well. The scenarios were Caid vs. Atenveldt, and the rhino-hiding was very high with many combatants being overly aggressive. This was aggravated by a foolish stunt pulled by the royalty. After the first crossroads battle the armies were lined up for an open field battle and a hold was called For the next two hours we sat, both armies under the mid-day desert sun, while the Atenveldt and Caidian royals held a battle of champions. No one was told what was happening or we would have returned to camp. We were just left to rot in the sun. Talk of regicide abounded in the ranks, as well as the many uses for tanned knight skin.
This might have been what led to the next problem. When we finally fought the open field battle, the aggression factor was very high. The entire Atenveldt line charged and focused on the center of our line where the Caid and Western royals stood. This ill conceived attack was Atenveldt’s undoing; the center of the Caidian line broke, but the rest of the line was not engaged. Both ends swung in like two gates, enveloping the entire Atenveldt army. We did not realize that we had killed them all until we accidentally killed a couple of our western allies we met in the middle of the field. The battle was over, but there was still quite a commotion where the royals were. Marshals and heralds announced a lunch break and asked all fighters to clear the field.
I reported back to the autocrats’ camp and asked what was happening? The word was someone was hurt on the field. Then the announcement came: “The war between Atenveldt and Caid is over and declared a draw! There will be no more fighting today and Sunday’s fighting will only be maneuvers!” That was a surprise. When Elgil returned to camp he told us the whole story. During the battle members of a particular fighting unit had seriously violated the 90o rule with their great swords. The Prince of the West had a broken hand and was on his way to the hospital. Later reports told us that it took five pins to put his hand back together.
That evening seemed to start off okay. There were parties all over, and the sound of Rolling Thunder’s drums gave a period atmosphere. The bad part was the drums never stopped. The night progressed and people wanted to sleep, but the drums continued. Complaints rolled into our camp, so Elgil and Eadwynne went to check it out. They were gone so long that we were just about to go looking for them when Eadwynne walked into camp. It turned out that it was not Rolling Thunder beating the drums. Members of the same fighting company that had violated the 90o rule had absconded with Rolling Thunder’s drums. Elgil went into their camp to tell them it was time to quiet down. They assaulted him and threw him to the ground.
Eadwynne said he had never experienced a worst feeling in his life then the moment he readied to make real use of his dagger. To this day we refer to this as the night of Elgil’s great restraint, because he did not shoot any of them. I did not witness this, but I believe what kept the situation from escalating was the fact that the miscreants realized what they were doing and backed off, and Elgil knew that we had the La Paz County Sheriff in our back pocket. The sheriff really liked us, and was spending as much time as he could on site. We had even arranged a parking space for him on merchant’s row, and he had told us that if anyone gave us trouble he would be glad to take them away and feed them baloney for a week.
What a night, but we got through it. Sunday went much better. I was amazed by the difference in the attitude of the fighters now that we were only doing maneuvers instead of kingdom vs. kingdom. The difference was like night and day, and we had lots of fun. To this day I prefer doing mixed maneuvers over kingdom vs. kingdom because I keep observing a rectal orifice factor that emerges in kingdom vs. kingdom wars and ruins the fun.
It was on this day that I had one of my greatest moments on the field. In one scenario we were laying siege to the square fort, and were preparing to throw a siege ladder on the wall. At the top of the wall was the Draffen shield wall.
We decided to place the ladder between Draffen and a less organized group of fighters.
I and another gentleman whose name I never knew volunteered to be the first up the ladder. Talk about a rush! We pushed the ladder over with pikes and the enemy on the wall tried to use their pikes to keep it off the wall. Their efforts were in vain. The ladder went up and the two of us ran up it.
We blew a hole in the line and turned to take out more, hoping to make the hole wider, when the marshals called a hold! There we were on our knees, just the two of us surrounded by the enemy and staring at them, waiting for lay on! I think I actually lasted three seconds.
Thus ended the first Great Desert War. Yes, the site was hard and primitive and there were problems during the event, but we had taken a raw piece of desert and over the course of four short months turned it into a war site.
Chapter 2: Preparation for Great Desert II
Saturday, February 26, 1983 A.S. XVII
Only a week had passed since GDW I. Dreiburgundians Elgil, Roger and I drove to site to look it over, clean it, and meet with Kirby to start planning for next year. What I mostly remember from that weekend was cleaning up trash, especially a large grouping of cigarette butts. I was wondering who in the SCA would be so messy? Then I looked around and realized where I was. I was next to the sheriff’s reserved parking space, where he sat in a chair most of the weekend chatting up our members. I decide that cleaning up his cigarette butts was a small price to pay for his help.
We returned home with plans for the coming year and started to promote Great Desert II. We figured we could help increase Dreiburgen’s involvement as well as the kingdoms’ participation. The feedback we received from kingdom, however, was disturbing. “That’s a year away, why are you worrying about that now?”, and “None of you are peers, who do you think you are?”
We were shocked; first of all, anyone who runs good annual events knows that to be successful you must start planning thirteen months ahead. Apparently we did not have any high caliber event planners in the kingdom at the time. As for the second comment, it was inappropriate and just plain hurt. It was not, however, an isolated statement. In my 29 years of playing this game I have heard comments like this many times. Most recently I heard it in regards to some one working with Great Western War. Today I just laugh when I hear a peer say “I do not know why the populace has such strange attitudes towards us.” I just named two reasons and can name a lot more.
The main goal that had to be achieved was improvement of the site. We all agreed that the populace would not continue to support the Great Desert War if the site remained primitive. Money had to be raised and work parties needed to be organized to make the necessary improvements. I started keeping notes on the work that was done and upon what dates it occurred.
March 12, 1983 A.S. XVII
Unfortunately I did not write down who came to this work party. What I did note down was that we worked on Dunraven Keep. As I recall, we set up two wide spots on the wall to serve as siege points.
When we returned home, we discussed what we could do to promote interest and donations, as materials and money were short. I started to build a ½ N scale model of the site to help show what had been done and what was planned for the future. Eric made a Ho scale model of Dunraven Keep, and Roger started an Ho scale model of the towers planned for our own campsite. We started taking the models to every event we could to show the kingdom how much potential this site had.
April 9, 1983 A.S. XVII
Elgil, Eric, Alfonso, Duncan, Random, Helena, Ed, Aladric, and myself went out and started building the archery tower in the center of Dunraven Keep. We dug deep postholes and setup four old telephone poles. This was a hard task, as we did not have a chain saw to cut the polls to length, using instead Kirby’s two-man hand saw. If you have never used one before it takes a while to get the rhythm with your partner and to always let him take the saw, never push it. I also remember that Kirby thought we needed a break and drove us into Parker to catch a movie. The movie was a horror film called Entity. Gad, what a bad flick.
May 7, 1983 A.S. XVIII
We were still low on war site funds and the desert was starting to feel the heat of the oncoming summer, so we were short on volunteers. One of the great aspects of this site was the fact that the landowner was willing to let a certain number of households and merchants build permanent structures for their use, if they helped with improvement of the site. We of house Drachenstern arranged for private space and Elgil, Eric, Alfonso, Roger and myself started constructing two towers 10 feet by 10 feet square and two stories tall (three, if you counted the battlements). As with the month before, that evening we drove into Parker to catch a movie. This time we saw High Road to China, a much better film.
June 18, 1983 A.S. XVIII
Elgil, Eric, Alfonso, Roger, Aladric, and I rented a U Haul to haul out a large amount of building materials for both our towers and the site, as well as a cement mixer. This was the hardest weekend of all. What with a late start and the U Haul’s regulator that would not let us exceed 45 miles per hour, we did not arrive on site until dawn. We decided to get right to work since it was daylight and still cool, figuring we would sleep when the temperature rose. We unloaded the truck and went to work on the towers until the heat overtook us and we decided to take a nap. It was then we discovered that it was too hot to sleep. We laid there for about an hour staring at each other until one of us said “The heck with this. We have plenty of water; I’m going back to work.”, so back at it we went. As night came with cool air, we got our second wind and rigged lights so we could work all night. We did not knock off until the heat of the midday when exhaustion finally allowed us to nap through the heat. I figured since I had risen for class on Friday morning, I had stayed awake over 52 hours without any sleep.
July 30, 1983 A.S. XVIII
Aladric and I had arranged to use our mother’s truck and Alphonso’s father’s trailer to bring out more materials, including a pallet’s worth of discarded bricks we had acquired for free from a manufacturer in Banning. The primary focus of this weekend was to remove the cholla and the creosote brush from the area that was to be the archery range. If you have not figured it out by now, most of the people coming out were from Dreiburgen, and most of them were members of House Drachenstern and the Armorers Guild. This led to references about the Dreiburgen Corps of Engineers.
The weekends of August 20 and September 17
we spent working on our towers while a few of the merchants started building their own stalls. We also built a heralds’ tower in the middle of Merchants Square. It was at this point that the war site began to take shape; there were enough structures on site that it started to look like more than a cleared piece of desert. Kirby gave us a lesson in dowsing for water, and located a good spot to drill, estimating the water table at 180 feet down.
It was during this time that I noticed Duke Angus, the former autocrat of Burro Creek War, trying to start a “let’s go back to Burro Creek” movement, so he could remain in control. This caused us a fair amount of trouble, but it ended when Burro Creek campground was closed to protect the Kangaroo Rat. That was good for us, but bad for the rats. We later heard that the rat population dropped, due to the fact that with no one to scare off the coyotes, they had a feast. Oops!
October 15, 1983 AS XVIII
Kirby’s father, Eddie Wise, had arranged for the well drilling equipment, and drilling was started. The rest of us took a break and a small tourney was held in honor of the incipient shire that was forming in Bouse. There was a round robin heavies list and Viking/Celtic games; the evening was filed with feasting and song. The next morning was business as usual, and we finished clearing the creosote brush from the archery range.
November19, 1983 A.S. XVIII
Ivar, Leyanna, Aladric and I started digging trenches and laying the main water pipe, while Elgil tarred the roof of the Drachenstern tower. Eddie had hit water near just before 190-foot mark, and drilled down to 220 feet. By the end of the weekend the well casing had been installed, plus 270 feet of main line pipe had been laid.
December 17, 1983 A.S. XVIII
As February drew closer we started getting more volunteers; up until now it had mostly been the Dreiburgen Corps of Engineers coming out to work on the war site. Now in addition to Elgil, Roge, Ivar and Leyanna, we had three people from Starkhafn start to help out. Unfortunately they did not sign the register, so all I have are the mundane names Bill and Ed. During that weekend 300 feet of main pipe was installed and 330 feet of pipe was run out to the camping area.
December 31, 1983 A.S. XVIII
Elgil and I ventured out to see that more roads were graded to expand camping and to oversee the installation of the pump, as well as finish up the plumbing that had been installed thus far. That’s when disaster struck! We had been trying to stretch the money as far as it would go, and we ended up with some pipe that could not hold the pressure. When the pump was switched on for the first time over 300 feet of pipe exploded! We went home that Sunday night very discouraged. On the way home we discussed our options and the fact that at as of the first of the year Elgil had left the office of baronial exchequer and stepped up to the office of seneschal of Dreiburgen, and I had accepted the position of baronial exchequer, Would that give us more influence on the populace to help get more volunteers?
January 7, 1984 A.S. XVIII
My notes refer to this weekend as the “Monster Rally”; a large number of people turned out from Atenveldt as well as most of Dreiburgen Corps of Engineers and the three from Starkhafn. The joint was jumping. From my photos I can make out at least four trenches being dug, which means over 660 feet of pipe were laid, including replacing pipe that had exploded the week before.
Trenching and laying more pipes
January 21, 1984 A.S. XVIII
Another large work party with people from all over, which was good. There was still over 600 feet of pipe to lay, and the Atenveldt square fort needed shoring up. We also poured a concrete platform around the well.
January 28, 1984 A.S. XVIII
This time it was a much smaller work party, consisting of some members of the Dreiburgen Engineers and a group of Atenveldters. The weekend was spent running the last of the pipe to the Chirurgeon/Waterbearers’ station and the stables. What made this weekend interesting was Saturday night. It was a beautiful night, so comfortable, almost as if the desert was wrapping a blanket of protection around us. We had all gathered around the Atenveldt camp fire for song and good cheer, however as the night wore on the Atenveldters started to become edgy and even seemed to be afraid of something. (These were a group of self-proclaimed witches, a sharp contrast to our group which Baroness Rowena referred to as the catholic boys club. I always argued against this, saying what about the two Episcopalians and the Methodist.)
Where was I? Oh, yes the campfire. Since the party atmosphere had evaporated, we retired to our camp, finished our dinner, and turned for the night. It was the next day Kirby explained the odd behavior from the night before. Apparently a couple of the women claimed they saw a seven-foot gargoyle walk up behind us, look around, and walk back into the desert. They did not say anything at the time, so as not to alarm us. We all looked at each other not knowing what to make of it. Elgil offered “What if a witch saw an angel would they recognize it?” I countered “Considering that gargoyles are suppose to be protectors and with the extreme comfort level we felt last night, maybe it was a gargoyle?” Whatever it was, we all agreed to make it our mascot and named it Clyde. If any of you have ever heard me refer to Clyde, you now know what I’m talking about.
February 4, 1984 A.S. XVIII
February 11, 1984 A.S. XVIII
Elgil, Christopher, Alfonso, Aladric and I made our last run before the war. The plan was to set up a new generator on the well and use the bricks to built a temporary sound wall to reduce the noise of the generator. We brought out a truck and horse trailer load of fire wood to sell, and the rest of the weekend was spent with last minute finishes and painting the Drachenstern tower. At the end of the weekend Alfonso, Aladric and I left for home; Elgil and Christopher stayed on site for the rest of the week to finish up.
Chapter 3: Great Desert II
February 18, 1984 A.S. XVIII
It was late Friday night when Aladric, Marguerite and I arrived on site. Three of us packed in a ‘79 Honda with gear, food, and armor for the war. This was in sharp contrast to our original plans to arrive Friday afternoon with two horses to patrol the site, but circumstances beyond our control forced a change our plans. We were optimistic in bringing the armor as our duties had us quite busy, but we were hopeful that we could get some fighting in on Sunday.
I took a radio, and Aladric and I did a turn at troll gate. Looking back on it I can not help but laugh because people were angry at us; we had the audacity to raise the price to $6 for the weekend and $10 for merchants! Why did we want so much! I thought back to the meeting with the monarchs, now referred to as treaty negotiations, where we explained the need to raise the price to $6. I can’t remember which king said it, but the reply was ”Good! $3 for Caid and $3 for Atenveldt.” Kirby’s eyes narrowed and Elgil’s jaw dropped. They then explained to Their Majesties about the need for the site fee to cover
- the expenses of the event,
- the expense of drilling the well,
- the fee required by the land owner,
- the improvements for the next year’s war (a shower building and a sprinkler system).
This was also the same meeting where Their Majesties explained to us that Elgil was not an acceptable autocrat, due to the fact that he was only a lord and not a peer, so they were making a duke the official autocrat. We were upset at first, but later Elgil said that he was ok with it, since they named him the site autocrat. As far as I could tell all the duke did was setup the combat scenarios and write part of the Crown Prints ad, so he did not get in our way. With the size of wars today it is pretty much standard now to list multiple autocrats for different aspects of the event.
During my shift at troll gate we received word of the weather report in the Burro Creek area. Snow was falling and was building up. We started joking “Who wants to go back to Burro Creek now?” At the end of my shift at troll gate the hour was small and getting larger, so I went back to camp to crash. I overslept, and awoke to see most of the populace gathered around the heralds’ tower. Elgil and the official autocrat were on top giving the morning announcements. I quickly dressed and ran down to the well to make sure the water was up to pressure and the generator was working properly. I returned to camp to fix breakfast when Elgil returned. I asked if he was sure that he was ok with the autocrat situation. He assured me that he was. We then discussed what the duties were for the day and got to work.
As I suspected, between monitoring the well, checking on the stables and other less pleasant facilities duties, I was too busy to even think of fighting. I did manage to get enough free time to go out and watch the open field battle from the archers’ tower in the middle of Dunraven Keep.
To avoid the fiasco of last year, we dictated the fighting would be war maneuvers with mixed teams and not a kingdom vs. kingdom war. Everything seemed going well; our efforts to build an ‘’SCA Disneyland’’ appeared to be working. Later I did hear stories and rumors about how people ran into rattlesnakes and scorpions. I do not put much stock in most of these, because we hardly received any official reports of such incidents. I believe most of these rumors stem from a single incident where a fighter kicked open a scorpion’s nest; another fighter calmly solved the problem using his gauntlets. This single incident surprised me, because we had spent last 17 months clearing out and driving off all unsafe wild life. At one point the rumors became so ridiculous that we started making jokes about the sand sharks that ate half the army.
The evening seemed to go pretty well. To help avoid some of the troubles of the previous year we handed out a pamphlet at the gate that had the site rules in it. There were only seven.
- Rule one. Park in the parking area only. After unloading, cars must be moved to maintain the medieval atmosphere and to keep the dust down. Handicapped may be exempt, see autocrat.
- Rule two. No illegal substances of any kind. Violators will be turned over to the La Paz County Sheriffs department for prosecution. (Remember he was on site.)
- Rule three. All animals must be on leash or in a cage at all times (this is a county ordinance). Horses must be housed in the stables.
- Rule four. There will be no undue noise allowed after 9 pm or before 9 am or during court or whenever asked politely to stop by an official.
- Rule five. Camping is allowed in authorized areas only.
- Rule six. Autocrats and other camp officials can be contacted at the towers across from the Medic/Sheriff station. If you need help see them; they have the final say in all disputes.
- Rule seven. Fire pits will be subject to sheriff approval, so locate them safely away from tents.
These rules covered all the primary issues, but were not written so specific that we could not be flexible, with the exception of rule two. For example, in rule four the phrase “no undue noise” does not specify an exact noise level or noise hours, so as we patrolled the camp Saturday night we were able to make reasonable judgment calls. If the sound of a party did not carry too far and/or no one was complaining, we could leave them to their fun. If the noise was very loud and/or people were complaining, we could step in and ask the revelers nicely to turn it down. In rule seven, notice that we did not specify anything about the design of the fire pits, only that they are subject to approval. This allowed us to check camps if necessary, and leave alone any camp with a pit that contained the fire, or step in and veto a pit that did not properly contain the fire regardless of the design. If anyone gave us any back talk we could play the sheriff card.
Pretty much by Saturday night people seemed to be partying and having fun with very little intervention required on our part. By Sunday morning the war seemed to be on autopilot, and I found some time to arm up and fight in a couple of scenarios. Even Elgil was able to fight. We all dropped our jaws when Sir Adrian Buchanon lent Elgil his armor; they did not exactly see eye to eye. By lunch break, however, we had to shed our armor and return to work.
Late Sunday afternoon we had our last Great Desert War Councill meeting. We counted the gate money and discussed the expenses of the war. Elgil brought up the fact that he had to be back to work Monday morning and wanted to make sure that his remaing duties would not be neglected. Kirby’s hands were already full, and since I was the next person that knew the site well, the duties were handed to me. We then provided a discreet, but heavily armed escort for the money to the vehicle that was taking it off site.
Elgil and I discussed what was left to close up the site on Monday as he packed. As he hopped in his truck to leave, he told me to check the fuel supply for the generator; he was worried that we were getting low. After he left I headed out to check the generator and determined that there was not enough fuel to last us through Monday. Back in camp we discussed our options and decided to shut off the generator at 9 pm and not restart it until 8 am Monday morning, then cycle it the rest of the day to keep pressure in the water tank.
Heralds were sent to the tower and around camp to announce that the generator was to be shut off; once the water pressure had dropped there would not be any water until 8 am. People were encouraged to fill any and all water containers they would need before 9 pm. At the appointed hour I was at the generator waiting for the pressure to build and the pump to cycle off before I shut it off. I then transferred all the remaining fuel to the generators tank and took the key to the generator. We knew that with this being the last tank of fuel if any one messed with the generator it would be a disaster. I returned to camp and hoped for an uneventful evening. I do not remember many details from that evening, just it being a very nice evening and being very tired.
I spent the night in the tower. The next morning I was awakened to my brother Aladric knocking on the door. When I answered the door Aladric announced people need water. I checked my watch it was 8:10 am! I quickly threw on a tunic, grabbed the key, and shot down the ladder! As I jogged to the well I passed some people standing around a water faucet, one with a toothbrush. “Pressure in five”, I said as I kept jogging. I started the generator, switched on the pump, and watched for the pressure to rise, then went to camp for breakfast.
I left the generator running for about an hour while we had breakfast, then I started a regiment of running the generator until the water tank had full pressure and shutting it off until pressure was low to conserve fuel for the rest of the day. That regiment allowed me to keep water on site all day with less than a tank of fuel.
We packed up our camp then hung around to oversee the site and everyone else as they played and packed up. Late that afternoon when there were only a few people left on site and not much left to do, Aladric and I agreed that it was time to go home. We checked with Kirby and he told us that he had things under control and to have a safe trip back.
Chapter 4: The Dismantling of the Dream
And the Disappointment of Estrella
We traveled in a caravan back from Great Desert War II with members of House Drachenstern and Dreiburgen, stopping at the Carle’s Jr. of Blythe which was our standard rest point to and from the war site. I figured I must have eaten lunch or dinner there at least 25 times in the past year. We sat in our usual booth in the back, discussing our thoughts about GDII and what our priorities should be for the coming year. We were all in agreement that the lack of showers at the site seemed to be the largest point of concern and complaint, and that this piece of construction should be the priority for the coming year.
I thought about the first war that I had attended. It was at a horse ranch in Redlands. They had run a garden hose from the house, split it into four short hoses with garden nozzles, and rigged curtains on top of pallets. Everyone kept commenting about how great it was to have showers on site! I had gathered from all those comments that prior to that site most wars had not had showers, and I knew for a fact that Burro Creek did not.
Now mind you, there was shower access at the Great Desert War site; you just had to jump in your car and drive two miles to the Prickly Pare trailer park in Bouse where we had arranged with the owners to use their hot showers. As I recall the lines were shorter than the lines at Potrero. We had considered rigging temporary cold showers on site, but were blocked by a La Paz county ordinance that stated, “Once water has passed over the human body it is considered gray water and must trapped in a septic system”. So any construction of showers would require digging a large hole and building a septic tank with leach lines. Thus far there had been no time or money for such an undertaking. Construction of a sprinkler system would also be a must, allowing us to plant grass and cut down on the sand. Even we would not want to continue supporting the site if it stayed that sandy.
Later that week I called Elgil to ask him when we would be traveling to the site to review it and lay plans for the coming work parties. He said that he wanted to hold off because both kingdoms were being non-committal about Great Desert III, and he did not want to pour more labor into the site if they would just pull the plug. What troubled him most was not the possibility of the royals cutting us off, but the fact that we could not get a straight answer. It was one “We will get back to you later, ” after another.
The closest thing we got to an answer was during G.D. II when one royal peer scooped up a handful of sand, let it sift through his fingers, and said “It’s a desert. It always has been a desert. It always will be a desert”. We were rather taken aback by the tremendous short-sightedness of this statement. Considering that most of the southwest is a desert, the only difference between the site and a county park was irrigation. Now that the well was functioning we would have irrigation, but I guess you would have to be either blind or ignorant to not see that.
We continued to inquire as to the kingdoms’ decision over the next few months, but the answer remained the same. End of February “We’ll get back to you later,” March “We’ll get back to you later,” April “We’ll get back to you later.” As May was approaching we realized that it was becoming too late to do the construction plans we had for that year, so the answer must be no. The complete lack of chivalry and decency by not giving us a straight answer was most upsetting, and had me rethinking whether this club was worth putting up with the hypocrisy. If it wasn’t for the fact that there were good people in Dreiburgen and it was fun place to play, I most likely would have quit the SCA.
Early in May of ‘84 (AS XIX)
We decided to cut our losses. Kirby had offered to trade for the towers that house Drachenstern had built, and we went out to dismantle them and move them to Kirby’s residences. Elgil, Roger, Eadwynne and Duncan took on the arduous task. I had to work and was unable to help. They removed the third floor battlements on the first tower, cut loose the second floor walkway between the towers, disassembled the frame for the second tower, and cut the first tower loose from its foundation, laying it sideways onto a large flatbed truck. They then took it a mile down the road to Kirby’s where they stood it up on a new foundation; it now serves as Kirby’s bedroom and Laurie’s workshop. (All in less than 24 hours! This is an accomplishment, so I don’t feel bad bagging about it.) On the last trip out Elgil looked in his rearview mirror at the Great Desert sign. He backed up the truck, set up a ladder and took it down. The last one to leave really did take down the sign.
It wasn’t until November AS XIX that we received an official answer. Rumors were rampant that there would be no war in February, so in the November Crown Prints this notice appeared:
From the Crown Prints November 1984 page 6
For the record we were never told “No, we will not use the Great Desert site again,” even though they were planning to use another site. You can only imagine what a knife in the back that felt like. Maybe I’m being unfair; perhaps they just lacked the spinal fortitude to say “NO” to our faces. After all, it is a hard word to say. Look at it! It has an entire syllable. “No”. It was after this announcement that we of the Great Desert War council were so upset that we declared a new brotherhood, The Order of the Golden Screw. No explanation necessary.
The December Crown Prints announced the new site — Estrella Mountain Park. The site fee was the same as G.D. II, $6 per person, and you know the Parks Department received their cut. Now, do you suppose that Estrella Mountain Park used their profits for SCA friendly park improvements? Of course they did! Nothing says Medieval like baseball diamonds and a smaller battlefield!
I would like you to ponder one thing: what do you think a private piece of land with annual improvements all tailored to SCA needs, built with the proceeds that Estrella Mountain Park has collected from SCA members for the last 20 years would look like today?
Many people wonder why I rarely attend Estrella War and do not show much support for it. That’s because when I look round the site and see a mundane park with thousands of people paying high site fees, I think what we could have had and threw away. I’m torn between crying and being sick. Besides, Estrella Mountain Park is “a desert. It always has been a desert. It always will be a desert”.
The following is a list of all the people that signed in during work parties from February 26, 1983 (AS XVII) to February 18, 1984 (AS XVIII) (There were work parties before I started keeping records, but I can’t even guess at how many.) I apologize for any misspellings; I was reading people’s handwriting.
|Workers||# of work parties attended||Other|
|Elgil Mardil of Dor-Mallos||21*||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Malcolm Alberic||14*||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Roger de Boeuf||10*||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Aladric of Litchfield||10*||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Alphonso Chavez De Casoan||8*||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Ivar Krigsvin||6*||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Ed from Starkhafn||6*|
|Eric der Bereitschaft aus Kreuztal||5||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Leyanna aus dem Dorenwald||4||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Duncan Brock of Greyfeather||4||from Dreiburgen|
|Thomas DeGuy Bassard||4|
|Gyzha of the Bows||3|
|Ciet Ailise nic Andris||3|
|Rodrick the Sly||3|
|Lei Chiane Len||2|
|Elwyn Dug ae||2|
|Carole the Gum||2|
|Sigfried of the Black Glade||2|
|Eadwynne of Runedun||1||Dreiburgen Engineer|
|Randon Pace||1||from Dreiburgen|
|Dofydd of Gwynedd||1|
|Ian Wallace of Llawhcden||1|
|Kathleen of Lavender Fields||1|
|Maeve of Killarrey||1|
|Al Miksl Classue||1|
|Garth the Wanderer||1|
|Courtiney De Womwell||1|
|Mary Margaret of Duerby||1|
|Maurine Fionne Hoclaven||1|
|Rotwulf Von Geisstberg||1|
|Father Gregor Kakutshige||1|
|Candy Chavez||1||from Dreiburgen|
(*) = Member of the Order of the Silver Spade, an unofficial award given by the Great Desert War Council.
In spring of 1985
Elizabeth Scott of Berwick talked me into blowing off Collegium to visit Kirby and show her the war site, so on March 16 I returned to the Great Desert War site. The well pump was missing. Our towers were gone. Paint was peeling. Brush was growing on both forts. After more than a year of neglect the site looked like just what it was: a broken dream. I decided that I should have something by which to remember all the hard work, and looked at the remaining road signs. I wanted Dead Man Road that marked the road to Dunraven Keep, but it was already gone. I went to the corner of Kings Road and Aten Road. I removed the Kings Road sign with care from its post, and now it is mounted in my living room above the kitchen door as a reminder.
Thus ends my Odyssey! Not with victory of strength and marksmanship over axe heads, but shattered on the rocks of the Sirens! At the end of this journey I made a vow that should I ever achieve a leadership status in any club or organization, I would never be so callus or short-sighted of the work of others, as others have been with mine!
Yours in service of dreams, Baron Malcolm Alberic