The Rendezvous …

february 2018

by dal

 

 

Why is it That I Must Go?
Most searchers know about Forrest’s interest in the fur trade era and the mountain men who hoped to cash-in on one of the country’s very first “Get Rich Quick” schemes by spending a winter or two in the Rocky Mountains collecting beaver skins to sell for “big money” in the spring. But it was an extremely difficult, risky and treacherous way to get rich. Few were able to pull it off. Forrest has great respect for the mountain men and their way of life. Some feel he incorporated a thing or two about them into the poem.

Many who read this blog have investigated folks like John Colter, Joseph Meek, Hugh Glass, Kit Carson, William Sublette, Liver Eating Johnson, Joe Walker, Jedediah Smith and others looking for mountain man keys that could help them interpret the poem.

The mountain man’s task was to survive, often by himself, through the winter trapping in the mountains to collect as many beaver pelts as possible. In the spring these rugged explorers would bring their bounty of furs to a rendezvous where company men would pay cash for the pelts and the trappers could resupply with food, ammo and traps…before heading back into beaver country.

The rendezvous was the social occasion of the year for the trappers and also attracted local Indians, merchants and fur buyers who found themselves all celebrating together with  whiskey, music and mountain tales.

Modern day rendezvous celebrations still occur throughout the west. Forrest attended many and brought along friends and relatives to share in his joy of this Americana historic pageant. I think what Forrest enjoyed most about the rendezvous was the trading. Buying and selling is purely business…but trading…the give and take…the charade, the gab, the offer, the rebuttal….this is pure art…social interaction at it’s clearest…and besides, you never know what your going to uncover at a rendezvous.

You can participate in the rendezvous too. There are many to choose from spring and summer…in fact they even occur this time of year…February…

They generally have interesting names for the rendezvous celebrations…my favorite name for one in February is the Frozen Butt Rendezvous held this weekend in Frankfort Kansas…not exactly the middle of the mountains but right next door, out on the frozen prairie.

The weekend after the Frozen Butt is the Rain Dee Voo, February 16-18 in Rochester, WA. Again…not the mountains…Rochester is on Puget Sound…They probably had beaver there at one time.

Closer to the mountains is the Horse Ridge Rendezvous near Bend OR. That event happens February 21-25 at Cowgirl Hideout Ranch.

Followed quickly by the Frozen Toes Rendezvous in Fort Lupton, CO on Feb 21-25. Now were getting closer to the home of the mountain man.

If you haven’t tried winter camping…I recommend you give it a shot at least once…the hardest part is convincing yourself that you’re not going to die when you wake up in the morning and have to climb out of your warm snuggly bedroll. But a hot cup-a-joe never tasted better than when it’s about 20degrees outside.

The best rendezvous of all is the one called Smoking Waters Mountain Man Rendezvous in West Yellowstone. This year it’s August 3-12.

The Two Rivers Rendezvous in Libby, MT is also a good time. This year it’s on July 20-22.

If you’d like to get in touch with your inner mountain man…or trade for hand made goods or get some help with HOB or meek or maybe catch up on some nearly lost arts like blacksmithing, knife making, knapping, dutch oven cooking, tanning, home butchering, wax candle making, ax throwing, musketering or whatever…a rendezvous is the place to be…

You can find a list of many of this years rendezvous celebrations, held all over the west at the Crazy Crow Trading Post site…HERE.

dal-

PS: A properly stretched beaver pelt is actually round or oval…who knew?