Kenny Thompson isn’t sure he’s going to be a knight when he grows up. But he did appreciate the demonstration of medieval skills by the Knights of the Guild at Tahlequah Junior High School Tuesday.

Kenny especially liked the parts of the exhibition where teacher Rocky Weston had a melon lopped off the top of his head by a knight with a sword from atop a trotting horse.

“Yeah!” he said. “That was probably my favorite part.”

But, hopefully, Kenny and the other youngsters got more than just entertainment and sadistic pleasure out of the show. It was, in fact, the final event of a Gear Up program aimed at building character.

Gear Up is a program designed to encourage kids to continue their education after high school, and the Knights of the Guild have been making presentations to the kids at TJHS all year, encouraging them to be “chivalrous.”

“Each month, we had a different virtue that they studied, and the kids who lived up to that virtue the best were knighted,” said Tahlequah Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Debbie Coley, who was dressed like a medieval lady and was wandering around the jousting grounds (the junior high football field) with a goblet of 7Up in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

“This is the grand finale, and these are the knights,” she said.

Those “knights” were a bleacher-full of students, but the real knights – the guys on horses, wielding edged weapons – were on the field, preparing to display their knightly skills.

“They follow the same rules as the knights of medieval times,” said Coley. “They even go to knight school.”

(Or did she say “night school?” It was hard to tell with all the cheering from the bleachers.)

“Knighthood is more than being a boy or girl,” said Sir Barry Owens, explaining why it was OK for girls to be considered knights as well. “Knighthood is truly a matter of the heart.”

Manners, education, the proper use of tools (swords, for example) and equestrian skills were all developed by knights, beginning at a very early age.

Of course, all those skills must be tempered by responsibility (for example, knowing when to use a weapon and when not to) and respect (treat your horse with respect, and your horse will respect you as well), as Sir Barry pointed out.

“The knight and his horse were much more than casual acquaintances,” said Sir Barry. “They were partners in combat.”

And then, Sir Stephen Crowder – Knight of the Guild and Horse Master – demonstrated that partnership by throwing a spear through a bale of hay, catching rings out of the hand of Sir Kenneth Drye with a lance, jousting with wooden targets, and lopping fruit off the top of Weston’s head – all from a running horse.

Weston, for those who may be wondering, took it all very well, staying as calm as possible, and not losing his head.

Which wasn’t easy to do, considering that during a practice swipe on a melon balanced on a pole, Sir Stephen missed.

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