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  • The title and the photo accompanying David’s piece, ‘Stuck in the Mud’, brought to mind an amusing episode about which I recently wrote in an essay I am composing for Al Olson's book on the history of Renaissance Faires in the U.S.A. I am compelled to share it with my Cowbird readers. I reckon a preface is in order.

    Here it is.

    Over the course of a decade, from 1977 to 1988 I attended and then worked for the Texas Renaissance Festival in every capacity from paying customer to contract performer to dump truck driver to Entertainment Director. As ED I answered only to George Coulam the developer, producer, owner and King of the state of the art theme park.

    I was responsible for all of the entertainment in the 65- acre village. I hired the professional variety acts like Johnny Fox the sword swallower, Ras Poppa: Master of the Whip and Bill ‘Merlin The Magician’ Palmer as well as musicians and bands like Cantiga, Sungarden and the Gypsy Guerilla Band. I created and scripted wandering village characters like the Washerwomen and The Just Desserts Fairy Tale Players.

    I wrote and directed an anachronistic take on the Robin Hood legend specifically tailored to the Texas audience titled, “Rodeo Hood and The Merry Buckaroos”. Directing the entertainment at TRF was the ideal gig for me. I was able to put into practice everything I had learned about writing, producing, directing and promoting during my previous career in broadcasting. I wrote all the time. I filled up many, many legal pads with notes, outlines and scripts. I learned new things about show business every day.

    I answered only to George. My partner, Cyndi King and I lived in a ninety-foot double-wide house trailer on the back-lot behind the faire site.


    I woke up on New Years Day of 1988 to the sound of Bill Potter knocking on my trailer door at sunrise. Bill is an artist, a sculptor of fountains in brass and bronze. He was also one of the very first of the TRF participants to move into the newly developed artist’s community subdivision that George had opened up in the wooded land behind the fair site itself. Toon Town as it has come to be known amongst the showfolk who have called it their home for twenty five years. Potter got lot number one. George gave lot #5 to Cyndi King and I some time in '87, I don't recall exactly when. We signed it over to Ken Carns when I jumped ship on George after the '88 season wrapped.

    It seems Mr. Potter had gotten his step van mired up to the axles in the river of mud that was Ren Faire drive at the time. He'd been on the road for days and had returned home in the wee hours of the morning ready for sleep. He was muddy and bedraggled but smiling. We had the technology to remedy his situation.

    There were 96 pieces of rolling stock at TRF. Dump trucks. Graders. Front-end loaders. Bull dozers. I decided to come to the rescue in the King's brand new John Deere tractor. I don't know what model it was. It was an enormous vehicle. It had eight rear wheels- double-axeled dualies! Access to the cab was via a six-foot ladder.

    Johnny Griffith, George’s maintenance man, had taught me to drive the Deere. I'd logged in a few hours in the cockpit but that was all on dry and level land. I was unprepared for the river of mud flowing down what was supposed to be a road.

    I was within 20 feet of Potter's van when I sank the John Deere right up to the dual axles. I killed the engine. I opened the cab and stepped out onto the mud. Couldn't even see the first step of the ladder. I recall that Antonio Albarran, and his daughter Elia, chugged by in his camper just about then. The tires of the old truck were plowing through the red muck like the paddle wheels on a steam boat. In less than one hundred yards the Albarran's were soon mired up to the axles in that bright red Todd Mission clay.

    I had to go wake up Johnny G. who got one of the big CAT bulldozers and some stout chains then pulled out George's tractor, Potter's step-van and Antonio’s camper.

    We had all the vehicles up by Johnny's trailer and, at Johnny's insistence, Potter was hosing off the John Deere when George pulled up in his truck. He stepped out quietly surveying the situation as is his wont, taking it all in, figuring out exactly what he thought was happening, who the players were, what they had in hand... (Sort of like the way he plays poker.)

    Johnny, Cyndi and I watched George but we didn't say a word. Bill was concentrating on the hose, the tractor and the task at hand. Half of George's brand new tractor was still covered in red mud the other half of it gleamed green and gold as the stream of water washed it clean.

    George didn't say a word until he'd walked completely around the tractor. He looked over at Johnny and me. He shifted his gaze to Cyndi and shook his head.

    Then he said, "Potter, that’s a sure fire way to get your ticket punched around here."

    Potter didn't know what to say. Johnny, Cyndi and I cracked up. It was a classic King George moment. Potter did not relax until he saw George smiling, too.

    No one got their ticket punched that day. Later on we feasted on black-eyed peas with ham hocks and gallons of sweet tea. It was an excellent beginning for the New Year.

    I'd still be searching my archives if I wanted to use a photo from the day in question. The image is a stock shot from
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