I pulled into the parking lot Friday at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek just as the Civil War was breaking out in an adjacent field.
No sooner had I arrived than I was exposed to one of humanity’s great truths: The first casualty of war is . . . the car alarm.
Walking through the parking lot, I heard the explosion of field artillery and suddenly dozens of car alarms were going off all around me. It was just the beginning of a strange stroll through U.S. history.
Schnepf Farms was the venue for The American Heritage Festival, which ended Saturday. I was not there for the dramatic conclusion, but I suspect that the Japanese army, pinned down by the troops from the Army on Northern Virginia, was rescued at the last moment by a regiment of Great Britain’s Coldstream Guards.
During lulls between battles, it was not uncommon to see Revolutionary War-era British soldiers chatting up Marines from World War II. At the Civil War battle, three World War II-era Japanese soldiers watched impassively from the sidelines.
"This is kind of surreal, isn’t it?’’ said Tom Pappa, who spent the weekend at the event with his "Tonight Show With Jay Leno’’ crew. Pappa, whose oddball remotes are recurring features on the show, said his report from the event should air Thursday.
Pappa’s crew spent the better part of two days at the event, so I’m not sure what will finally make it on the air. When I saw him, he was interviewing the three Japanese soldiers. At least, the three would be Japanese soldiers for another half-hour. After that, they were to change into Confederate uniforms.
"We’ll be getting killed a little later,’’ a soldier named Ramone said. "Then we’ll be Japanese soldiers again and get killed again.’’
"Man, you guys can’t catch a break, can you?’’ Pappa responded.
Pappa seemed pleased.
"It will a pretty good (segment), I think,’’ he said.
Crammed into the weekend were four Civil War battles, three Revolutionary War battles, two French and Indian War battles and two World War II battles.
Oddly, World War I, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War were not represented. Neither was the Iraq war, although I believe I saw Cindy Sheehan’s great-great-great-grandmother demanding a meeting with Abraham Lincoln. Poor Abe.
Being a native Southerner, I felt some satisfaction in having arrived in time to witness the first Battle of Bull Run, a resounding victory for the boys in gray. I saw Lincoln sitting at a metal picnic table drinking a bottled water as I was leaving the scene of the battle.
As a reporter, I could not resist:
"I’ve got bad news from the front, Mr. President.’’