by John L. Fuhring

Roll ‘em.  Take One

     On Saturday morning we got up at 4:15 AM and at 5:00 we loaded into the bus for the long ride out to the set.  I very much wanted to immediately go out to feed the horses so they could have a chance to eat, but the rules (which our re-enactor coordinator was too gutless to demand a change) required that we eat then report to wardrobe, then to makeup and then we could see to the horses.  Because the horses were so far away, it was impossible to break these rules and get away with it.  Needless to say, the horses didn’t get time to eat very much before we were told to saddle up and ride off to the set.  It was a mighty poor way to treat our horses in my opinion.

    As mentioned before, the horseless member of our party was Greg.  After a considerable delay he received his rental horse from the professional horse suppliers (AKA: "The Wranglers").  This "wrangler horse" they gave to Greg was just barely "green broke" and was really unfit for use.  When Greg went to saddle it, the stupid thing reared and then nearly pulled our trailer off its supports.  It looked like a real serious situation for a minute or so until one of the wranglers got the horse under control.  They finally got the saddle on by untying the horse from the trailer and holding the lead rope so that it wouldn't panic and pull back.  While this was going on I was thinking how lucky it was that Greg and not I had to ride that bronco.  The horse was real nervous when Greg got on, but it did all right when we lined up into a column of twos and marched out.

     Our "captain" was given the word to speed up our arrival so he signaled us to go from a walk to a trot and then into a canter.  As soon as we changed into the canter all hell broke loose.  Greg had fastened his saddle's circingle (AKA, the overgirth - a safety device) in back of the main girth.  For the life of me, I don't know why so many cavalry reenactors fasten it that way except perhaps they think it performs the same function as the rear girth as on a western saddle.  The fact is, on a McClellan saddle, the circingle must be placed in front of the main girth or it will do no good at all and may become (as we shall see) a deadly hazard instead.  Well, when we started to canter, Greg's saddle slipped back and the circingle slipped over this already crazy horse's flanks.

     Having a strap around a horse’s flanks is what makes a bronco buck.  It is guaranteed to make even the best horse go berserk and that is just what Greg's horse did.  The horse started violently bucking, threw Greg on to the ground and very nearly killed him when the hoofs eventually (but only partially) connected with his skull.  The riders around Greg gave the bucking horse a lot of room, but loosely surrounded it to keep it from running off.  For a while, nobody could get near it for fear of being kicked, but the situation finally resolved itself as the horse stopped bucking and allowed itself to be caught.  Greg resaddled the horse and finally caught up with us later.  Greg was a little knocked in the head, but otherwise all right.

     While all this was going on I moved my horse out of line and slowly and carefully started over to where the action was to see if I could be of any possible assistance.  When I saw what caused the horse to go berserk (the misplaced circingle), my indignation got the better of me and I made a comment to anyone listening that we should never place the circingle behind the girth and what we were seeing is the result.  My friend Bob told me to just shut up, I didn't know what I was talking about and for me to not try to help with Greg’s horse.  One of these days Bob is going to get in with somebody like me, but without even my limited restraint and will get his teeth shoved all the way out his other end.  I must admit, I was sorely tempted on this occasion (once again).

     The set where the filming was to take place (about a mile from "Silverado") was very interesting.  There were two antique steam engines and associated rolling stock facing each other and made to look exactly as it should for the laying of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point Utah.  As a matter of fact, that was the scene that was being recreated.  Artimus Gordon (Kevin Kline) disguised as President Grant was to do the spike driving and we were his military escort.

    Kevin Kline sure got the "Royal Treatment".  Except for the brief time when the cameras were actually rolling, he was in an air conditioned tent.  When he left the tent he had a "understudy" hold a parasol over him and he was connected by plastic tubes to a source that circulated (what I think was) a cold gas through his costume.  Only at the last minute did he put on his formal frock coat. The makeup people would hover around his face until the very last second. The instant the take was over, off would come the frock coat and up would go the parasol.  It was most amusing to watch.

     As a matter of fact, us lowly cavalry men were not exempt from the makeup people either.  They had this guy with a small bag of a special kind of "movie" dirt.  He went around and dabed us with the bag to make us look like we had been doing some hard riding across the Desert Southwest.

     It was hot out there and everyone, men, women and children were dressed in full 19’th century attire.  In our case it was wool pants and wool jackets.  Some of the civilian extras fainted from heat exhaustion.  Us reenactors were of sterner stuff!  I had learned long ago to always have a canteen with you and use it freely, refilling it as necessary.  Never pass up an opportunity to drink water (or better yet, Gateraid) even if you aren’t thirsty.  If you’re drinking, you’re sweating and if you’re sweating you won’t get heat exhaustion (maybe).

     They tried several different experiments at filming and we spent the whole morning out in the hot sun with no chance to feed or water our horses until about noon time when we finally got the crew to bring a water tub down to the picket line.  It was sometime after lunch when Bob’s appy started acting funny.