Burrow Creek Canyon War

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(Originally posted on the old Kingdom Historian page and used with permission)

Burro Creek Canyon War Febuary 18 - 20, 1978

Submitted by Mistress Tessa of the Gardens

Click here to see a report of this event from the History of the Kingdom of the West

The first time Ansteorrans went to war clothed in gold war tabards with the Black Star design, Mistress Janet' made many of those tabards along with Mistress Nerak and Lady Mellusine for 1978 Burro Creek Canyon War in Arizona. Janet' and Telbryne were two among the ten Ansteorran warriors dressed out in those fine bright, intimidating gold war tabards.

Who standing here today was among those 10 warriors? "Then" titles:

  • The first Prince of the Principality of Ansteora, Prince Sir Sean Mac Fflamm, out of Bryn Gwlad;
  • Sir Simonn of Amber Isle, out of Bordermarch;
  • Lord Telbryne Morningstar (later Laurel);
  • Lady Janet' Virago Parva of House Morningstar (later a Pelican and Laurel);
  • Lord Robert Helmanstal/known as Galvanized (later a Knight);
  • Lord John the Plain (later a Knight);

all 4 of Stargate;

  • Lord Jan w Orzeldom of Bjornsborg (later, a Baron and King);
  • Lord Godfrey de la Fosse (later Laurel);
  • Lord Otto the Merciless;
  • Otto's brother Charles;

3 from the Shadowlands.

Those 10 were recognized in Caid as "Ansteorra's Golden Shield Wall." From those 10, eight were or became peers of the realm.

Ansteorra's Golden Shield Wall Song:

Words by Simonn of Amber Isle:

Ten Men were charged to hold the center of Atenveldt's line,
Ten men, strong and stalwart
Who bore the BLACK STAR design.
Golden-clad warriors, silent and ready,
Defended a rise in the field,
A rock to be taken, if battered and shaken,
Ansteorra never will yield! 
Aye-yah!  West Kingdom, we stand ready 
To give you the death you desire.
Take, if you can, this hill that we man,
Ansteorra will never retire!

Two Western dukes and a host led the attack,
Bypassing the BLACK STAR's stand..
The Westerners chose Atenveldt's flank
Engaging the stubborn Outlands,
Then wave upon wave the Westerners came,
To break the BLACK STAR line,
The battle was heavy, Ansteorra's levy 
Made the BLACK STAR shine!

Aye-yah!  West Kingdom, we stand ready 
To give you the death you desire.
Take, if you can, this hill that we man,
Ansteorra will never retire!"

In 1979, later, at the Second Burro Creek War, King Martin of Caid spoke of Ansteorra's Golden Shield Wall as "the stuff of legend," and Caid remembered it as such.

That shield wall was golden because of the tabards!

A “No S There I Was” Story of The Burrow Creek Canyon War

Ansteorra didn’t stay a principality for long before becoming a kingdom. Before that, she was a named region for only a short span of time before becoming a principality. Impatience was a notable trait of the People of the Star, for good or ill.

We were a principality when Atenveldt negotiated its first war with the West, Burro Creek I. It was only right that our first prince should bring a force to support the mother kingdom. There are written accounts and even songs and poems describing the stand of the Black Star’s reinforced, golden shield wall on a small rise in the center of the main battle of the war. We were a mere eight combatants, including our Prince, Sir Sean, and the Baron of Bordermarch, Sir Simonn, and me, Lord Jan, with my not-quite-a-year-old AoA. I have several memories of those glorious four days. This, with some stage setting, is only one of those stories. Our household was planning to attend, but six weeks before the war, Red Orm (now Orm Skjoldbidig) declared that he would be unable to attend. We had wanted to show up well turned out before the old kingdoms to make Ansteorra “look better.” Since he couldn’t go, he and I undertook the task of making me a suit of threequarters plate.

You couldn’t just buy good armor in those days. I don’t think Kirby Wise was even doing business on commission yet. And six weeks is a ridiculously short period of time for such a project, even if we had proper tools and equipment. However, applying the “fake it and make it” philosophy and working ridiculously far into the early hours of some mornings, we completed the task.

The armor included a peaked, lobster-tailed helmet with a removable face plate. A full gorge rose from the breastplate and covered my face to the nose. It was designed to accommodate the etched large gorget that I already had. Most of the gorget’s coverage was redundant, but it looked good with the ensemble. Rondels covered the front of the openings beneath the arms. The back plate hinged like a door and buckled at the side so that I could get into it without help. The shoulder pieces were layered metal that was ground, shaped, and etched to resemble lions’ masks. The shoulder cops were a little bit small, but time constraints prohibited any thought of a redo. Strips of studded leather dangled from the lions’ mouths, ala a portrait of Jan Sobieski, over fully articulated arms. We didn’t finish gauntlets, but I rationalized that it was, after all an affection of some noble Polish hussars to wear kid gloves into battle. That and the fact that armor standards didn’t require hand protection in those days anyway. Also, see the time constraints mentioned above. The breastplate also blended with a series of articulated lames that allowed flexibility from the short ribs to the pelvis. We made up the manner of articulation and didn’t decorate this part of the armor. If we’d had more time, it would have been more like historic examples. Shaped tassets covered the thighs; there just wasn’t time to attempt a more elaborate construction. All exposed edges, except for the lion heads and the lames, were carefully hammer-rolled which took a great deal of scarce time.

At this point I was down to one functioning shield, a heater, so I “naturally” added another side project… my first Hungarian Wing shield. We used innovative construction methods, of course, making it a more difficult project than just a simple shield would have been. It’s still usable today. All this was something of an accomplishment, considering that both of us had fulltime jobs with often irregular hours, not to mention other commitments. All it took was a lack of good sense and creative enthusiasm.

So, there I was driving from San Antonio, Texas, to a war on the California border, with armor that I had only tried on in fittings and never used. Somewhere near the New Mexico–Arizona border, my heater shield slid off the roof rack, leaving a scratch on the car and the new shield of unusual characteristics as my only option. It was the last item finished of our projects. And, oh, yes! Everyone else in and around Bjornsborg decided at the last minute that they weren’t going. I drove a borrowed car the whole way nonstop. Well! A nap or two at rest stops, especially on the way back.

In those days The Rules of the List were much less detailed. Armor standards and conventions varied greatly from kingdom to kingdom and much had to be worked out ahead of time. This being the first war between Atenveldt and the West, it was decided that dukes would “choose up” sides, similar to sandlot baseball before the first battle. The idea was to get everybody more used to each other. A duke picked me as “The guy in the beautiful armor,” thus largely fulfilling my original intent for making it.

Now unto the “no shit there I was” part of this story. In the course of the day, I was assigned to a unit led by Sir Simonn. He turned to me and said, “Just follow me, I’m going through their line!” Then he took off. His “wolf eared” shield largely wrapped around him as he blew through the first line, and with a stutter step, he penetrated the second. The fellow to his left tried to hit him in the back as he went by. I was armed with a sword that I had named “Black Dog” because it liked to bite legs. This time Black Dog bite a forearm and the westerner backed away. To the right was a swordsman who had been rocked on his heels by his impact with Simonn. Now Black Dog is a short weapon, well suited to infighting, and I launched into the swordsman with a flurry of blows and soon he was backpedaling.

The battle ground was a broad streambed floored with sand, gravel, and cobble. Water had cut ridges from about one to four feet high, sometimes forming raised “islands” such as the one that our “golden wall” defended later that day. I pressed my opponent, who seem to want to plant his feet and “gun” at me. Guess what! Given the footing described above, he fell over.

Now, I had put my blade on him a couple of times but was in no way sure whether he was acknowledging a blow or had just tripped. My shield has a curve built into it that allowed me to trap his sword arm without pressing into the flesh (arm protection wasn’t required in those days). I put my foot on his shield and squatted down. I asked, “Are you dead or do I still need to kill you?” He looked me in the eye and with sincerity said, “I think I’ll die.”

Oh yeah! Simonn! He said to follow him. Now, where did he go?

I looked around and the immediate area was deserted except for me, a couple of marshals going someplace, and a couple of the “dead” sitting down and taking off their helmets. The view was partially obscured by brush, so I headed off in the last direction I had seen Sir Simonn going.

In the first fight of the day, I had been in a group of five tasked with hunting down and taking out Duke Douglas Longshanks. Now, as I trotted along with a three-to-four-foot embankment with brush on the top to my left, who should I see in the distance but Duke Douglas Longshanks, wow! I had never even gotten near him in the earlier engagement, and he seemed like a worthy target to me. No one else seemed to be around, so I closed.

With a name like Longshanks, you could correctly assume that he was both taller and had reach on me. Even if all other things physique-wise were equal, his blade was noticeably longer than mine. He greeted me with a shot straight to the apparent “hole” that the wing shield leaves at the middle of my head. For the first time I saw an opponents’ weapon skid off my shield to the right, twisting clockwise in his hand. The wing had showed me one of its traits. Of course, I was able to finish closing then. But hey, this was a duke, I couldn’t land a thing on him. We broke apart and reengaged a couple of times. If you think this is a story about how I gloriously defeated a living legend, you’re wrong. While tied up with his grace, I suddenly heard a sound such as one hears in the soundtrack of old cheaply made Chinese movies, where a master leaps to the attack and his clothing rustles and snaps like a ship’s sail in a gale. Well, maybe I exaggerate a little. But I did hear someone jump down out of the brush on the ridge to my left. I parried a spear thrust as I broke away.

The newcomer was dressed in black with long flowing sleeves. Though I didn’t analyze it at the moment, heraldically on his chest was a broad gold bend and three bright red estoiles. The usual inexperienced or moderately experienced SCA spearman will shelter behind the shield man and try to pick you off with a quick thrust when you get distracted. This worthy, however, knew exactly what he was doing and calmly walked to my right, positioning himself just as I was taught in bayonet training in Quantico, Virginia.

Quite simply, I was had. Even if I was inclined to break and run, ill-padded threequarters plate isn’t going to enhance mobility. I chuckled and stuck my face forward and went, “GRRR!” I tried to jink once and intended to rush the shieldman, but the spearman calmly put his spear in my face. I saw it coming but just missed my block. It was just a matter of time anyway.

I didn’t recall if the guy in black had a coronet or not on his mantling, but the arms stayed with me. They seemed familiar. I was a herald at time and such things stuck with me. Then I figured it out. In those days there was a hardcopy SCA “Fighter’s Handbook.” On the cover was a cartoon showing a small fellow in shoddy armor frantically reading a book while a huge looming figure stood across a list field with his hands resting on a big sword. The figure had the same device on his tunic as the fellow in black at the war. Duke Paul of Bellatrix.