By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Mountain men's heyday spanned a scant four decades in American history, but it's a history that is seared forever into the minds of Americans, especially those in the West.
From June 30 through July 7, local mountain men with their robe warmers and pups will re-enact the mountain men's era during the group's 29th-annual Jed Smith Mountain Men Tall Trees Rendezvous at Rowdy Creek.
Lucille Stewart has been involved with Jed Smith Mountain Men since 1978. Her long involvement is understandable, since her husband, Tom, was one of the organization's founding members.
Besides she said, "I've shot all my life."
Stewart ranks as one of the group's top shooters. She can't put a number on the times she's qualified as top shooter.
"It's just a lot of fun," Stewart said. "We're like a family."
Joyce Lockhart's husband, Joe, is also one of the group's original members. She encourages first-timers to participate in the rendezvous this summer.
"This year will be an event for people who've never shot before," she said.
Not only can visitors take part in black powder shooting events, they can watch "hawk" and knife throwing contests.
They'll also smell the unbearably tempting odors of Dutch oven cooking, and be able to hear the tall tales spun by the hosses and coons during the prevaricators' contest.
Two campgrounds, one a primitive encampment, the other for "tin tepees" will be set up along with a Trader's Row and central rendezvous area.
"The primitive campground is more fun," said Marie Peer, whose husband, Randy, morphs into his rendezvous character, Waterbarrel, during rendezvous events. Ask him the story behind the moniker.
The primitive camp is open to visitors who are curious to see how people lived during the early 1800s.
Marie Peer noted that early registration for the event is "picking up." That's a good sign because for the past couple years, the event has felt the sting of higher gas prices.
Attendees who head up the creek from U.S. Hwy. 101 will enter a completely different world, one populated by people wearing buckskins and other period costumes, event organizers say.
They'll even hear a different language, a patois of unschooled early 1800s white American English, French Canadians, various American Indian tribes' languages and 1840s expressions.
Waterbarrel won't be the only person who's taken on a name and character that's changed from his every-day persona.
Look for Trapper John and Wet Dog. Maybe you'll even meet Broken Wing, Pilgrim or Coffee Grinder.
In charge of it all is the "Booshway." It's the Booshway who has the final say in disputes and who makes sure everyone is following the rules.
Given the rowdiness of the original mountain men people who lived in isolation nearly all year as they trapped for furs someone who commanded respect needed to take the reins when the "baldface" (alcohol) began flowing.
No alcohol is allowed at Rowdy Creek.
A large circuit of rendezvous events occurs each year in the West. December, the "cold doin's" (frigid time) is the only month during which none is scheduled.
Rendezvous events also occur east of the Rockies, although those of the Plains states commemorate a different period of American history.
Consider seeing the day-to-day life lived by the tough folks who prized a living out of the mountains about 200 or so years ago.
You might be "Feeling right pert henyways ye lay yer sights" if you do. It's as close to "real beaver" as it gets these days.
During the year
Jed Smith Mountain Men's core group numbers about 25. It holds black powder shoots at Wilson Creek the last Sunday of each month.
"Everybody is willing to teach people who are interested in shooting black powder," Lockhart said.
Call 465-3435 to participate.