I started buckskinning at age nine with my family. We went to a reenactment near Fort Atkinson, Iowa. Participants recreate the lifestyle in America before 1840.
We have a white canvas tent, cook over an open fire in a Dutch oven and try to use utensils appropriate to the time.
My dad is a blacksmith; my husband, a broom-maker; and my uncle does scrimshaw. I like educating people about the era.
It’s a complete step away from reality. There are no cell phones, and your watch goes away. For four days you’re disconnected – it’s just you and your family and friends. There’s a lot of talking, story-telling and catching up with friends. There are black powder rifle shoots, tomahawk and knife throwing contests, bow-shooting and frying pan throws for the women. Some reenactments have cannon shoots. We do a candy cannon – we fill a large cannon with candy, shoot it off and the candy sort of rains down on you. The kids love it. We’re in it for the fun.
I started pretty young competing with a bullwhip. It can be as simple as hitting an apple off a stump, when you get points depending on whether you hit the apple, slice it or make applesauce. In one competition, we had to hit a bandana out of a cardboard-cutout man’s back pocket and a cigar out of his mouth, without hitting the man. I won that competition. I’m the only woman who competes. I’m trying to get my nieces into it.
At one reenactment, we saw the Northern Lights, then that night it sleeted and snowed. We were so cold! We had one wood stove among four families. But we stayed and had fun. We dress for the weather. I sew a lot of our clothes and have made clothes for all my nieces and nephews. Now they’re growing out of them. That’s what’s nice about our community – they hand those clothes down to younger family and friends.
Rachel Wilson is a certified medical assistant in the DMU Foot and Ankle clinic. She got her husband, Richard “Kenny” Wilson, into buckskinning three months after they met; now, after 13 years of marriage, they took their seven-month-old son, Richard Jonathan, on his first buckskinning reenactment this summer. The Wilsons also are volunteer firefighters for Delaware Township in central Iowa.