I am taking a break from my normal blog posts about my motorcycling to write about an adventure that BF and I take every Labor Day weekend.
When I explain this holiday tradition to others, I receive looks of confusion or bewilderment or even ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe you do that’!
But do it, we do!
We relive the past. We dig into the culture of the fur trade era and embrace the simple (and many times harsh) life of the Mountain Men (MM) and Indians. We take the time to involve ourselves into the history, traditions, tools and mode of living of the trappers, explorers and traders known as the Mountain Men
(Mountain Men and the Fur Trade Era
BF has been part of various groups dedicated to the lifestyle of the MM since he was 16. When he moved to New Mexico, he joined the New Mexico Mountain Men
(NMMM) which is comprised of a wonderful group of people who come from all facets of life that enjoy these excursions into history.
The NMMM group has a variety of events they either sponsor or support through-out the year, but the Labor Day Rendezvous
(the MM name for camping trips) at McGaffey Lake, NM is my favorite.
So every Labor Day weekend, BF and I leave today and enter a world of many-many yesterdays. We leave behind our modern luxuries and transport ourselves into the Fur Trade world.
Our days consist of rifle and pistol target shooting competitions. We use real black-power muzzleloader guns. BF has a .54 caliber, flint-lock rifle and a .50 flinter pistol. I have a .50 caliber, percussion rifle, which a fellow MM friend of ours gave to me as a gift a couple of years ago! I am getting pretty good with my gun!
To load a rifle or pistol, the shooter has a 'possibles bag' that is filled with round balls, patches, starter stick, a powder measure, and other tools to fix your gun if it doesn't work properly. You also carry with you a powder horn which holds your black powder. And if you are shooting a percussion muzzleloader, you have a capper. If you are a shooting a flint gun, then you carry a smaller powder horn which carries a finer grain of black powder to ignite your gun.
There are other competitions that we participate in as well. There is the hawk (tomahawk) and knife competition. We throw a specially made-for-competition hawk and knife in the target range for prizes. I love the hawk and knife! 'Sticking' your knife into the target on a tree stump is a special skill. You have to stand so many paces away from the stump so that your knife or hawk completes one complete rotation before sticking the target.
BF usually participates in the Bow and Arrow competition. He has this beautiful handmade long bow. It is made out of bamboo and maple woods. It was traditionally made, so it has even more sentimental value to him.
We dress out in period correct style of clothing. I wear this long, huge skirt (which I hate!) and a white blouse that was all hand sewn. Most women have tailored fitted clothing; I don't because I don't have a sewing machine (yet).
BF wears buckskin pants (which he wears very well!!) and a cotton shirt sewn in the style of the 1800s. All the buttons on his clothing is made out of elk horn. The clothing has to be traditional and has to be worn in order to compete. On fancy nights, such as the 'Council Fire' where prizes are handed out for the competitions, most people dress up. For most, that means wearing elaborate outfits made out of buckskins and other leathers with frills and bells. All the jewelry worn is made in the traditional manner using traditional stones and beads and bones. Some outfits are beautiful!! I have a leather top I wear that is embroidered and has bells that jiggle when I walk.
We try to cook in the traditional ways as well. We use cast iron for everything (which I love!!). Now I don't cook traditional meals like some people do. Some folks will cook stews in the stomach lining of an elk or cow. That is not my style. But we do cook using traditional styled pots and pans on top of an open fire. We eat with knifes and forks and spoons that were either made in the 1800s or look like they might be.
Everything we have in our home (or tent) looks like it was from the 1800s (and it might be!) or we cover it with traditional blankets and canvas. Nothing modern can be seen. For example, our coolers are covered in Indian Blankets. We do sleep on an air mattress (which I have to pump up every time!), but we cover the mattress with furs and blankets so that you can't see the mattress. The floor in our tent is lined with blankets and rugs as well. Everything 'looks' primitive and that's the key.
And it’s about that time again. BF left this morning, I’ll join him tomorrow evening. And for the holiday weekend, I will be transported to a time where nature and I will live in harmony.