ramblingbob chapter 2: Rendezvousing mountain-man

     Well here we go again, welcome aboard.  I did about 5 years Rendezvousing with my daughter, and my son and his wife joined us for the last two.  Rendezvousing is basically primitive camping/re-enacting of the "mountain-man" rendezvous of the 1830 to 40's fur trade area.  In the primitive camps no modern camping gear was allowed.  Many people used tee-pee's, we used a canvas 8×10 wall tent with an outside frame of wooden poles ( it was a chore to put up, but good looking when completed).  Our camp was always a good looking affair and our camp fire was always well attended in the evenings.  However our greatest joy was sitting in my long time friend  Big Jack McGee's tee-pee.  He had an 18 foot diameter Cheyenne tee-pee, liberally decorated with Indian dressings.  A small warm fire on a cold mountain top evening ( about 8,000 feet) in the middle of his lodge and we were set for some shining times.  It was always a good family time with him, none of us were drinkers so the kids were always welcome.  You could look up out the smoke flaps and see the stars shining over head.  Somewhere nearby someone would be thumping on a tom-tom adding a pleasant background to the conversation.  Jack (Bear) was a bear of a man.  We had been friends for more than twenty years at that time.  It was he who introduced us to the rendezvous culture.  My daughter adored him- he was just a big ambling genteel creature.  Those were times the two of us will always treasure.  Jack has been gone since my daughter turned 16.  With his passing some of the luster passed from the mountain days.  The get-together were more than just camping.  We all dressed for the period and tried to forget the modern day world for a few days.   Every one had a black powder muzzle loading Rifle, a tomahawk, a shot bag, and of course the ever present knife.  There were all kinds of shooting competitions, tomahawk throwing contests, and other activities to keep us all busy.  I'd like to take you on a walk through with me..  Four of us showed up at the starting point ready to go, so we thought.  There was a father and his teen aged son, and Norm, and myself.  The old boy that was going to be our umpire looked us over and inspected our gear.  He looked me over took in my elk skin fringed pants. The rag on my head under my broad brimmed hat, the beaded medicine bag around my neck my daughter had made for me. He admired my rifle and the brass of pistols in my belt.  Then he asked me where my food was? I'm thinking "I didn't know this was to be a three day trip?" Alas, No food -10 points. Then he spied my long john shirt with a plastic button, -10 points.  "Let me see in your shooting bag. Whats this a small pair of pliers with rubber on the handles, did they have rubber handled pliers in1840?" Nope, -10 points.  He checked every one else the same way.  Now we are down -80 points and haven't even started yet.  Gees. "Well we have a few minutes. light them if you have them" the ump/guide says. Norm whips out a pack of Pall Malls- Ah Norm! they didn't have ready rolled cigs and paper matches! "Put it out and lets get started", another -40 points.  The guide says load your guns so we proceed. Norm loads a .45 ball into a .45 barrel with a greased patch. This can't be done – you need a .44 ball. His got stuck half way down, won't go down won't come out and the gun is now useless.  Penalty! Norm is weaponless and has his right hand taped around a rock with duck tape (it doesn't matter that tape wasn't around then, he is the umpire!).  Our First task is to start a fire with a flint and steel, we have two minutes to accomplish.  Dale the father does it in 30 seconds and we gain back 30 points.  We start the walk and put Norm in front as a sacrifice, since he is not armed. Norm spots a hidden snake behind a log in the path and kills it with a rock (don't get excited snake was rubber, I don't believe in useless killing either)  another 20 points earned.  We continue down the ravine a few dozen yards,    Norm spots a Skunk target and told John to shoot it.  Mark , John's father asked " do we plan to eat it?",  Mark says "Hell no." – Then why shoot a skunk?  "Ignore it " he instructs John.  Good says the umpire- good call +20 points.  As we continue our journey, John spots a big buck deer target up the side of the hill.  "Take the shot"  his dad says.  John caps his rifle – Let me explain here the use of a muzzle loading rifle.  First after determining the bore is clear and clean, a measure of black powder is poured down the barrel. In the rifles we were carrying usually about 50 grains of double F black powder.  Then a greased patch is placed across the muzzle and a .490 caliber ball is placed over it and then pushed down the bore till snugly on top of the powder.  After removing the ramrod from the bore and storing it in the keepers under the barrel  the gun is almost ready to fire.  John and my gun were percussion locks, meaning we needed to place a percussion cap on the firing nipple on the breach, after cocking the gun.  Mark was using a flintlock meaning he has to cock his rifle and open a striker over the flash pan and put a small charge of very fine gun powder in to the pan then close the striker back over the pan.  This takes more time and is a slower firing action than the percussion.  When walking with a loaded gun we were very careful to keep the muzzles pointed up and away from anyone else for safety reason most apparent.  Also the primers were not in place or powder in the pan until ready to actually fire the gun.  Now that school is over back to John, he places his primer and takes aim and fires at the buck target.  Umpire tells John to check his Target for a hit.  John starts up the side of the hill, till I tell him to reload his gun first.  The umpire smiles and says +10 points again.  As John starts up the hill his Dad tells me to go with him.  I was younger then and could still make it up there.  We get half way to the buck and suddenly four Armed Indian targets pop up twenty feet in front of us.  The umpire declares you have one minutes to deal with this.  Mark rushes to join us , I said you take the two on the right, I'll get the two on the left.  We all fire in unison, then I placed my rifle on my toes and pulled and capped my big bore .50 cal. pistol, using both hands to hold it aimed and fired at the remaining target.  When we checked the target we had all hit the targets with the rifles right in the center of the chest area.  My pistol shot went high and went right through the center of the last targets throat.  Th umpire declared four kills and +40 points.  So we continued the walk through. We shot several more game animals and continued to gain points, until John finally got killed by a grizzly bear he missed a killing shot on.  Mark instructed me to take Johns rifle as I was using percussion caps and he wasn't.  Finally we reached the end of the ravine, and I thought we were through.  But no – the umpire pointed to a steel Target of an Indians head sixty feet away.  "That's Chief Black Hawk,  He is very dangerous, if you can shoot him through the eye you might escape".  The eye was about as big as a human eye, at sixty feet we could only see it because the head was painted black and the light behind the hole was barley visible.  We decide Mark should make the shot, (I didn't think I could make it offhand).  Mark fires and knocks the head down.  In four different places up pops five Indians, crap that makes twenty.  Gleefully the umpires shouts "you have five minutes!".  The two of us start to shoot, I fire both rifles and empty both of my pistols and start reloading and firing and trying to remember what Target's I have already shot at.  Finally the umpire sings out "thirty seconds!".  Mark says "Hell lets die fighting!"  So we drop our empty guns and charge the target with our tomahawk's and big bowie knifes.  The umpire is bawling at the top of his voice "Don't tear up the targets – Hell your dead any way!" -game's finally over.  Norm, John and the guy who tripped the targets were rolling on the ground laughing like crazy.  But we got twelve of the twenty targets, just the two of us.  We were told by the umpire we got further than many of the other groups, and did better at the final fight than some teams of four.  We won top score for that days walk through and were awarded prizes that night at the council fire.  John got a nice little patch Knife,  Norm for all of his ineptness got a small leather  bag, Mark as leader got quart sized stone jug of whisky, my prize was a pint sized jug of whisky.  Mark was a Mormon and did not drink, and neither did I.  I kept that little jug for more than ten years, finally gave it to a good friend in my Civil War reenactment days.  Any way that was one of the adventures from my Mountain Man days.  Some time I'll revisit it again and introduce you to some of the great people I met there. Till next time thanks for riding along with ramblingbob!

One Response to “ramblingbob chapter 2: Rendezvousing mountain-man”

  1. Raven Says:

    RamblingBob – those rendezvous are some of the best memories from my childhood. How many girls growing up in LA during 70’s/80’s can say they slept in real teepee’s, heard old indians and shamans tell stories over a real, hand made campfire, or know how to throw a tomahawk (or a knife, for that matter) and load muzzle loader rifles and pistols, or survive in a primitive environment for a week with no running water, toilets, stoves, etc.? Ahhh – I can! There were many great experiences and a ton of fond memories. Those times definitely helped shape me into the strong and confident woman I’ve become. Thanks DaD!

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