|Camp Verde resident Richard Smith was 62 years old when he first discovered re-enacting. VVN/Bill Helm|
CAMP VERDE - Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Camp Verde resident Richard Smith was shopping in Black Canyon City.
"The store had a rack full of badges," he says. "So I bought one. Then I thought, 'Where am I going to wear this?'"
Soon thereafter, Smith was invited to a western show in Glendale. He ended up in costume, checking in people's guns as they came through the gate.
"It was a lot of fun," he says of his first re-enactor appearance, just three years ago. "You interact with the public. There's a lot of acting involved. And I enjoy that.
" ... and one thing led to another ... "
Smith is a member of the Verde Valley Peace Commission.
"We keep the peace," he says.
"Being a re-enactor gets in your system," he says. "There is a bug that bites you. With most re-enactors, it is a real passion. They go to great lengths, with hat, boots and guns; it all has to be period. If you want to be a silly footnote, wear plastic buttons on your shirt. If you're doing a competition, they'll mark you down."
Smith was 62 years old when he first discovered re-enacting. But this is not the first time he has performed in front of people.
As a younger man, Smith was a professional musician, a drummer. He says his experience playing music in front of people was "foundational" in his career as a re-enactor.
"Anytime you're in front of a live audience, you interact, you entertain," he says. "So you want to make sure that the people are entertained. With the band, my obligation was to play good music. But there was a lot of show stuff, too. Between songs, you're waving at the audience, tossing drumsticks into the audience and signing the occasional shoe thrown onto the stage."
As a re-enactor - and as a Verde Valley resident - Smith's desire is to "do something that enhances Fort Verde. I would like to greet people and add some flavor. This is an Old West town."
Ron Brattain, president of the Camp Verde Historical Society, says he would like to see Smith represent the community as a re-enactor.
"I think it's a great idea," Brattain says. "It would be wonderful. And I would like to join him once in awhile."
Though re-enactors are dressing up, Smith says that the guns are real. And need to be treated with care and caution.
"If I am firing at you, I will fire either five feet to your right or five feet to your left, but never directly at you," Smith says. "Safety is our No. 1 deal."
Smith says that the Verde Valley Peace Commission is always adding new members.
"We're open for anyone who wants to participate," Smith says. "We'll provide training. It's fun!"