When I was a boy (like I'm an armadillo now), I had the typical childhood fantasy of being the knight in shining armor swooping in to rescue the damsel in distress. Of course, those fantasies also had the role of my trusty steed played by a Schwinn three-speed bike because horses played too rough.But I digress. I won't say who represented the damsel, because my better half reads this column religiously.

The days of knights and chivalry aren't totally gone. The Frazier Park-based American Jousting Alliance keeps the tradition alive with regular jousting and skills tournaments. The big winter series comes to a climactic conclusion in March.

Long before anyone even thought of the X Games, this was a real extreme sport -- two men resembling tin cans in contests of strength, skill, and agility. At stake were bravery, honor, courage, respect, lovely ladies, and the race to get out of the rain before rust set in and ruined that entire list.

The Grapevine Winter Jousting Series comes to a close March 21 with the Tournament of the Deer and the Lion. Just the name sounds cool, doesn't it? Think men on horseback, shattering lances, and plenty of screaming fans wearing garb that calls to mind a cross between Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Hollywood Boulevard.

Of course, the ladies and gents of yesteryear didn't get to enjoy the merriment in the comfort of the indoor arena at the Tejon Ranch Equestrian Center (1401 Crane Canyon Road in Lebec). Since the ranch is only open to the public on special occasions, just the venue is worth the trip up the Grapevine. But trusty, me, you're not going just for the drive.

The American Jousting Alliance claims to offer the best medieval-style sport jousting in the world. They just might introduce you to the business end of a lance, if you dare to disagree. These aren't weekend warriors. Many of the riders are veteran Hollywood stuntmen out on a lark (this is what they call fun?), and they know their business. Others are in it just for the love of competition and the thrill of mastering a skill few would dare to try.

Jousting is, of course, the main event, but there's a heck of a lot more to the day's events. What are known as skill-at-arms games ring spearing, shield quintain hitting, and spear throwing are also part of the competition. Each skill has its own champion, and competitors have been amassing points throughout the winter series. The March event will see the overall winner crowned as points from all four tourneys are totaled. Get out your abacus.

Now, if you get your fill of watching and have that I-can-do-that thought running through the back of your mind tell it to go away. I gave that annoying inner voice the heave-ho the first time I toppled my bike and impaled myself on a waffle bat. He hasn't made a peep since 1972. But, if you're cut from more adventurous cloth, then you can enjoy a variety of other fun activities and contests. Audience participation is the name of the game as patrons are invited to try their hand at archery, spear throwing, and shield hitting (on foot silly, not on horseback) and sack racing.

Doors open at 11 am. Tickets are a family-friendly $10 for adults and $6 for kids ages 6 to 14 years. Five and under get in free with a paid adult. No fair trying to pay with a dinar or drachma (look it up).

For even more to see and do in Kern County, check out the Kern County Board of Trade's tourism web site at www.VisitKern.com.

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