“I defy the annals of chivalry to furnish the record of a life more wild and perilous than that of a Rocky Mountain trapper.”
It’s rendezvous time and all around the West reenactment organizations or “buckskinners” are finishing preparations for a shining time around the campfire. Participating in rendezvous has been a source of inspiration, frustration and some of the best times, I’ve known.
There are those who find recreating history to be odd, silly and maybe even just plain dumb or a waste of time and money. However, at rendezvous, I have learned more about history, men and nature then could ever be taught in either a class or boardroom.
The life of a mountain man or fur trapper was hard – there weren’t many that died of old age – because the very nature of their life brought them face to face with death on a regular basis. Of course for those that survived to tell the tales, these adventures became the stuff of legend.
The tradition of a rendezvous grew out of a need for the trappers to exchange pelts for supplies, and quickly grew into a month long revelry with trappers, travelers, women, children, Indians and company men joining in.
Mountain Man, James Beckworth, claimed there was “mirth, songs, dancing shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent.”
Today’s rendezvous are similar – we compete, we trade, we tell tall tales, we learn from each other and we have a good time. Conditions are primitive – no electronics, no RV’s, no refrigeration, no running water – and it’s easy to find yourself transported back in time, where things might have been simpler, but they certainly weren’t easier.
And yes, I handcrafted all my goods and clothing… from the brain tanned leather, to the beading and quillwork, along with my muzzleloader. What I didn’t make, I traded for, just as the original mountain men did.
So, are you ready for shining times around the campfire?