'Vikings' invade Cecilton

* Trio entertains local elementary students

By Katy Ciamaricone

What do you want to be when you grow up?

After a midday assembly Monday, several Cecilton Elementary School students decided to scratch "Viking" off their lists of potential professions. A job that would require eating with their hands and working 23 hours straight in the summer didn't appeal to the fourth- and fifth-graders.

On Monday, two men and a woman dressed in woolen draperies, deerskin boots and steel helmets, descended upon the school to give kids a taste of the mighty Norse warriors who, between the years 793 and 1066, raided and took over land in Scandinavia.

The "Vikings" who invaded Cecilton were Dave Segermark of Cecil County, his wife, Mary, and Dave "Wolf" Sutton. They came armed with spears, elk antlers, wooden plates, cups, spoons, a horsehair rug, a shield made of lynden wood, and axes of several shapes and sizes. Vikings used one ax to scrape the hollows out of wood to make bowls. They used a smaller, thinner ax when they fought on the ship, another to throw at the enemy.

The Segermarks and Sutton represented the Leif Erickson Viking Ship Organization, formed in 1975 to promote a "realistic historic image of Viking people as merchants, navigators, shipbuilders, artists, explorers and warriors."

Michelle Stopper, who teaches fourth grade at the school, said she invited the friendly threesome to coincide with a unit she's teaching about explorers. Students had already learned about the Vikings' ships, clothing and environment, and that Leif Erickson is believed to be the first European to discover North America.

On Monday they learned that Viking shields were not totally round; they were obtuse, so the raiders could block and fight at the same time. Students saw some arrows that could pierce through shields and others that could be thrown at an enemy's shield to eventually weigh it down.

"If your defense is gone, you're dead," Sutton explained.

After the warriors spoke, students had a few questions.

"Were the animals then the same as they are now?" asked Whitnie Enfield, a fifth grader who lives on a farm.

"How long was the workday?" one student asked.

"In the summer the sun shone 23 hours a day and the Vikings worked the whole time," Sutton said.

When he pulled out a long, thin piece of steel that had two tongs at the end, students gasped and one boy yelled "Awesome!" Vikings used the instrument to smoke and dry their meat, Sutton said.

Finally, it was time to see the ship. Docked in Wilmington, the "Norseman" is a 40-foot-long fiberglass replica of the actual ships Vikings sailed. As they trotted out to their school bus loop, the students saw a mighty vessel sporting a dragon's head at the bow. Students uttered "Cool!" "Wow!" and "All right!"

While marveling at the giant craft, fifth-grader Dakota Brown said he thinks it's important to learn Viking history.

"I think they were kind of the first warriors," he said.

His classmate Nick Scena said, "There were the Redcoats but that was way after the Vikings. The Vikings were the first to use strategic moves."

Peter Koenig said he doesn't think he wants to be a Viking because the silverware situation would probably trip him up.

"They had to bring their own spoons when they had to visit someone else's house or else they had to eat with their hands."

Vikinghood also comes with other drawbacks, they learned. Asked if she wishes she could be one, fifth-grader Erica Burton said, "I don't want to get killed."

[This article was written and printed in the Cecil Whig and reprinted with permission. See www.cecilwhig.com.]