February 23, 2013

'Living history' comes to Augusta armory's outdoors show

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- Gomer sizes up the throw and nudges the boy in a few inches. He takes a tomahawk and hands it to the lad, who takes it, lifts it over his shoulder past his ear, and uncoils the throw, launching the small ax to the waiting pine slab. It sticks.

click image to enlarge

Molly Turnbull, 7 of Knox, left, tosses a tomahawk at the target, after getting instructions from David "Gomer" Bryant, right, during the Ancient Ones of Maine Sport and Gun Show on Saturday at the Augusta Armory. Bryant, of Mount Vernon, said that he's been doing the throwing demonstrations for more than 20 years.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

The boy smiles, and Gomer gives him another ax to heave.

"Normally, in three tries I can get you to stick it," Gomer says proudly.

Gomer, known in workaday life as Dave Bryant of Mount Vernon, is a re-enactor with the Ancient Ones of Maine, a pre-1840s living history club. His tomahawk-tossing lessons have become a staple at the Ancient Ones Outdoors Sports and Gun Show, being held this weekend at the Augusta Armory.

The show continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

"It's the best show out there," said director Ray Hamilton, another member of the Ancient Ones history group. "It's not just a gun show."

A survey of the approximately 80 vendors who man the 135 tables offers proof of Hamilton's point. There are certainly enough guns, rifles and bullets to keep an enthusiast busy for hours, but other vendors, making up about half of the total, offer a variety of products, from leather and wood products, such as snowshoes and belts, to historical maps. Much of what is available has been crafted by hand. And there is something for all ages, such as Bryant's tomahawk throwing and storytelling for children.

"There are people who come back just for the bread," Hamilton said, pointing to a nearby table stacked high with homemade loaves. "There's a guy up there selling caskets. That's something you just don't see."

Mark Kerns, of Thorndike, had two of those wood caskets on display on the stage as he sat and strummed a guitar made especially for him by a friend. One of the caskets was fashioned into a gun rack. The second -- a 6-foot model held together by wood pegs and hinges -- was open and ready for a customer.

"Someone will buy one someday," Kerns said wryly.

Kerns has pictures of other caskets he has crafted, one of which he made specifically for multiple uses.

"You can use it as a table when you're alive and when you're not you can hop in," Kerns said. "I have fun making them. It's an interesting conversation piece."

This is the second year Kerns has displayed his work at the Ancient Ones show.

"It's a lot of fun here," he said. "There are a lot of nice people."

Hamilton said the shows began about 17 years ago when the folks in his living history group decided to put together a black power show. The show has moved a few times since then, but it has been held at the armory for at least a decade.

"I've worked to improve the show ever year," Hamilton said. "If you don't find something interesting we'll give you your money back."

Hamilton said the idea is to raise just enough money to support the Ancient Ones' activities in the coming year. Rates for vendors, he said, are very reasonable and admission to the show is $6 for adults. Children, National Guardsmen, active duty military and their families all get in free. Last year the show attracted more than 3,000 people over the course of two days.

"The whole mindset is to get people through to the vendor and have a good time," Hamilton said. "Just about everybody who comes through the doors enjoys it."

Craig Crosby -- 621-5642

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