By Caleb R. Johnson | Selma Times-Journal

Published Saturday, April 18, 2009

Arnold Brunk sat in the afternoon shade and licked a vanilla ice cream cone. The 78-year-old drove all night from northeast Missouri to attend the Battle of Selma. Sleep-deprived and bleary-eyed, Brunk set up his white canvas tent and cooked a few batches of kettle corn. Then he caught up with some friends and stared out across a rolling field.

“I’m almost tired,” Brunk said.

Vendors pitched tents, erected booths and displayed their wares as the Battle of Selma began Friday. There was no cannon fire, but people browsed items ranging from replica Civil War muskets to homebrewed root beer. The vendors enjoyed as much as those who attended.

“Selma has just been one place we’ve always enjoyed coming,” Margaret Miller said.

Miller and her husband, Skip, own Dixie Gun Works. They sell replica Civil War firearms and firearm accessories. A row of black powder muskets stood at the front of the tent and some revolvers hung from a rack at the back. The couple, which has attended the event for about 20 years, said they were upset to learn the re-enactment’s future was in doubt for a short while.

“We want them to keep it going,” Margaret said. “Because we want to keep coming back.”

Just across the lawn, Fall Creek Suttlery offered just about everything a Civil War re-enactor could use – from wide-brimmed hats to gray wool shirts.

“You can walk in here and walk out fully clothed,” owner Andy Fulks said.

Fulks first came to the Battle of Selma in 1988. He said he loves to wander around town and look at the old buildings. Selma’s Civil War history is well preserved, Fulks said.

“This is a really cool place,” he said. “You can actually be where history happened.”

Mel Theisen stood behind a wooden bar lined with blue glass bottles. For the last 20 years, Theisen and Patty Mertz have traveled to re-enactments across the country, brewing beverages on site. For a large event, Theisen said they brew as much as 60 gallons. They fill up the thick glass bottles with black and stout root beer, and folks return with empties in hand.

“People bring the bottles back year after year,” Theisen said.

Mertz said friendly people, beautiful grounds and an entertaining battle were a combination that could not be beat.

“I do about 10 shows a year, and I always put this as one of the best ones,” she said.

Brunk, Theisen and Mertz sat in a circle right at the edge of the battlefield. The trio laughed and talked about memories from past re-enactments.

“You may have noticed we have a prime location,” Mertz said.

Brunk said it was the perfect spot to watch the sky turn black as the cannons boom.

“That black powder makes a lot of smoke,” he said.