Knight in shining armor is along for the ride

AT WORK

At Work

March 08, 2006|By EDEN UNGER BOWDITCH | EDEN UNGER BOWDITCH,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mateo Warres

Head squire

Medieval Times, Arundel Mills

Age --27

Years on the job --Three

Salary --$10 to $12 to start, up to $25 with experience and knighthood

How he started --Medieval Times, an entertainment venue that includes jousting matches among knights on horses, was having tryouts at his gym. "I thought, `Hey, I've never been to Texas.' It sounded like [training] would be a six-week vacation."

Training --Two months at Medieval Times' Chapel Creek Ranch - a 241-acre spot about an hour from Dallas. "I was a bodybuilder before and I was the strongest one there, but I had the hardest time. It was a humbling experience." He also learned to ride and care for horses, wield a sword and fight with medieval weapons.

Typical day --Shows are held once at night during the week and twice on weekends. Work usually begins at 8 a.m. with two hours of riding practice. "I'm just now feeling proficient as a rider. I get on a horse every chance I get." In the afternoon they work on games, jousting and swordplay. Even though much is staged, the knights use real weapons and working well together requires practice. "It can be dangerous, like any sport. You have to really trust each other out there, so much is real."

The good --Getting paid to ride. "I have come to really love riding horses."

The bad --Accidents happen. They're more common in practice but they have occurred during a performance. "I had to do a show once with only one eye because blood was pouring from a head wound and I couldn't see." The audience thought it was part of the show. "At that moment, it was very real for me, too."

On being a knight in shining armor --"The reality is hard work. If you are going to learn something here, you have to earn the right to learn it."

Philosophy on the job --"We are here to make the fantasy real, to create a world in which the people in the audience lose themselves."

On the future --An English major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, he'd like to continue in this job at the castle for a long time. "It's the best. Someday, a long time from now, I'd like to be a teacher."

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