In the 1800s there were groups of rugged individuals who thought that the idea of a vast unexplored territory was a wonderful challenge, full of adventure and opportunities for riches beyond their wildest dreams. The magnet that drew them to uncertain ways along the rivers and over the flats was the fur trade.
Mostly these men were obscure and illiterate who owned hardly more than a rifle and their traps. They lived hard lives that were continuously filled with personal peril. They were roughly clothed, lived on game and ate anything that didn’t eat them first.
These men and women followed the wandering career of the native inhabitants. They were the buckskinners, trappers and traders.
“Braving the wind and cool temperatures over 400 children, teachers and adults observed a slice of history never to be forgotten,” said Jim Shawver, at the recent 4th annual “Living History” Rendezvous and Pioneer Days.
On Friday, October 13 at the South West Conservation Club, Bluffton Road, a variety of buckskinners and traders were on hand to demonstrate to the children the way of life during this period of time. They observed cooking over an open fire, starting a fire using flint and steel, black powder firearms demonstration, and tomahawk throwing.
Wise Owl (aka Jim Crowl) demonstrated his blacksmithing skills. Goat (aka George Trendle) was on hand to display his handmade craft: Indian headdresses, love flutes, horn mugs and Scrimshaw. Two brothers, Luke and David Hurt, along with their family, demonstrated fine leatherwork and knifemaking. Many of these handcrafted items were also on sale.
This was the first year for “Kid’s Day” at the Rendezvous. It was a great success and is already in the planning stage of being even bigger and better next year. The buckskinners dearly love the opportunity that they were given to demonstrate living history to the children. Many of the trappers and traders travel a great distance to be at the South West Conservation Club’s Rendezvous and Pioneer Days. They are all looking forward to next year’s event.
Being a trapper and trader was an arduous job back in the 1800s. The great release came with the summer/fall rendezvous, an event anticipated for many months. As was the Saturday and Sunday of October 14 and 15 when the Rendezvous and Pioneer Days was open to the public here in Waynedale.
The “rendezvous”—a French word meaning “appointed place of meeting”—was a time when trappers, both white and Indian, could sell furs, and trade for needed supplies, (which included Indian squaws), meet with old friends, get rip-roaring drunk, engage in storytelling, gambling, gun duels and contests of all sorts.
Horse racing, wrestling bouts, and shooting contests were the favorites. “Meet me on the Green,” the men would say. “On Saturday morning our black powder shoot drew a great deal of spectators, as well as, the tomahawk and knife-throwing contest. Some visitors even brought their own tomahawks seeking advice from the experts on safety and throwing,” said buckskinner Shawver.
On Sunday, buckskinners and traders began their day with a Primitive Church service led by “Preacher Mike” Kaufman. Seen at many of the area rendezvous’, Preacher Mike, an ordained minister, portrayed a circuit-riding minister during this pre-1840s era. Following a bow shoot, the Atlatl, and more family games.
Over the course of the weekend observers enjoyed watching contests and games, like the women’s skillet toss, which is always a big hit. It is hard to believe that a woman can really throw an eight-pound skillet that far!
The South West Conservation Club provided food, serving BBQ’d Chicken dinners, homemade Ham and Beans and Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Marcus Marquart made his secret family recipe, assisted by his sidekick Johnny Marks. They served Indian Fry bread.
The rendezvous came to an end with over trapping, and the changes in fashion from beaver hats to those of silk from China. Also, permanent trading posts, such as Fort Laramie, drew Indians away from the rugged mountains to trade in their buffalo robes of the plains. Not so here in Waynedale. Next year the fur trappers and traders will be back, and we hope to see you all back again too, with a friend.