Date: September 23, 2005
About: Tim Sherrer - Class of 1983
One More Time
Under the camouflage netting of his command post tent, the World War II Army captain shakes hands with the cowboys from the Old West. Although the captain of H Company and his friends in the South Fork Regulators would have been separated by more than half a century, this type of anachronistic meeting is possible at such living history events as last weekend’s Heritage Festival in Columbia’s Nifong Park.
These guys are good neighbors,” said Tim Scherrer, the H Company captain, whose friends, Robin “Lucky” Lightfoot and Ron “Cherokee Christie” Summers, represent the South Fork Regulators. “We do the time warp and go visit each other.”
The coterie of historical re-enactors will gather again this weekend in Mexico, Mo., for the fourth annual Walk Back in Time and Country Fair, a family event presented by the Audrain County Historical Society and the city of Mexico. The three-day event will feature eight historical camp settings — from Operation Iraqi Freedom back to colonial times in the 1770s. The weekend’s highlights will be the World War II, Civil War and Wild West re-enactments.
Scherrer will lead his unit in the World War II battle re-enactment, which will feature about 20 Germans and 40 soldiers from the Allied forces as well as two halftracks, armored vehicles with wheels in the front and tracks in the back, used for transporting troops and cargo.
Nicknamed the Railsplitters, the company Scherrer serves in as a re-enactor is the company he serves in as a major in the Army Reserve: H Company, 84th Infantry Division, 334th Regiment. He’s been re-enacting and collecting items from the World War II era since 1983. Among the items he’s collected that decorate the Railsplitters’ campsite are a command post tent, an officer’s mess chest, a desk, a switchboard and two vehicles: a 1942 Ford jeep and a 1945 Dodge WC-51 weapons carrier.
“There’s just a certain attraction to the time period,” Scherrer said. “We’re trying to keep that part of history alive. The culture was so rich back then. They’re just the greatest generation.”
An assistant professor of military science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Scherrer, 40, has two relatives who are veterans, including one who served under Gen. George Patton. Scherrer and his re-enactment company recently attended a reunion in his native Quincy, Ill., for veterans from the Railsplitters.
“It was awesome,” said Scherrer, who said he felt honored to meet some of the men he represents. “You just never knew who was gonna walk up to you and start talking to you.”
In September 1944, the Railsplitters shipped out from New York Harbor. They got delayed in England and then entered combat in Germany in November. They were then sent to Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge, where they helped block the German offensive. Scherrer said he recently learned a lieutenant from H Company closed the gap in the Allied line.
Scherrer’s group participates in about one re-enactment event a month and exists on a budget of about $400 a year, which is mostly used for purchasing historical equipment. And as the re-enactors continue to learn about their group’s history, they strive to educate other people about the past.
“I think it is important that we keep the memories of our veterans alive,” said Elizabeth Grugin, another Railsplitters re-enactor, “and that we educate and talk to people about what happened in the past and the types of sacrifices people have made in the past for our country.”
Grugin portrays a second lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps. For now, she tags along with the Railsplitters because few units exist for female re-enactors. She’s planning to start her own unit as the number of women who want to re-enact continues to grow.
“At the time I started participating back in 2001, there really weren’t that many female re-enactors out there,” Grugin said. “Since that time though, it has really grown in terms of the number of women that are represented in this hobby. And at almost all of the re-enacting events you see now, you will see women portraying different roles, whether it’s women in the Army Nurse Corps or the Women’s Army Corps or women in the Navy.”
All kinds of people get involved in living history re-enactments.
“You see all types of people from all walks of life come to these events,” Grugin said. “There’s just so many different types of people that participate in this hobby.”
She said she thinks the historical significance of World War II attracts a lot of people, though other re-enactors represent a variety of periods in American history.
Paul Baum re-enacts as a mountain man of the 1830s who would have occupied the Old West after the Lewis and Clark expedition. He attends a living history event almost every weekend and exhibits an assortment of American Indian flutes and weapons.
“It’s an intentionally eclectic camp,” Baum said of his mix of cowboys and Indians. He is a volunteer with the Audrain County Historical Society and helps organize its annual Walk Back in Time. Baum has a doctorate in Hispanic linguistics from the University of Puerto Rico and taught for 22 years at the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico. He retired in 2001.
“Now I’m a full-time living historyist,” he said.
Last year’s Walk Back in Time drew 10,000 visitors, Baum said, and he expects a similar crowd this weekend. “It’s mostly casual people looking for an interesting afternoon,” he said.
But for the re-enactors, it’s a chance to keep history alive while spending time with friends.
“We’re kind of like a second family,” Scherrer said. “When we get together, we have to catch up like a bunch of old ladies.”
Another article link for Tim Sherrer: http://www.ruralmissouri.org/03pages/03JunewwII.html