Are you familiar with the term “mudder”? Originally it applied to a racehorse that ran well on a muddy or otherwise difficult track. Nowadays its meaning has expanded to include pickup trucks with the same capability. The newest twist is “Tough Mudder,” a $250 million industry in the United States, with over two million participants annually. It involves navigating a series of obstacles filled with, or covered in . . . mud.
I’ve come to believe that my hobby, Civil War re-enacting, entitles me to establish a brand-new category of this pursuit, “Re-enactor Mudding.” The rationale for doing so might seem a trifle arcane, but hear me out.
Regardless of the area of the country in which re-enacting takes place, the season generally follows its historical antecedent. This means that participants “campaign” from late spring to late fall. Now, re-enactors don’t expect always to be battling under sunny skies, amid balmy temperatures. During my years in the hobby I have had experienced a wide spectrum of weather conditions, from a frosty night spent in a sunken Tennessee farm road in October to 106-degree daytime temperatures at the height of a Virginia summer.
I have to say that I put up with being cold or hot pretty well. However, I am not a big fan of being muddy and wet. Case in point: a mid-September event in Michigan at which the above photo was taken. Arriving at the Union camp site the previous evening, I had just started setting up my canvas dog tent when the skies opened. The rain pelted down as a pard and I struggled to erect the tent. Despite being sheltered by trees our clothes were instantly dripping and water flowed around – and over – our brogans.
The travail didn’t end once the tent was in place. In our haste to escape the deluge we hadn’t hammered the tent stakes in all the way; heavy raindrops pounding the gap between the edge of the canvas and the ground sent sprays of muck inside my humble abode. I managed to put down a groundcloth, upon which I placed my musket, haversack, accoutrements, knapsack, blankets, etc. It was quite a feat to arrange my possessions in such a way that they were only dampened in the succeeding hours.
My reward for all this labor was to pass the rainy night, occupying an ever-decreasing area of semi-dryness in the tent, listening to the streams that gurgled around it. As the photo attests I survived the ordeal!
Perched in a camp chair as my coffee warmed that morning I was struck by the need to describe people that got through the kind of mud bath I saw all around me. That’s when Re-enactor Mudder came to mind. I find it a good, sturdy term for what I’d been through. I will be waiting for its use to become widespread enough for inclusion in the famed Oxford English Dictionary.