Among the hundred people who took part in a fundraising hike up Mt. Battie last month was one man wearing a full suit of medieval armor. The host organization, The Hemophilia Alliance of Maine (HAM), has no formal affiliation with knights in shining armor. However, they are lucky enough to have one as a friend.
Chris Childs, the knight in question, is a longtime friend of the Packard family of Hampden. When Quinn Packard was born with hemophilia 11 years ago, Chris was there to support the Packard family in any way he could. He has been a staunch supporter of HAM since its inception, especially since Jill Packard was a co-founder.
HAM works to expand advocacy, education and assistance to the many families around the state of Maine who are affected by bleeding disorders. But Chris had never made it to HAM’s annual “Unite Hike” before this year, when two key elements of his life came together.
Chris Childs is the “seneschal,” branch president, of the Barony of Ende- wearde, the local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA. It is an educational organization with over 30,000 members worldwide. Their mission is not just to dress in pre- 17th century garb, but to teach and learn from history through active engagement.
Chris became intrigued by the spectacle of old world history in his youth,through the annual event called King Richard’s Faire in Carver, Massachusetts. Later, in Maine, he discovered the Barony of Endewearde and the SCA. The origins of the SCA in 1966 coincided with the back-to- the-land movement, Chris said.
“There is a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself) mentality,” he said.
Whether your interest is in sewing authentic medieval underwear, leather working or hammering steel into armor, the SCA activities involve education, hands- on-learning, and community gatherings. Although Chris considers himself a staunch pacifist, his main interest is in the SCA’s martial activities, the fighting.
“It’s good to know how if I have to,” he said.
Chris has fought with German broadswords and lances, and put 35-40 “cathartic” hours into hammering his first suit of armor. The armor Chris wore to hike up Mt. Battie, however, was purchased, and a bit more comfortable.
“Armor is less restrictive than cartoons lead you to believe,” said Chris.
Even so, it weighs 60 pounds and requires padded underlayers to prevent chafing.
So why was he hauling himself, sweating, up a small mountain in September? It served a dual purpose, Chris explained.
According to friends like Jill Packard, Chris is the quintessential giver. He’s the kind of person who hears, “I need help,” and answers, “What do you need?” Even his job at Penquis CAP offers the satisfaction of performing a needed service for someone each day.
Last summer, Chris was engaged in a self-training regimen to up his game on the SCA battlefield.
“Melees are my favorite,” he said.
He’d been taking armored walks around his Bangor neighborhood and the city forest, when he remembered the upcoming HAM fundraiser hike.
Chris approached Jill Packard and asked about contributing to the hike’s visibility this year by taking part in full armor.
“It combined two things, hiking and helping,” he said.
Chris’s presence on the trail attracted added attention, especially since an SCA friend, Lance Case, had also shown up in a handmade medieval garment called a “cotehardie” and “braies chausses” as underclothes. I witnessed many a quizzical stare as hikers coming down the mountain encountered the knight.
“You don’t see that every day,” said a passing hiker, grinning.
Chris didn’t stop to talk. He was concentrating on keeping upright, since hauling yourself off the ground wearing 60 pounds of armor isn’t easy. He only stopped once for a break, pulling off his helmet to reveal sweat-damped hair and a red face.
“How are you doing?” I asked. “I’ll feel it in my legs tomorrow,” he said. But when we laughed about the double-takes on the trail, Chris smiled.
“That was worth the price of admission,” he said.
No doubt, the friends and families of Maine residents with bleeding disorders agree. Their shining (sweating) knight added a new dimension to their hopeful day. On my way down the mountain, some hikers were still on their way up. One little girl on her dad’s shoulders looked at me anxiously.
“Do you know the real knight?” she asked excitedly. “Is he still there?”
I had just been taking his picture by the crenelated stone tower at the top. “I’m pretty sure he’s still there,” I said. And they hurried on, extra energy in Dad’s stride
Visit uniteforbleedingdisorders.org for more information.