Salesman By Day, Medieval Swordsman On The Weekend

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Morning Edition continues its series, "Alter Egos," which explores weekend hobbies, with David Greene talking to Medieval re-enactor Franklin Slaton of Birmingham, Alabama.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We recently called up a man named Franklin Slaton. He's from Birmingham, Alabama. I guess the question is who is his Excellency - is it Cynred of Gwent? - Do I have that right?

FRANKLIN SLATON: Cynred with a...

GREENE: Cynred.

SLATON: ...It's spelled with a C but a hard K sound.

GREENE: Cynred of Gwent - this is your alter ego?

SLATON: That'd be me.

GREENE: He's part of our series Alter Egos which explores weekend hobbies. Slaton sells large-scale industrial equipment during the week. But on weekends, he takes on a different persona - Baron Cynred of Gwent.

SLATON: He's the guy - who participates in a world wide organization called the Society for Creative Anachronism.

GREENE: That sounds important and almighty. What does it mean?

SLATON: Well it's a little tongue-in-cheek with its self-importance. Really, it's just a world wide group of medieval enthusiasts that have been around since the '60s.

GREENE: The 1960s we're talking about?

SLATON: Correct.

GREENE: Thinking medieval - I mean, it could be the, you know, 1560s or something like that.

SLATON: No, no, no - fair question - fair question.

GREENE: His Excellency is a swordsman. He goes to combat events that don't use real weapons, but things can get medieval. And so beneath his period clothing, he wears padding.

SLATON: So you've got a helmet. Your neck region has to be covered. Basically, all your joints - you know, elbows, knees - personal protection, obviously, and kidneys.

GREENE: How'd you get into the medieval scene?

SLATON: It's a great question to ask because if you ask any Scadian - that would be the initials of the Society for Creative Anachronism - SCA - if you ask a Scadian how'd you find out about the SCA, they'll start to tell the story in almost kind of hushed tones - you know, reverential - because it, for most of them - it's how they discovered this thing that's become an all-consuming hobby in their life. For me, I was a freshman in high school. And I was in the school library, and I just picked up a periodical at random. And it was a LIFE magazine. And there was a huge pictorial spread in the middle - grown men and women in, you know, medieval-style armor and just hundreds and hundreds of them battling out. And I had never seen it before, but I knew I had to do this.

GREENE: You all stay totally in character at these events over the weekend, right?

SLATON: Not really - I mean...

GREENE: Sort of.

SLATON: I am Baron Cynred of Gwent, yes. But, you know, it's not a lot of forsooth - you know, these and thou's.

GREENE: Because I heard that you sort of describe the outside world in a certain way when you're in character.

SLATON: People in the SCA refer to anything in your normal life as mundane. So you might ask, so how are things going in the mundane world for you? The fans of "Harry Potter," like, compare it to the word muggle.

GREENE: Was is it about the medieval part of this? - I mean what draws you to that?

SLATON: I think people love it for the same reasons that we like Westerns. It's a period in history where there was massive amounts of upheaval and just no rule of law in vast swathes of it. So it was dependent on a person to kind of make their own way. It's when heroes were made.

GREENE: When you're not sword fighting, how are you spending your time?

SLATON: When you're not sword fighting, you'd be back at camp, maybe, working on some type of leather work or wood work. But, quite frankly, the greater part of time not spent fighting is usually spent around a campfire kinking, drinking and talking about fighting.

GREENE: Well, that sounds good - I got a say. I might stick to that not the sword fighting. It sounds great.

SLATON: You've hit on it. That's the beauty of the SCA. You can beat a guy to death. You can kill him on the field, and then later that night, you hoist a beer with him.

GREENE: I love it.

SLATON: We've got a mead horn waiting for you.

GREENE: To take a drink from?

SLATON: A drinking horn, yes.

GREENE: Got it - that was his Excellency Cynred of Gwent, who's also known as Franklin Slaton of Birmingham, Alabama. A lot of fun talking to you, Franklin. Thank you.

SLATON: My pleasure, David.

GREENE: Thou art listening to NPR News.

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