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 that damn Muddy Rag #11 Farewell to the Queen
2003 Edition 
The Officious Newsletter of the Sturdy Beggar™ Appreciation Society
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Farewell to the Queen

By Big Harry Lumpynn (with B. B. von Billy)

Last summer we lost one of the greatest people it’s been our absolute privilege to know through the auspices of the Ren Fest world… Barbara “Bodge” Burinski-Shelton died July 17th, 2002, after a brief, brutal battle with cancer. The suddenness of her illness and death left many folks shaken and grieving, and commemorations to her life continue across the land. All Sturdy Beggars and their families lovingly salute the departed queen, and send our ongoing best wishes to Bodge’s husband and long-time friend, Kent Shelton.

BodgeThe Sturdy Beggars first encountered Bodge at King Richard’s Faire in 1978 when she was part of one of the most kick-butt madrigal groups of all time, “the Jongleurs.” Soon after, she ascended to her rightful place on the throne as Queen Katherine. Bodge was one of the first people I met when worked my inaugural Renaissance festival (King Richard’s Faire, ’80) and she made a great and lasting impression. She didn’t just smile, she beamed… the word I’ve always used to describe her is “radiant.” Warm, supportive, loving and funny on and offstage, she was our Queen at King Dick’s in IL and MA for years, the principal royal character we had interaction with back when we spent the bulk of our days instigating beggarly nonsense in the streets. She was the absolute best… Bodge was quick and eager and loved to play. Whenever you improvised with her, your pitch was either caught or thrown back with something extra or knocked right out of the park. Queen Katherine was a bright and lively fantasy queen as opposed to some of the walking museum pieces I’ve encountered at other faires. She was magic with kids… I loved watching her engaging with children and patrons from my sprawled, disheveled vantage… she would just make their day.

Queen Katherine was around as the Sturdy Beggars first found our way in the streets and then the mud. Some royal characters I would cross paths with at faires would stumble at improvisational interplay despite the crystal clear delineations of our respective positions in society, either going haughty and abusive or clamming up at wisecracks from the gutter. We’re beggars, but we play our vital role in the weave and woof of the social fabric, as do the nobility and all in-between. We Sturdies subscribed to a good time being had by all translating into good times for beggars. Our antics as the lowest dregs were all in the name of fun, and here was a Queen who knew the score. We both realized that there is minimal entertainment value in showing patrons the “historically accurate” way a Queen would behave towards our kind… her treating us as equals despite the gulf of our class difference was a wondrous way to show folks how the world could be. Queen Katherine dove into cross-class badinage and applauded our antics without losing her bright, shining royal demeanor. We ne’er groveled and sniveled more enthusiastically for a member of the ruling class.

One day she overheard Moonie (yes, the slack-roped Magnif’cent One was once a Sturdy Beggar) warbling a little beggar ditty he’d recently composed as we hunkered in the leaves and dust by the front gate and she burst into great guffaws and demanded a reprise. From then on she’d often break from her regal proceedings when passing by us in the streets and hurry over to direct a choral rendition of her “favorite beggar song,” her angelic voice soaring in mirthful melody as we dutifully performed the sprightly, bouncy tune…
“Whatever you eat comes out your butt,
Out your butt,
Out your butt,
Whatever you eat comes out your butt,
Unless-- you throw up.”

To have the beauteous, gorgeously attired Queen delightedly engaging in such base shenanigans and then gracefully float away was always an incomparable treat, a highlight of the daily mud-man milieu. I’m grateful that some of our Sturdy brethren got to perform the song at a Memorial for Bodge in New England, a faire she’s indelibly linked to. Bodge also appeared as the Queen at the Sterling and Arizona Ren Fests, and was more than equally beloved there, and beyond. If you knew her, you know her spirit will always be around us. The weekend after her death, as the Bristol show shut down Saturday night, Billy, Rott and I wandered across the twilit site to visit her grieving husband and close friends, and as we numbly stumbled back towards the Pit in the dark, we paused at the crest of the hill by where the old front gate stood, speaking of what an integral part of the festival she was. We glanced up and after a moment sought hushed confirmation from each other of the sight above… a full moon shone brilliantly, the flat, dark gray sky empty but for one lone, odd cloud crossing the moon’s face, a cloud that we each perceived to be in the rough silhouette of the Queen, standing in profile in full skirts, one arm upraised. It was but for a moment, but it was comfortingly simple, true magic… pure Bodge.

We’ll raise many a mighty toast to her cherished memory. God bless the Queen.


that damn Muddy Rag #11 designed & executed by B. H. Lumpyn, L13 11/02 editor: B. H. Lumpyn
scribes du jour: B.B. vB, L13, B. H. Lumpyn, D. S. Fubar
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