When Douglas Struder watches war movies, he doesn't have to wonder what it's like to be shot by a cannon. He has a pretty good idea already.
Struder, the president of a Cincinnati-based marketing firm, was visiting the Adirondacks earlier this month when a cannon fired at a recreated Colonial fort sent a ramrod flying more than 100 yards. It struck his left leg, fracturing the tibia just below the knee.
State Department of Labor officials plan to talk to the operators of the privately owned Fort William Henry about the accident to see if any state regulations were violated, said Karen Williamson, a department spokeswoman.
Struder, 52, and his wife, Shirley, were in Lake George on Oct. 2 as a stop on a fall foliage trip to celebrate their 31st anniversary. They were eating lunch on a concrete wall along the lake's southern shore when a gust of wind blew away their food container. As Struder got up to retrieve it, a cannon was fired at the nearby fort. Something hit his legs, knocking him to the ground.
"I was in shock. I didn't know what had happened," Struder said this week in a telephone interview from his home in Butler, Ky., about 25 miles south of Cincinnati.
The history buff soon realized he had been hit with a wooden ramrod about the length of a broomstick. The ramrod also struck his wife in the lower back, causing a bruise.
Police and an ambulance crew soon arrived, along with a fort employee dressed in an 18th century British soldier's uniform.
"I thought it was a long time to hold a grudge," Struder joked.
The ramrod was used to load the cannon. According to fort officials, it fell in front of the barrel just as the cannon fired, sending it hurtling through the air.
Paul Ackermann, an arms specialist at the West Point Museum, wonders if that's even possible.
"You can never say never because stranger things have happened in life, but that sounds very, very unlikely."
He said it's more likely that the ramrod was inadvertently left in the cannon prior to firing. That would explain the distance the ramrod covered, Ackermann said.
"A hundred yards would be nothing," he said.
Messages left with fort Director Dawn Littrell on Friday weren't immediately returned. But she told The Post-Star of Glens Falls that the wind blew the ramrod across the cannon's mouth.
"It was just a mishap from start to finish," Littrell told the newspaper.
The original fort was built by the British during the French and Indian War and then destroyed by the French in 1757 after a weeklong siege. The battle and subsequent massacre of some of the fort's garrison by France's Indian allies were retold in the James Fenimore Cooper novel, "The Last of the Mohicans."
In the 1950s, local businessmen reconstructed the fort as a tourist attraction featuring tour guides in period uniforms conducting daily musket and artillery demonstrations, including an hourly firing of the replica cannon that caused Struder's injury.
Struder said his attorney has been in contact with fort officials regarding his medical bills, but he declined to comment on any potential legal action.
While laid up at home, Struder watched the 1992 film version of "The Last of the Mohicans." Struder said he used to wonder what it would be like to experience the artillery barrages depicted in movies.
"It's not as hard to imagine as it used to be," he said.