Now he is Dr. Hunter, a field surgeon for the U.S. Cavalry, performing amputations under battlefield conditions.
Kidd is Civil War re-enactor who, as Dr. Hunter, will demonstrate his surgical skill to middle school students on Wednesday, Oct. 17, and the next two weekends at "Voices from Eureka Springs" living-history cemetery tour. While the blood and the body parts are fake, the equipment -- bone saws, arterial forceps, amputation knives, tourniquets -- are real.
"Most of this stuff you would not see outside of a museum," he said.
It was an interest in antique medicine and medical instruments that led Kidd to add Dr. Hunter to his repertoire. Civil War field surgeons are usually characterized as butchers, he said, because they didn't have time to save limbs. Given a 10 percent injury rate in battle, a regiment's field surgeon would be dealing with 100 wounded men, most with shattered limbs.
"The most devastating thing was the firing of the minie ball," Kidd said, referring to the conical bullet invented by Claude-Etienne Minie before the Civil War. "It could travel two times faster than a round ball. Surgeons had no idea how to deal with the grievous damage it did to the limb."
The wounded did receive ether or chloroform before the operation -- the 'bite on a bullet' is a myth, as a wounded man lying on his back would have choked on the bullet or broken his teeth or jaw on it. The operating table was usually a door set across two barrels, with lamps or candles for illumination. Time was of the essence -- while surgeons had the ability to save some limbs, the operation would have taken too long.
"I can remove an arm in eight minutes, a leg in 10," Kidd said, speaking as Dr. Hunter. "In that hour and a half, 10 people could have been operated on. You could sacrifice limbs to save lives, or sacrifice lives to save limbs."
Kidd, who grew up in Springdale, uses his suturing skills to vet his six horses, and in his business, Border States Leatherworks, on his farm outside of Tontitown. There, he makes and repairs American military saddles and cavalry equipment from the Revolutionary War to WWII for movies and re-enactments. Kidd, in his various guises, has appeared at national and state parks, at teacher inservice trainings and schools, and has spoken to physician groups. When I arrived at his house for an interview, he came out to my vehicle in uniform and in character.
"If you have wounded in the wagon, we need to to get them under cover as soon as possible," he said.
For his living-history presentation for local middle school students, he will amputate a hand and treat other wounds. The tent will be set up in the Eureka Springs Cemetery, the site of "Voices from Eureka's Silent City." This year, the tour also features a teenage girl who was a gunrunner for the Confederacy, a 14-year-old Canadian who served as a bugler, a soldier-turned-mason who built the curved retaining walls at Sweet Spring and Dr. Alva Jackson, a doctor who treated soldiers in a cave.
Like Kidd's, their clothing, speech and personality will be that of the person they are portraying, so that when tour visitors enter the gates of the cemetery, they will also be entering the past.
"We want to convince you that we are there and that you are there," Kidd said. "We want to bring history alive for you instead of reading about it in a book or seeing a documentary.
"It's as if you literally stepped back in time."
"Voices from Eureka's Silent City" starts Friday, Oct. 19, and continues Oct. 20, 26 and 27 at Eureka Springs Cemetery. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, and are available at the Eureka Springs Visitors Center, Cornerstone banks in Eureka Springs, Holiday Island and Berryville, and Eureka Springs Historical Museum, 95 S. Main. Free parking and shuttle service. One-hour walking tours start at 5:30 p.m. and leave every 20 minutes until 8:30 p.m.
A special premiere for Carroll County residents is tonight, Oct. 17, benefitting the Eureka Spring Cemetery. Advance tickets required. For more information, call the ESHM, 479-253-9417.