A program launched by the armed services identified promising young men and sent them to college for specialized training for the war. Minnesotans Bernie Lieder and Sherman Garon were two student soldiers who the Army sent to college. But urgent manpower needs ended the wartime higher education program.
A secret society based on brotherhood and swordsmanship has been quietly operating in Bemidji for more than seven years. But the Swashbucklers' Guild will be quiet no more. On October 15th and 16th, the Equinox Duello brought their talents and charitable intentions out of the shadows.
They couldn't have picked a more appropriate venue for their competition. The Bemidji Masonic Temple offered the right amount of mystery and Medieval feel for such an event. Though the competitors' names remained unsaid, the Bemidji Swashbucklers' Guild chief did make his identity known to me.
And Liend has an impressive list of credentials in the world of stage swordplay. He's been as far as Thailind to instruct theatrical combatants in addition to work with actors at the the Long Lake stock theater near Park Rapids and last year's Camelot cast at Bemidji High School. Liend's experience with these techniques led him to think about how else he could honor the traditions of warriors past.
Kirk Karstens has worked with Bemidji fencers for eight years. His experience extends back to Chicago's Windy City Sword Club and the University of Minnesota. Karstens also has stage coaching experience, most recently with the Bemidji Community Thtr's "Pirates of Penzance." Karstens gives a brief primer to the assembled audience.
Q, the nom de guerre of our guide Jeremiah Liend, salutes his opponent Veritas and engages, with his epee and buckler, or small shield. Veritas wields an epee and rapier, or short sword.
Q is assigned the color red. He takes an early deficit in the opening semifinal.
The match was competitive but Veritas emerged victorious, going on to face, and fall to, the other semifinal victor, called Butcher. Butcher attained the title of First City Duelist with the win. Jeremiah Liend pointed out that members of the swashbucklers' guild come from many walks of life and experience levels. One particular combatant stuck out in his mind for valor in the previous night's preliminaries.
With the first public event in the history books, The Bemidji Swashbucklers are deep into planning their Solstice Duello coming in December. This event will include a new spectacle they're calling Samurai Hockey, a capture-the-flag experience on ice. With swords. It has the sound of a disaster in the making... and a mess for the recreation department to chip out of the rink..., except for the deftness, mutual respect, and precise care these duelists possess.
Support for this segment comes from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.