Since my wife’s wedding anniversary last year was rather inexpensive, what with staying in a friend’s treehouse and dining on Beanie Weenies, I decided to take her someplace special this year. Which is why we wound up in Dallas, staying at a hotel whose standards were clearly far too high for its management to have allowed us within three blocks of its premises. But we did not risk death on Interstate Highway 35 just to pay $14 for an appetizer consisting of two tortilla chips topped with guacamole and small pieces of meat at the Fairmont Café.
I had previously booked us two tickets to the dinner theater at Medieval Times. You can’t miss the castle, sitting right beside IH35, with its moat, pennants, and crenellated walls. We had heard about the place, but had never been. I decided to surprise my wife by taking her there, which was a good choice, since I earned valuable brownie points out of the deal.
At first, when I booked the tickets, I assumed the price included airfare to England and the destrier of your choice. Unfortunately that is not the case. They do, however, put on a good show for a few hours, and the castle is somewhat air-conditioned.
Our instructions said to show up an hour and a half before the show started, which we did. This was to allow sufficient time for us to spend whatever money we had left on plastic swords and other souvenirs, and drink several five-dollar cokes. I think the idea was to make us feel, as much as possible, like actual medieval people, who evidently had no money.
Since I had splurged and paid extra so we would be seated front row center during the performance, in the King’s Royal Court, they took our picture as soon as we got inside the castle. They put fancy robes (very hot robes, so we would get thirsty) and crowns on us, and stood us in front of a blue sheet hanging on the wall for the picture. But when we got the prints they showed us standing in front of a roaring fireplace, with dangerous looking swords and hauberks and such on the walls. Neat trick.
Since we had a lot of time to kill we decided to pay two bucks apiece and go through the Museum of Torture, which was pretty gruesome. It’s amazing how many ways people figured out, back during medieval times, to inflict pain on one another. After a few minutes I decided they should have paid us two dollars each to look at that stuff. The only thing missing was a newspaper editor with a blue pencil.
We were finally allowed to go into the arena and sit down, and our waiters came around and told us how things were going to work. The meal came in stages during the show. They brought soup, half a baked chicken, a small spare rib, a piece of garlic toast, and a wedge of baked potato, with an apple fritter for dessert. What they did not bring was silverware. We had to eat with our hands, which is what medieval people did in our situation (no money).
The arena was about the size of a football field, and the show started with a grand entrance, like a rodeo, involving lots of horses and flags and such. The king officiated, and then went to sit on his throne at one end of the arena. The knights all came out and were introduced, and ours was the black & white knight. We were supposed to cheer for him and boo the others. Like a hockey match.
There was a story to the whole thing, but the plot escapes me. The prince was captured by some bad guys at the beginning, and then the green knight, an emissary from a neighboring king, mouthed off, respectfully, at the king and the rest of the knights, and started a big competition. People didn’t get along well in the middle ages, but they did it politely.
So the knights had their tournament. They swapt at each other with swords. They poked at one another with hauberks. They swung maces and threw shields and did summersaults in the sand. They hurled javelins and grabbed flags and skewered little rings from poles with their lances while galloping on their horses. They even jousted, and their lances splintered, and they were knocked tail over teakettle off their mounts. It was great fun.
At one point a fellow brought a falcon out, and it flew around the arena. Another time the prince, who must not have been quite as captured as we first thought, came out on a trained Andalusian horse that did a bunch of impressive tricks. Other Andalusians put on a show, and, most admirably, never once soiled the arena.
If you get a chance, you need to go to Medieval Times. And if you do, and your waiter happens to be a nice kid named Dustin, ask him if he got the raise I told his boss he should get.
And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sneak a knife and fork in there. Or at least a can of Beanie Weenies . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who has never lost a swordfight. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org