Actors get creative with weapons trainingWhile visiting a South Dakota park over the summer, I witnessed actors in a “shootout” between a “sheriff” and a “gunslinger.” I asked who makes sure people in the audience don’t get hurt, and there was no satisfactory answer. Since then, I’ve been concerned who oversees such events that could be dangerous.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
While visiting a South Dakota park over the summer, I witnessed actors in a “shootout” between a “sheriff” and a “gunslinger.” I asked who makes sure people in the audience don’t get hurt, and there was no satisfactory answer. Since then, I’ve been concerned who oversees such events that could be dangerous.
The men in my family were/are hunters, I married one and my children and I were always in the field with the dogs during season. Target practice is still a part of our family activities. Safety was and is preeminent. I do targets with my kids and like any well-crafted wood and metal workmanship, find antique guns to be beautiful examples of functional art.
I learned recently that the National Parks Service conducts an annual firearms training school for National Park Service rangers as well as other state and heritage preservation employees. And besides learning how to properly pack paper cartridges with black powder for a Civil War era 45-70, the students must don appropriate period costumes and conduct duels, shootouts and use proper safety practice in historically correct costumes, uniforms using live ammunition and weapons. It’s about acting in period settings, but requiring authenticity and safety.
Rangers and supervisors connected with North Dakota’s national and state parks are responsible for overseeing the safety of actors and visitors alike when guns are used on those sites for re-enactments using historic characters carrying guns.
From late February through March 9, a black powder weapons training school took place at Fort McClellan Reserves Base in Anniston, Ala. Actors, park rangers, military site supervisors and lucky participants were chosen to participate. Unlike college acting classes, where theatrical history and acting experience are basics, using an actual weapon that could blow off a limb or kill a person is not part of a stage presentation. There’s no need for live ammunition training because it’s not used on stage.
Out in the wilds of North Dakota, however, there are opportunities for live ammunition or cannon fire to accompany a cowboy skit.
Steven Reidburn, former Jamestown resident and currently supervisor of historic Fort Buford (west of Williston), has returned from the school, newly certified to oversee all firearms use at that historic site as well as any state site where live ammunition may be used.
While treasurer at Fort Seward, here in Jamestown, he assisted in re-enactment skits and managing the archives in the museum at the interpretive center. A history major/art minor from Jamestown College, Reidburn was instrumental in initiating art exhibits and monthly musical programs at the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center (MYCK) at Fort Buford. He was responsible for bringing the great grandson of Sitting Bull, Ernie LaPointe, to Williston State College and MYCIC last summer during the 130th anniversary of Sitting Bull’s return to Fort Buford.
Most recently, he has been collecting data on the role of Fort Buford’s Buffalo Soldiers and their commanding officer, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing for an interpretive center installation at Fort Buford. Reidburn wrote a booklet “Facts and Figures of Fort Seward” prior to being selected by the State Historical Society of North Dakota for its annual history award for people who, over time, have been instrumental in communicating to others the importance of historic preservation.
As a longtime member of the 20th Infantry and Fort Seward Reconstruction Committee, he has acted in historic roles, interpreted, demonstrated and shot his black powder long guns. He is now certified for the state of North Dakota, to supervise the safe use of weapons when they are fired at any state or federal military site and will travel to reenactments for that purpose as well as filling the part of historically significant characters who helped make Dakota Territory into the states of North and South Dakota.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.