It’s doubtful any of us will find stocks of this prized oil at sporting stores today. Since bans on whale oil use instituted in 1972 the stuff has become scarce as rocking horse poo. Yet whale oil is still mentioned by contemporary authors as the most revered by noted scribes of the past in their writings on black powder lubes and preventative maintenance of flintlocks. There was simply nothing better or even close!
Whilst the Japanese continue to make news hunting the Minke whales in the southern oceans, we don’t hear about the much larger sperm whales. According to Wikipedia a full grown bull sperm whale can reach lengths of almost 20 metres while weighing in at more than 60 tons.
The sperm whale is decidedly weird in appearance. Its frontal portion consists of a gigantic bulging forehead “the case”, nearly one third of its overall length, which is filled with that finest of oils known to man. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. Early whalers mistook the oil for sperm and named the animal accordingly. Spermaceti was used in numerous applications, such as lubricants, oil lamps, ointments, candles and more.
Once the oil’s value was realised, the sperm whale was relentlessly hunted down. Scientists still debate the function of the huge “case” and its reservoir containing 10 to 15 barrels (1500 – 2000 litres) of high-quality oil. No one yet knows the answer.
Among all the great whales, the sperm whale alone has teeth, which although impressive, are thought to be secondary when it comes to feeding. These teeth make desirable keepsakes especially when scrimshawed by artistic craftsmen sailors. The species is now protected by a whaling moratorium – being listed as “vulnerable”.
A botanical alternative to spermaceti is jojoba oil which is chemically and physically very similar to spermaceti and may be used in many of the same applications.
Then there’s T/C Natural Lube 1000 Plus Bore Butter and Trapper’s Mink Oil among fancy lubes available from arms dealers. See our Trading Post listings – Save a whale!
Welcome to Volume 55
Our first newsletter for the year. Well there wasn’t anything much to write about, simply because we’ve been dormant regarding black powder doings. But we’re into it again now, so our cover story was prompted by the whale of a time we all had at our ANZAC holiday weekend camp.
We had survived a rather hot dry summer when it seemed we would wait forever for black powder season to commence. It was good to see most members paying up their subscriptions meeting club timelines. Anyone who is yet to renew subs will now need to include a re-joining fee. Oh but that fee is a mere twenty bucks extra and it goes straight into the thin coffers of our great little club. Thanks to delinquent payers!
What a shame that Easter occurred so early this autumn. Easter is regarded by many as the absolute best time of the year for outdoor camping – stable warm sunny days followed by cooler nights when the campfire scenario becomes rather magical. But we needed to cancel Easter camp this year due to the hotter, dryer weather so early in the autumn. Bummer!
Only for those who can hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic or whistle Dixie with equal enthusiasm. Of course it is all just a game. There is no life or death need to know either tune. Learning both might just help us to survive the stresses of the 21st century with its religious fanaticism, rape and pillage, the road toll, or the universal random school shootings and political flap-doodle.
Just like with marbles, some will tire of the game in five minutes while others continue to play for five years or perhaps fifty five. What I’m on about here is the degree of authentic we each hope to find in our hobby sport. For some, black powder stuff is merely buying a cap lock rifle and shooting at regular intervals on a range. So mundane! Why not choose a modern centrefire? Others decide to wear a “funny” hat, you know, one reserved for just that black powder occasion – an Akubra, of course. Almost as boring as elastic sided boots!
At the other extreme the more exuberant among us want to dress and camp to match the original era of our chosen black powder firearms – doing it in “the old ways” whatever our interpretation of the old ways might be. That’s far more interesting and can be enchantingly complex as we research human history and a bygone way of life.
So now the “in-group” camp under white canvas, wear “funny” clothes and hide all signs of 21st century gear. It’s great! That is until we view the sneaky photos taken by hidden cameras and discover that we didn’t entirely let go of the 20thC after all. Look for them! Tomato sauce on the cause.
Footwear and eyewear are probably the last items on our primitive want lists due to the higher costs of these. We’ve managed to retire those rubber soled moccasins. But it’s the little things that show up in the photos. Like coloured screw top bottle fasteners, plastic fresh food wrappers etc. Then for the ultra-extreme Trapper who rejects period cookware, tea bags and instant coffee in whatever container, there is always a search for purity. Whiskey Tipi Foofaraw, didn’t I say it’s all just a game?
Next event will be our Queen’s birthday holiday weekend 11th, 12th & 13th June.
A 12th anniversary of our Winter Quarters camp for serious mountain man hivernants.
ANZAC holiday weekend camp at the Caveat, April 23 – 25, 2016.
Only a small number of pilgrims showed up to our camp over the ANZAC day holiday weekend. Well those who didn’t show really missed the pay dirt! The weather was superb, being warm sunny days cooled with a slight chill on the evening breezes. Great for lounging about in company around a good fire with your favourite tipple. Sharing a drop every now and then. As one must after being gifted with a bottle of good throat oil. Thanks Bob!
Anyway, Peter and Charlie were first to set up, then Jim was followed in by Chook. Bob turned up with grandsons Kaia and Nash helping to erect the tipi, so a camp atmosphere was shaping all about the Painted Pony Plains. What grass there was … actually there wasn’t any grass! You could have named the site as the Hungry Horse Hills but for Bernard hand feeding daily. Those painted pets really do set the scene when feeding through on their way to water at the creek. Least that is permanent!
Others to arrive were Jenny and Gary Baker, John Morland, Tom Jefferies and Murray Convey. Probably not in that exact order, but near enough. Soon there was a flurry of Trade Blanket activity with the young lads drooling over handmade knives and all sorts of “stuff”, bargaining for their growing collections. Whether you’re a younger boy or considerably older it’s still great to have lots of good “stuff”.
Ian, who could not attend, had wanted a feather shoot. Said we had to shoot the vein of the feather at 20 yards. Blimey, I couldn’t see the flaming feather at 20 yards. We walked up a bit, then more closer. I had 10 misses, I think everyone did. Except Bob, who won the event on his er oh about tenth shot? Lots more plinking took place over the weekend but no one got all fired up competitive. That’s the way we Trappers are!
Meanwhile, Kaia and Nash were giving our new Throwing Block a severe workout in between trading and re-trading and polishing those new knife blades in their leather sheaths. In and out, sheathed, unsheathed, admired, fondled and sheathed again. A versatile tool to be carried with pride of ownership.
Journal of a Free Trapper’s Travels to Rendezvous in Queensland.
In my mind was that film scene from The Mountain Men – “Come on to Popo Agie. Plenty whisky and white women.” “Hell and Gone the other side of the Divide!” So it was and to Victorian folks the Millmerran Rondyvoo isthe other side of the Divide and must be a thousand miles distant. Well, the decision made, its Millmerran here I come, so pack the mule (Ute) and by 9 am on Wednesday 1st July I was under way.
Pulled up at Narrandera for the night, then on to Moree by Thursday night, sleeping in the back of the Ute. An early start in the morning and I arrived at the Rondyvoo just after midday. Paused at the hall to register and the very first person I met was none other than Barry McFarlane, another Southerner, from Seymour BP Club and a regular attendee at the Western Districts Club annual Wet to the Arse shoot.
There were modern campervans everywhere but Barry directed me to the Primitive camp area. I selected a suitable site for my canvas tent, so busied myself setting up before gathering a good supply of firewood, finally fronting down to the Register post. It was here I met the Rendezvous Discipline chairman Don Robinson and his wife Jan.
By evening I was relaxing back at camp, just sitting, idling, doing a bit of thinking, had some tucker, a cuppa, and a sip of some nice port. The sun was gone and with the dark came the chill. In fact it soon became bloody cold so I went back to the mule to retrieve extra blankets. I stoked the fire a bit but decided it was still too bloody cold so jumped into bed for an early night’s shut eye. I had been told that temperatures around these parts often fall well below freezing in the hours after sundown.
Saturday morning had me stoking the fire again to cook breakfast and pour a nice warming mug of coffee. Next met up with Graeme Forbes who mentioned that there was a cannon shoot on today, so headed for the cannon range and take some interesting photos.
Got back to camp late afternoon, sat back and did some more of that thinking stuff. I figured I could really live like this, sun’s warm, cannon fire music in the distance, plenty wood, good fire, good coffee…truly what more does a Free Trapper want?
Saturday night, Barry called by so we go over to meet John and Des also from the Seymour club. Accepted a glass of port, as you do. The boys had won the cannon shoot so another port was sampled on the strength of that. It was starting to get cold again. More port! Eventually it plum got too bloody cold, so no more port, just a warm bed and sleep.
Barry shows up Sunday morning and we head off to the shower block. Hey Barry where’s this bloody early morning signal cannon I’ve heard so much about. He answers with a smile and says “You’ll hear it alright tomorrow morning, ha ha!”
The day was spent attending the long range shoot. Sharps, Rolling Blocks, High Walls and then there was Des from Queensland shooting a nice old Martini. Well done Des, I think I should have had a Sharps (Hi Tom). But they were all nice. Back at camp on nightfall a port seemed to be the right thing. Then another! I decide this port has definite bedtime therapeutic benefits and tames the night chills.
Monday dawned and as I lay in bed savouring the warm blanket wondering what event were to come when a mighty BOOM rent the air. WTF! When I came down from the tent ceiling I realised that all the talk about the wake-up cannon was true. Welcome to Rendezvous, it’s on!
Off to the Booshway’s meeting to learn the do’ and don’ts, regulations etc. First up starting the day’s events was a Volley fire and a minute of silence to reflect on absent Black Powder shooters now passed on.
Walked out to the range all set for 5 Gong, Keyhole, Turkey, Running Fox and Musket shoot., so started to take a few photos. Ran into Don, all smiles “Did you hear the cannon.” Heard it? I even felt the shock wave whilst tucked up in bed, good thing my tent pegs were buried deep in the sand.
Right, let’s do some shooting. Picked up the old 54 but no, had to do some scoring for the Running Fox. Then lunch. Back to do some shooting now. Club prepared shoots all afternoon. Finally when shooting over for the day – had some fine grub and quaffed some more port to fortify against evening chills.
Tuesday – that bloody cannon again. Off to the range for Keyhole shoot, 10 shots, not easy; good old Turkey shoot midday, having troubles with Lube. Funny, never had that trouble before. Running out of powder, running out of ball too. Must be having fun! Tuesday night, you guessed it – more port.
Wednesday – Just can’t get used to that bloody cannon first thing. Club shoot on today and Shotgun event. Also a V target Shoot for flintlocks only. You have a V target at 20-25 yards, 5 shots. Shot closest to bottom the V – 1 shot or 5. Anything in black of V is out – a best shot must be inside and closest to the bottom of the V.
I had a chat to Graeme Forbes about my lube problem. Graeme gave me some of his lube and the problem was fixed. Seems the dry Queensland conditions call for wetter lubes. Bought some powder from Don. Thanks Don, you saved me. Shotgun shoot in progress so took some photos. Two shooters on line. Some clays are green, some orange, but only yellow ones are to be shot.
Clays coming from everywhere. I counted 10 clays coming out for one team. Very funny – everybody had a great laugh. It was a fun afternoon. That’s what Rondyvoo and shooting is all about – having fun!
Wednesday night – went into Millmerran Township for dinner and a beer and to restock the depleted port.
Thursday – could have done without that bloody morning cannon. Had slight headache, must be the water. Shoots today included Running Fox, 5 Gongs, Interclubs. Flag shoot. Off to Running Fox, third shot I hit the little beggar – he is moving pretty quick, reload for sixth shot when pilgrim in front of me shoots the wire controlling the fox so the event called to a halt until fixed.
Then off to 5 Gongs shoot and then lunch. After that I watched the Club shoots. My thanks to Barry and Des for some spare round ball so I could do Mountain Man hunt and finish the shoots off.
Friday starts with a bang. Again! Last day, Musket shoot and Shotgun and to finish must shoot the rest of my shots at the Fox. But Fox not yet set up so wait and watch Barry at the Musket shoot. John Gio from Seymour wins the shoot using Barry’s musket.
Later Don explained that the Running Fox can’t be fixed so a count back will take place for the flintlocks. Two chaps had one hit out of 10 shots and I one hit out of 5 shots.
Saturday morning I was waiting for that last cannon wake-up boom. Well, we had a six cannon volley fire – Fantastic! Met up with Barry and lads. Meet Duncan and get talking Banjo playing. Then over to the hall for the presentations by Don and Jan.
Don explained the reason for the Running Fox count back and the winner is Murray. Hey that’s me. Bloody ripper! But wait, there’s more! The prize for best Primitive Camp. I look at Don and he says “Yes, you.” That’s great! I’m thrilled that my camp is the best Primitive for 2015. Then off to the barbeque and later on the dance.
Had some dinner and then visited at Duncan’s camper van messing around with my banjo. That was great, so finished off the port. Duncan said to me before I left – See you in two years at the next Rondyvoo and you can play me some tunes on that banjo. Duncan plays guitar and Smoke on the Water doesn’t sound quite the same on a banjo.
Sunday morning – not heralded by cannon and whilst laying in a bit, I thought about the past week and what a great shoot it has been. Arose and packed my mule and then call on Don and Jan and everybody to thank them all for the fantastic week. To all the organisers and all participants I say “well done” and I hope to be back in two years better stocked with ample round ball and sufficient powder and a goodly stash of port.
Once again I would like to thank Barry, John and Des from Seymour and Graeme Forbes. Thanks fellas for round ball, lube and various assistances. To readers of my journal I say – If you have not yet been to a Millmerran Rendezvous just get your arse into gear and go! It’s fantastic! I’m definitely going again in two years time.
Now it’s time to think about Western Districts Club annual “Wet to the Arse” shoot in August and then Spring Rendezvous at the Southern Cross Free Trappers in September. I’d better fix those soles on my mocs in preparation. The one thing I came away with from my week at Millmerran was that I could live like that – full time!
Wet to the Arse (the Journal continues back home)
Still pondering the possibility (and obstacles) of living the pre-1840 Primitive life style as a full time occupation, the weeks between Millmerran and Western Districts Muzzleloaders Club’s famous Wet to the Arse shoot quickly passed. It was early Friday evening when I arrived at the range just in time to share Peter Convey’s sausage stew. Washed down with a quiet splash of liqueur Port, would you believe?
Things got lively on Saturday morning as pilgrims started arriving from near and far. We soon numbered about 25 eager to start on the planned events. Among the participants were six members of the Free Trappers. Teams were soon organised for the Walk Through event. Dammit my usual partner was an organiser for the Walk Through and I couldn’t find anyone not already partnered up. Oh well I’ll just have to miss out this year.
Never mind, there were plenty of Range shooting events organised – a Mike Fink shoot, Gong shoot, Cut the Card shoot as well as Hawk and Knife going late into the afternoon.
Sadly, there would not be the usual “road kill” stew this Saturday night, as Goose the regular camp cook had to depart early. So it was “Hey Peter, we need another sausage stew tonight.” Then it was a combined effort, Don put roo in the stew! “Don is good.” The stew was Very good!
After dinner the shoot results were announced – Paul Rogers and Tim Broomby won the Walk Through, Charlie Timma and Peter Lucantonio came second. Just who came third I can’t quite recall – perhaps a little too much port? I bought ten raffle tickets but did not win a bloody thing. Ian had more luck and won four cans of warm apple cider!
Sunday morning and everyone is packing up to head home. We must all leave the Range by midday so that the tree harvesting operations can resume. The hardwood forest surrounding our range is being systematically felled and the continued lease and our future on the Range may be in some jeopardy.
All in all the Wet to the Arse weekend was grand! Now I’m looking forward to Spring Rendezvous with the Free Trappers.
Spring Rendezvous (the Journal concludes)
“Well Pasquinel, I think I shall go to Caveat for Spring Rendezvous”
“Better watch your top knot”
Thursday: So I packed my mule and away I went, loaded with traps and plews and a terrible thirst. I just gotta get me some port or I’m gonna die! Leaving towns and the mess of civilization behind I head off over South Pass coming cautiously down the slippery trail past Jim’s Folly and its new warning marker.
There it is – what a beautiful sight, visible through the trees and scrub– the half cabin, the white canvas tents, the cooking fires, happy folks calling. It’s rendezvous time. I get busy setting up camp before dark. Come nightfall we gather at the half cabin catching up on the months between meetings, telling tall stories, guitar picking and banjo plunking mingled with out-of-tune singing oiled with some rough port.
Friday: Well if we are to have many cooking fires burning all night, plus the usual roaring fire throwing its heat right into the depths of the half cabin, we had better fetch in a huge supply of timber.
Then with that chore done we spent the afternoon doing some shooting and just messing around. Nightfall saw us back in the half cabin, telling taller stories, listening to Ian singing accompanying his guitar and sipping some smoother port.
Saturday: Quite a few had not replied to our “Don’t ya go to rondyvoo anymore?” So me thought maybe some pilgrims have gone under or maybe lost their scalps. But a quick head count of those attending scored 25 folks all wanting to have fun, while a 16 ft brand new tipi was the star attraction among a dozen other white canvas shelters.
Trade blankets were laid out at each camp causing a human traffic flow from camp to camp and some good trades done. The younguns seemed to do particularly well scoring all sorts of treasures to keep among their collection of stuff.
Ian Convey conducted our Mountain Man Hunt which, for convenience and the health of a few old farts, was limited to six only possible scoring stations. Two points were allowed for each target sighted, plus a further eight points for hits on target. Paul (Le Reynard) Sly top scored with the maximum 6o points, winning the basket of vegetables and congratulations all around.
A blanket shoot was held in the afternoon. Seventeen shooters took part in a reversed playing card shoot taking the form of a poker hand. The cards favoured Jeff Clarke gaining first pick from the blanket but everyone was a winner anyway. Knife and hawk throwing was mostly for personal satisfaction. It was just a great day had by all.
At nightfall everyone made their way to the half cabin to enjoy the roaring fire, the retelling of the day’s highlights, the targets hit and missed, the lies and the pleasant sounds of song and guitar music. Sadly the banjo was silent due to broken strings.
The banjo player had to be consoled with libations of port. Then we had a good old sing-along and another tin cup of port. The small talk got louder and sillier. Charlie managed to stay on his three-legged stool while star gazing in the outer. Everyone had a poke of the fire to the annoyance of Jim and a grand time was had by all.
Sunday: After leisurely breakfasts some folks commenced breaking camp and by afternoon there were only six camps remaining with pilgrims sitting around relaxing in the sunshine. Some took up plinking again while the kids went off ferreting with Bernie. Such excitement and they got a pair of bunnies for the pot. The Rondy was over and our evening pleasure was the music of Father, Son & Friends.
Monday: The last camps were struck and the mules packed as everyone prepared to head back home and to the great mundane. I’m now looking forward to Easter Rendezvous. If you have not yet been to a Rendezvous, get your arse into gear and just go. It’s a great week or weekend. Keep your nose in the wind and your eyes on the skyline. Murray Convey
Changes to Around the Traps postings.
At our September Annual General Meeting it was proposed that we cease mail-outs via Australia Post to all readers with Email facilities. There is a small cost saving to the Club although this was never an issue. There are two or three members not on Email and we will continue to forward the standard hard copy news to these.
An alternate way to catch up with the Trappers is to view our website and it is recommended that you “subscribe” to receive free notification when new editions appear. Of course the site is freely available at all times. http://freetrappers.org.au/
A Pipe Brand butcher’s knife
Common butcher’s knife, Pipe brand, marked “Williams” & “Smithfield” in two lines & “London” in a half circle. Blade is 7 ½ inches, scales 4 ½ inches, full tang. As this knife lacks country of origin “England” in the markings can it be assumed that it predates the U.S. tariffs of 1890? Or did separate export batches with unspecified origin country continue to arrive in Australia after that date? Any thoughts – anyone?
A celebrated Pipe Brand knife:
In 1904, Harry Wolhuter, a ranger in Kruger National Park was attacked by two lions. Wolhuter was riding on horseback when the lions attacked him shortly after nightfall.
Toppled from his horse, one of lions seized him by the shoulder, and dragged him almost 100 yards, into the bush. At this point, the semi-conscious ranger managed to retrieve his sheath knife from his belt and stabbed the lion aiming for the heart.
The mortally wounded lion then dropped Wolhuter who managed to climb into a tree before the second lion came after him. Wolhuter believes he was saved by his dog, Bull, whose persistent barking at the second lion distracted it. Wolhuter’s native assistants then arrived, and carried him back to camp.
After resting a day, he was carried in a litter, to get medical assistance. The party arrived at Komatipoort four days later. Wolhuter was patched up by a doctor and then sent by train to Barberton hospital where he convalesced for several weeks.
Years later, Wolhuter told the story of how he “acquired” that knife. “One day, when I was in Komatipoort, I visited the shop of a friend, and on the counter was a big Dutch cheese, beside which lay the knife used for cutting it. I picked up the knife and examined it, as I was always interested in sheath knives. This one, I observed, was the famous “Pipe Brand,” and far too good a knife to be wasted on cutting cheese!
So I removed my own knife from its sheath on my belt, laid it alongside the cheese, and put the “Pipe Brand” knife in its place. This wicked theft was never noticed as the two knives were almost identical in form and size; and my friend never suspected until I told him years later, suggesting that “fair exchange was no robbery.”
Wolhuter’s knife and the skin of the lion he killed are on display in the Stevenson-Hamilton Library at Skukuza, Kruger National Park.
Was it because it was the last weekend of the Duck Season, or was it just too close to the coming 200th anniversary of Waterloo, a calendar clash with the Motocross Rally in Queensland perhaps, or just the unfavourable weather forecast for the long weekend? Our Winter Quarters camp over the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend was well down on attendance but right up there with the very best of social fun times.
Murray Convey was first to arrive and set up camp, then Charlie Timma, Peter Convey, Jim Walker, Bob Ellis, Ian Convey and Chook Fowler. Only seven Hivernants braved the start of the snow season to camp in the coldest beginning to winter in over sixty years. Forget all that Global warming bunkum, it was bloody cold? The seven stalwarts were joined by Paul Sly with sons Nathaniel and Nickolas for a one day visit and romp as young boys like to do.
The cold breezes didn’t hamper the black powder burning. Ian had made a new shooting “bench-rest” so that everyone could test fire their rifles with a greater degree of surety. Made to suit both right handers and lefties this new bench got a thorough work-out and big approval from all present.
Ian had also supplied a real painting with added bull’s eye rings for a one shot open competition. It looked like a good win to Paul until Ian took the final shot to just pip Paul’s mark to win his own painted target back. It was hung in our open-faced shelter for the remainder of the weekend. No doubt it’s now hanging proudly in Ian’s den.
Much more shooting was to be done – numerous gongs of various sizes and differing ranges kept everyone trying, cheering or crying, but generally enjoying that pungent black powder aroma preferred by voyagers and coureurs de bois over Chanel No 5 eau de toilette (more French for Murray’s vocab – alouette, ambiance, champagne, etc). The long and short of it – if you weren’t there – you missed a truly great time!
Bagging Out – The Old Way
The Victorian duck season was well underway when I decided the time was past due to put some more meat on the table. Jeff Clarke and I had experienced a tremendous opening day earlier, harvesting 14 birds using our breechloaders. For this mid season hunt I would be using Old Reliable – my double barrelled caplock muzzleloader.
A swamp I knew of had some water flow into it, making it ideal to wade in and to set up some decoys. After a late arrival the night before I set up camp and crawled into bed and drifted off to sleep in the peace and quiet of the bush. I woke just before dawn and as I lay there looking at the slight frost on the ground, aware that other hunters camped nearby seemed in no particular hurry to get up either. After about half an hour I braved the chill morning air, arose and got dressed, put the billy on the fire to make a warm cup of coffee and prepared Old Reliable for the morning hunt.
Soon after, more hunters arrived and took up their places on the swamp, waiting for the legal time to start shooting. Seeing so many hunters heading into the swamp I thought I might hunt on the nearby creek instead. I knew that any ducks disturbed on the swamp would follow this water course seeking a quieter and safer environment.
Shooting started soon after the declared legal time and after the first few shots several large mobs of birds could be seen flying high over the swamp. One mob went north, some birds headed East and a few decided to follow the creek. Good, so far my plan was working. Then, as they drew nearer they banked off to their left slightly, so as to cut off the bend of the creek, which then put them well out of range for me. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.
I watched them for a minute or so and saw them drop down with wings cupped so as to land on the creek a few bends downstream from where I stood. It was time to put my “walking boots” on and stalk up onto this small mob of six birds. After about ten minutes I drew level with the spot where I had seen them land. With the wind in my favour I approached quietly to where a slight embankment helped give some extra cover to hide my profile.
Approaching closer I could hear the whistles and chatter of the grey teal. Excellent I thought, I had stalked right up onto them. I cautiously peered over the top of the embankment and could see two birds on the other side. I brought Old Reliable up to the shoulder and raised myself a little higher so as to get a clearer shot. As I did so that pair of ducks launched themselves into the air. Quickly I gave a slight lead on the right hand bird and sent the charge of number 4’s on its way. With a satisfying splash I had one bird down. Immediately after that shot the whole area before me erupted in ducks taking flight.
This large mob estimated at 100-150 birds had all been on the inside edge of the bank of the creek and hidden from my view. I hurriedly picked out a close bird and squeezed off the charge in the left barrel. Through the billowing smoke I saw that lone teal come tumbling down. Two birds for two shots, a good start to the day.
I re-charged both barrels with powder, wads and shot and fitted new caps to the nipples. I then saw a lone teal that had landed on the water some 40 metres away. I proceeded to sneak my way along the edge of the creek, out of site of the duck, until I was close enough to take the shot. As it lifted from the water, wings beating furiously, I followed through with the barrels and as soon as they passed the Teal’s bill the right barrel belched out smoke and shot. Once again Old Reliable had lived up to its name, and floating downstream was duck number three of the morning.
A very gentle breeze had sprung up and had managed to push one of the Teal over to my side of the creek. Making an easy retrieval, it was safely stowed away in the game bag. The other two ducks had drifted across to the other side of the creek so a bridge across the creek needed to be found so I could pick them up without wading in.
Seeking a convenient crossing, I had gone about 300 metres back upstream when out of some reeds launched a solitary Black duck. Instinctively I brought Old Reliable up to the shoulder and loosed off the left barrel. After a slight cart wheel into the water duck number four was down and was drifting towards the opposite bank.
I finally found a make-shift bridge and crossed over to pick up the other two Teal, which was easily enough done. The only problem was that the Black duck had drifted back over to the side that I had just come from, so it was back across the makeshift bridge to make an easy retrieve on the Blackie.
As there were no more birds to be seen nearby, I packed the birds and gun into my ute and drove off further upstream to another favourite location. I reloaded both barrels of Old Reliable and commenced a new stalk along the banks of the creek. It seemed only a short ten minutes when a lone Wood duck took flight from the bank of the creek barely ten metres in front of me. Once again Old Reliable came naturally to the shoulder and that lone Wood duck disappeared in a cloud of black powder smoke. When it cleared, there was the Woodie motionless on the ground. Excellent, no wet feet or skinny dipping in the cold water to get you, I thought with much pleasure.
With that I tucked the Woodie in my game bag and headed back to the ute for the drive home. A rewarding morning’s effort toward the larder and even better to me was the satisfaction that I had fired five shots for five nice birds. Not too bad a way to “Bag Out” using the old ways just as my great grandparents would have done.
Alouette (The canoe song)
According to Wikipedia, “Alouette” is a popular French Canadian children’s song about plucking the feathers from a lark, in retribution for being woken up by its song. Although it is in French, it is well-known among speakers of other languages; in this respect it is similar to “Frère Jacques“.
Canadian theory is based on the French fur trade that was active for over 300 years in North America. Canoes were used to transport trade goods in exchange for furs through established expansive trade routes consisting of interconnecting lakes, and rivers, and portages in the hinterland of present day Canada and United States. The songs of the French fur trade were adapted to accompany the motion of paddles dipped in unison. Singing helped to pass the time and made the work seem lighter.
In fact, it is likely that the Montreal Agents and Wintering Partners sought out and preferred to hire voyageurs who liked to sing and were good at it. They believed that singing helped the voyageurs to paddle faster and longer. French colonists ate horned larks, which they considered a game bird. “Alouette” informs the lark that the singer will pluck its head, nose, eyes, wings and tail.
The song has become a symbol of French Canada for the world, an unofficial national song. Today, the song is used to teach French and English speaking children in Canada and other English speakers learning French around the world the names of body parts. Singers will point to or touch the part of their body that corresponds to the word being sung in the song.
Spring Rendezvous – Fri 18th – Mon 21st Sept.
“Don’t ya go to Rondyvoo no more?” We plan an extra special Rondyvoo with trade blankets, blue beads, mirrors and such, a blanket shoot with prizes for everyone, plus a Saturday evening shared feast with festivities celebrating the original Beaver Club grand functions. The Trapper’s toast…“To the fur trade in all its branches.” Can you paddle a canoe? Well, it doesn’t really matter; there will be tuition available and fortification to steady the nerves! It’s gonna be one incredible lark! O-o-o-oh! Alouette, gentile alouette…. Alouette, Je te plumerai…..
Toying with a Ban is Madness.
By Rita Panahi, Herald Sun Opinion, Fri. June 12, 2015
Here we go again with the predictable knee-jerk reaction to what is essentially a harmless bit of fun.
A child is photographed holding a toy AK-47 and quicker than you can say “chk chk boom”, the fun police spring to action demanding that toy guns be banned.
Frankly, the appetite to ban things we find distasteful is a far greater worry than a little boy holding a plastic gun.
What happened to exercising personal choice and simply opting not to purchase an item we find offensive?
If parents decide they don’t want little Finn or Fiona to play with guns, then they have every right to enforce that rule in their household.
But for a state or nationwide ban to be considered borders on authoritarian madness.
In NSW the normally sensible Baird Government is considering new laws to regulate the sale of toy guns that may look realistic.
Naturally, the Greens, the political party of choice for self-appointed moral guardians, are in favour of any measure that limits personal choice and responsibility.
Who can forget Greens senator Larissa Waters’ “No Gender December” campaign during which she urged shoppers to boycott “gender-stereotyped toys” such as toy trucks and Barbie dolls.
“Outdated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap,” Senator Waters said.
“While such serious problems seem so far removed from choosing children’s toys, it’s important that we think about this issue, especially when so many children’s toys are being bought.”
If that lot had their way, our kids would have nothing to play with other than building blocks in neutral, non-heteronormative colours.
Already schools across Victoria have banned everything from British bulldog to tiggy to the swapping of footy cards lest our overprotected young ’uns are traumatised by a bad swap or a prolonged losing streak.
We are wrapping our children so tightly in cotton wool that they are denied the chance to freely express themselves and to develop vital coping skills that come with experiencing the occasional failure and setback.
And, as any mother knows, banning toy guns has little effect – little boys will simply use toy drills, sticks or their fingers to point and shoot at each other.
It is harmless fun that generations before them have indulged in, but suddenly any representation of firearms is met with frenzied response from the easily agitated, eager to draw all sorts of conclusions.
Is playing “cowboys and Indians” not only culturally insensitive, but also a precursor to a life of crime and mayhem? Of course not! One can understand the visceral reaction to the picture that sparked this somewhat shrill debate; the casual way the boy holds the gun is reminiscent of images we’ve seen on terrorist propaganda and the fact that he was pictured mere metres from the Lindt café in Martin Place, the location of the Sydney siege, adds to the distasteful nature of the image.
But the child wasn’t pretending to be Man Haron Monis, the cowardly murderer and Islamic extremist who died in a hail of bullets.
He was just a child holding a plastic gun, one that perhaps looks a little more realistic than most other toy guns on the market.
Scott Weber, Police Association of NSW president, told the Herald Sun that toy firearms were used in crimes across NSW and that police were obliged to respond in the same manner whether the “weapon” is genuine or not.
But is that any reason to amend the law? Do we ban syringes, knives and baseball bats because they’re also used in the commission of crimes?
As it stands, the law prohibits the sale of imitation weapons; that is, items that are substantially similar in appearance to a firearm. But it is not too difficult to find a toy gun and remove the colourful parts that mark them as a toy.
Does that mean we ban the sale of all toy guns for fear that criminals could alter them to look real? Hell no.
Anyway, surely it’s preferable to have crims brandishing a plastic gun they’ve picked up at Toys “R” Us than turning to a real gun, a knife or machete. I can’t recall the last time an innocent bystander was murdered or maimed by someone armed with a toy gun.
My son’s generation seem to love Nerf guns that shoot colourful foam bullets, in my day it was the cowboy cap guns that produced a puff of smoke that were the “weapon” of choice.
I still recall the intoxicating smell of the cap gun smoke.
Incredibly to some, my friends and I haven’t gone on to become degenerate criminals, despite our toy gun habits. My playtimes certainly didn’t leave me desensitised to violent imagery.
Our children are exposed to all manner of real-life horrors online. They can watch people burnt alive or beheaded by Islamic State terrorists so you have to wonder why some among us are preoccupied with banning toys.
The idiocy is simply breathtaking.
Rita Panahi is a Melbourne Herald Sun columnist
(Note: We lifted this article direct from the Melbourne Herald-Sun newspaper, considering it worthy of sharing with our reader members knowing many may have missed it on the day. The more we share such voices of reason, the more we protect the rights of reasonable people. I feel sure that many re-enactor / black powder enthusiasts can echo Rita Panahi’s comment – “I still recall the intoxicating smell of the cap gun smoke” reliving childhood days of outdoor fun playing, running, jumping, riding wooden horses and make-believe shooting siblings and best friends and any grumpy old buzzards who objected unreasonably to kids just having fun.)
Welcome to another waffle on club doings. Your editor received a much appreciated Email just recently. From Bruce D it simply stated “Awesome Newsletter”. That’s the nicest bit of feedback for many a month. And it serves to remind me to once again request member input to maintain the standard of our/your newsletter. Contributions of handy hints, camping or shooting tips, hunting stories, accompanying photos, you know the stuff! Keep ‘em coming! Meanwhile, enjoy this latest edition of The Traps.
Next Club Event
June 6th, 7th & 8th Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend – mark your calendars now for our Winter Quarters camp – for serious Hivernants, Greenhorns and Flat-Landers too! Flintlocks, Caplocks and Cannons but unfortunately our 3rd Hershel House shoot deferred pending acquisition of a more suitable porch rocking chair and a level porch.
Is Political Correctness “out of school”?
“Really, it’s no Porky Pie” headed this morsel from Melbourne’s Herald Sun on 15th January. “Schoolbook authors in Britain have been told not to write about sausages or pigs for fear of causing offence. It emerged yesterday that Oxford University Press prohibits authors from including anything that could be perceived as pork-related in a clampdown apparently aimed at avoiding offence among Jews and Muslims.” <End.>
So, are we students of fur trade history to deny the existence of that class of voyagers known historically (either derogatively or pseudo affectionately) as “pork-eaters” in our re-enactments? Although sanitised in later years by generalisation the term remains a valid historical social descriptive part of the era that we love. Oh, and it has nothing to do with any religion or race.
The Canadian Encyclopaedia describes pork-eater thusly – “Pork-eater [French, mangeur de lard], in the parlance of the fur trade was a derogatory term for a Voyageur hired by the North West Company who made only the short run between Montréal and Grand Portage (and not into the North-West) and whose staple diet was pork, unlike the Winterer, or homme du nord, who made do with fish and pemmican. Later it came to refer to any voyageur who was a newcomer to the North-West.”
Aussie cricket fans would undoubtedly consider “pork-eater” sledging as quite kosher.
Way back in October 2009 Clive and Veronica shared the sentencing by American Judge Roy Bean upon Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales with readers, but yours truly never provided Jose’s right of reply. Just to reset the scene I’ve reprinted the legendary Judge Roy’s sentence (from Vol 20) followed here now by Jose’s reply.
“Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, in a few short weeks it will be spring. The snows of winter will flee away, the ice will vanish and the air will become soft and balmy. In short, the annual miracle of the years will awaken and come to pass, but you won’t be there.
The rivulet will run its soaring course to the sea, the timid desert flowers will put forth their tender shoots, and the glorious valley of this imperial domain will blossom as the rose. Still, you won’t be there to see.
From every treetop some wildwoods songster will carol his mating song, butterflies will sport in the sunshine, the busy bee will hum happily as it pursues its accustomed vocation; the gentle breeze will tease the tassels of the wild grasses and all nature, Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, will be glad but you.
You won’t be here to enjoy it because I command the Sheriff, or some officers of the country, to lead you to some remote spot, swing you by the neck from a knotting bough of some sturdy oak and let you hang until you are dead.
After then, Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, I further command that such officers retire quickly from your dangling corpse; that vultures may descend from the heavens upon your filthy body, until nothing shall remain but the bare, bleached bones of a cold-blooded, copper-coloured, blood-thirsty, throat-cutting, chilli-eating, sheep-herding, murdering son-of-a-bitch.”
Seemingly unperturbed by the severity of the brutal sentence, neither flabbergasted by the descriptive prose, it turns out Jose Gonzales, a poor sheep-herder, was also capable of a little articulacy, in a fashion, and totally unafraid to match dialogue with the judiciary, whilst coming clean with an ultimate confession.
“I admit I’m a thief, but so eager was this court to add another to its already long list of slaughtered victims that you remind me more of buzzards hovering over a carcass than men supposed to dispense justice.
You half-starved hyena, you’ve sat through this trial with devilish glee written all over your hellish face. You talk about spring with its sweet-smelling blossoms and fall with its yellow moon; you damned offspring of a diseased whore. You say that I am to be hanged and, as I gaze into your bloated whiskey-soaked face, I’m not surprised at the pretended gravity and the evil sarcasm with which you send me to my death.
You haven’t even the grace to call down the mercy of God on my soul, you dirty-nosed, pot-bellied, dung-eating descendent of an outhouse maggot. I defy you to the end. You can hang me by the neck until I’m dead, dead, dead, and you can also kiss my arse until its red, red, red, and God damn your foul old soul.”
Easter gathering–Good Friday April 3rd–Monday 6th.
We had fabulous weather, warm sunny days, clear moonlit nights including a brief but beautiful eclipse of the moon highlighting millions of stars, the Milky Way and the Southern Cross all brighter than ever. Simply splendid and most salubrious! Well there were plenty of liquid refreshments plus some cheap whiskey consumed as we waited on the moon to do its stuff. Here’s health to all pilgrims!
It all started two weeks earlier when a small working bee was organised by your committee. Bob Ellis was appointed supervisor with Tom, Jim and Chook all hands on. Then with help from Bernard and his tractor, three post holes were dug and prepared termite proofed posts inserted and set in concrete to mark the extension of the rear wall of our Open-Faced Shelter. Next job was to remove all pine logs from the old back wall to the new, and to cut additional planks to extend the side walls.
The roof was then extended, still with canvas ceiling for that authentic look, and the rest would have to wait until willing workers returned at Easter. We had in fact actually achieved much more of the preliminary work than anticipated. This gave us a real chance to have the extension completed in time for Easter Saturday revelling.
Peter, Noah, Matt and Murray got off to an early start at Easter with some stone foundation form work, then chinking the pine boards against the cold breezes. The next major task was floor levelling with several trailer loads of loose fill dirt required (thanks Bernard) and a topping of road grit. Again Bob was the architect of the work, but it was marvellous to see everyone present getting stuck into the shovel work. Particular thanks to Matt McMurrich and Charlie Timma.
Most of the work was completed when Ian arrived in time to put the finishing touch Facia boards to the shelter. Very timely I thought! Jim led the crew collecting two trailer loads of sticks for cooking fires and always some bigger stuff for the main cabin fire. The urinal shed was cleared and portion utilised for storage and that’s about all the chores done did.
Saturday saw plenty of shooting happening although no official competitions were listed. Everyone just did their own practice shooting at plywood rabbits and steel gongs. Peter was using a 50 cal Lancaster; Charlie (a mollydooker) took his time sighting in Filthy Franks right-handed old 45 flinter off the left shoulder; Ian shot his 54 cal Mortimer; Peter shot his 50 cal flinter and Noah just loving a 32cal half-stock caplock. The Bakers were airing out Tippa’s old 32 squirrel gun and the Lindsay’s had another ½ stock caplock. Goes to show ya don’t need prize competitions or silver awards to max out on fun!
Tom was rather late arriving on Saturday after completing his work shift. The cooking fire pit that has become known as Tom’s Hole was already a bed of fine coals thanks to Matt. About twenty pilgrims then sat around this fire drinking coffee, watching Tom unload and set up his camp. He didn’t get much help; we all just watched and passed rude or unhelpful advice, ready to give a round hand or some other applause.
The comforts of the extended Open-faced Shelter were remarked upon by all who gathered for Saturday night festivities. The fire was well stoked and the heat reached well into the larger area. A few drinks were had, in one or two cases a few too many, but hell, it’s Saturday night at Rondyvoo. Ian entertained with guitar and song, Bernard did his usual damper bake, actually it was better than his usual, as it was Judy’s recipe this time. Much later someone reached a mountain high, loudly declaring they had bought a Jeep. They hadn’t! And so merriment and cavorting continued to somewhere around 2am when the ½ price bad whiskey finally ran out.
Young Noah received plenty of tuition on the old ways that we used to trap rabbits. Down at the creek he managed to entice a large Prickleback yabby to his bait, eventually snaring it when Charlie fashioned a net for him. Keeping his fingers clear, Noah proudly displayed the yabby to all present, and then gently released it back into the creek to grow even bigger.
Sunday morning after leisurely breakfasts (pork sausages, eggs and bacon for Jim and I) some more shootin’ was done. John Morland burned the black with his resurrected Phoenix 45 flinter while Tom was, as usual, making much noise with his 54 full-stock Hawkin. Peter shot his 50 cal flinter and Murray was doing well with his 54 half stock flinter at 93 yards. Others were giving the plywood rabbits another working-over.
The afternoon saw the smooth bores brought out. Jim’s Trade Gun, Ian’s 20g Factor’s Trade gun, Tom a Japanese smooth bore flinter to mention a couple. Lots of fun adopting John Morland’s pet loads, consisting of powder charge, a rather close fitting bare ball held down on the powder by only a lubricated felt wad – no card over powder and no patching. This proved quite accurate on gongs at 30 yards on the day!
Attendance to the camp numbered eighteen. Special thanks to visiting Frontiers Group members Gary & Jenny Baker, Noel & Sharon Lindsay, Chase & Keith Day and Mark Pountney for joining us, bringing their interpretations, sharing our “Primitive”.
After Winter Quarters its Spring Rendezvous – Sept. 18th – 21st
We plan an extra special Spring Rondyvoo with trade blankets, blue beads, mirrors and such, and with a Saturday evening shared feast with festivities emulating the original Beaver Club shebangs. Can you paddle a canoe? Well, it doesn’t matter, there will be tuition available and fortification ! It’s gonna be one heck of a fantastic lark! Oh! Alouette, gentile alouette….
“Parliamentary Friends of Shooting”
A Newsletter Extra courtesy of Clay Buster and well worthy of your attention.
Senator Bridget McKenzie
Thursday 9 April 2015
McKenzie calls on Greens to stop demonising licensed firearms owners
The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said today the demonisation of licensed and responsible firearms owners by the Greens must stop, following the tabling of the Senate’s Inquiry into the ability of Australian law enforcement authorities to eliminate gun related violence in Australia.
Senator McKenzie said the report, tabled today, found that only four hundredths of one per cent of all registered guns in Australia were stolen and only five per cent of those were used to commit a crime.
“Greens Senator Penny Wright has been waging a relentless scare campaign trying to demonise licensed and responsible firearms owners,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Many of the claims made by Senator Wright, including her statement that ‘most illegal guns are not trafficked into Australia, but stolen from registered owners’ has not substantiated in the findings of this inquiry.
“What we have found is clear evidence provided by witnesses, including law enforcement agencies, that most guns used to commit a crime do not originate from licensed firearms owners but are in fact illegally imported.”
Senator McKenzie said the Firearm Safety and Training Council and NSW Police submitted evidence which showed that illegal importation of firearms was a more significant source of illicit firearms than theft, with Victoria Police raising internet facilitated firearm trafficking as an emerging trend.
“Adding more layers of red tape to licensed and responsible firearms owners will not get illicit guns off our streets when the problem is at our borders,” Senator McKenzie said.
“During this inquiry, no case was made for any increased regulation around gun ownership laws; no evidence was shown to us that banning semi-automatic handguns would reduce the number of illegally held firearms in Australia; and no evidence was found that supported stricter storage requirements having any impact on gun-related violence.
“This inquiry was an attempted stitch-up of Australia’s highly regulated, responsible and licensed firearms owners by the Greens – a stitch-up that has fallen flat on its face.”
Senator McKenzie acknowledged illicit firearms on Australia’s streets was a concern and said that a continued focus on stamping out illegally imported firearms must be a top priority for Government to reduce the level of gun related violence in the community.
“However our efforts to get illicit firearms off our streets mustn’t come at the expense of licenced and responsible firearms owners, who provide significant social, economic and environmental benefits to our country,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Responsible recreational shooting has produced many Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champions for Australia and hunting is a culturally important activity and legitimate industry that creates jobs and injects billions of dollars into the national economy.
“Equally, farmers use firearms as a ‘tool’ of their trade for the control of pests who wreak havoc on the environment and the humane treatment of stock.”
Launch of Parliamentary Friends of Shooting a great success
Wednesday 22 April 2015
Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallists Michael Diamond and
Laetisha Scanlan were the guests of honour at the recent launch of the
Parliamentary Friends of Shooting event held at Parliament House in Canberra.
The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie launched the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting in March, in an effort to raise awareness about sporting and recreational shooting among parliamentarians.
Senator McKenzie said sporting and recreational shooters were often demonised in the mainstream media for participating in a pastime that is not only legal but delivers significant social, economic and environmental benefits to Australia.
“Shooting often cops a bad rap in the mainstream media by commentators who are misinformed,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Shooting has produced a number of Olympic, Commonwealth and World champions such as Michael Diamond, Laetisha Scanlan and Russell Mark.
“The public is happy to support these champions every four years when they are winning gold for Australia but outside of this the sport can be frowned upon – I am committed to changing this.
“In my home state of Victoria we know recreation hunting contributes around $440 million per year to the local economy, much of that in regional Victoria.
Our farmers rely on shooting to humanely cull invasive pests such as rabbits, foxes and deer, while also delivering significant environmental benefits.“
“Many thousands of Victorian’s also compete at sporting shooting clubs each and every weekend in events such as clay target shooting, with the best of those going on to compete for higher honours.”
“Shooting is wonderful activity which I have proudly participated in for many years and I want to see it get the credit it deserves.”
“We know our licensed firearms owners are seldom responsible for any of the horrible gun crimes such as the recent Martin Place Siege, yet if you picked-up your newspaper or listened to the constant harping from Greens Senators such as Penny Wright you may think otherwise.”
“Through the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting I hope to begin to change these negative perceptions about shooting. I would even strongly encourage the Greens to come along, meet with those who participate in the sport, farmers and recreational hunters to help dispel some of the myths.”
Look closely, the above screen-shot depicts Murray and Justin wrangling over furs at “Beaver Creek” camp, only here they are headlining Crazy Crow’s Trading Post website. We’re rather delighted to see one of our photos being utilised by this major U.S. storehouse. It is hoped everyone has had a merry old Christmas and perhaps even received gifts of real good plunder. Welcome once again Around the Traps.
In this edition we feature Jenny Baker’s story of the 160th anniversary re-enactment of the Eureka Stockade rebellion. Whilst not a Free Trapper event, several members and regular visitors Around the Traps travelled to Sydney early December to attend. What a shame that the event could not be arranged to take place here in our Ballarat gold fields district of Victoria.
However, Jenny gives a glowing tribute of the picturesque grounds of the site at the Gledswood Homestead and Winery about one hour’s drive from Sydney and reports:-
There were over 160 Living History re-enactors including two all the way from the U.S. – Americans Chuck and Judy Young took part over the three full lead up days culminating in the historic stockade battle.
In the Government Camp there where soldiers from the 40th & 12th Regiments of Foot, Mounted Gold Escort officers, Mounted Police, Police Troopers, the Gold Commissioner and Magistrate. There was a Town area where Historic Sutler’s, blacksmiths and wood turners worked. And in the Miners Camp there were miners with their wives and families and our Chinese group.
It was a fabulous event with loads of fun, whilst the only dampener was the storm which blew in just as we were to pack up – so we travelled home with soggy canvas, but who cares, it was all worth it.”
New Gold Mountain
A re-enactment adventure by Madame Sin Wy Fook
1854: News had come to our little Chinese village that there was much gold to be found at New Gold Mountain which some call Australia. And so it was determined by our family that my sister Wy Wy Fook and I should travel there to seek our fortune. It was arranged that we should take the three month journey by clipper ship to Melbourne with sufficient chattels and supplies to run a Tea house on the Goldfields. The Voyage was for the most part smooth sailing and trouble free and we soon found ourselves on the docks of Sandridge – a sea port serving Melbourne town.
Being two lone Chinese women fearful of our safety in a strange land we, on arrival, immediately sought a strong male travelling guardian for the trip to the Ballaraat diggings. A Corporal Baker of the 40th Regiment of Foot who was preparing to leave with despatches and supplies for the diggings agreed to allow us to travel with him.
The journey was long and hot but for the most part the roads were not too rough. We had decided that it would be best to stay at a lodging house one night on the way there. It was a modest but quiet friendly house which served us a large breakfast before we resumed our journey the next day.
After another three hours of travelling we arrived at the outskirts of the diggings. We had wanted to buy some further supplies but found it near on impossible to get near to the store as it had limited cart parking. We then decided to go on to set up our camp and return later for the supplies.
We were directed by the authorities where we could set up our camp. Chinese were not allowed to camp within the miner’s area, but were directed to a fringe outskirts not too far away from them. We set to with the help of the kind Corporal Baker to quickly set up our tents, after which he had to leave us and proceed to the Government Camp area to set up his personal tent and report to his Regiment.
All around us, Diggers were setting up their tents and marking out their claims. At first they would have little to do with us, but once they found out that we had a wide range of refreshing tea to be had, they quickly started to come to our tea house.
Our laundry service also became very popular, especially with the Police troopers. They were dirty men and it took much hard scrubbing to clean their clothes and they constantly complained and beleaguered us. They were often seen also to hound the miners about gold licenses. But for the most part they left Wy Wy and me alone because we were doing their laundry.
Then came dreadful news brought to us by Lo Wang, the Chinese doctor and interpreter. Wy Wy Fook’s husband, due to arrive with more supplies for the tea house, had been accosted and killed on the road. So as the older sister, I decided to have Lo Wang arrange a marriage for her as soon as possible. He quickly found a successful miner, one Josiah Breen, who was most delighted to take a Chinese wife.
Tensions had been building for some weeks over Government policing of miner’s licences and rights and associated exorbitant fees. These tensions began to take a nasty turn soon after we arrived at Ballaraat. The miners were rebellious and had begun to build a stockade and openly drill with guns and pikes. There were several nasty clashes between the quarrelling miners and the Government and police troopers.
Eventually, and to our great horror these clashes lead to a fierce battle and a great many men were horribly injured and some even killed within the stockade. One miner came requesting I help him take one of the seriously hurt miners, a Peter Lalor, to Doctor Lo Wang for aid. Unfortunately his injured arm could not be saved. As soon as he could be moved friends smuggled him out of the camp, for he had been a leader of the miners, so the soldiers and mounted police wished to take him prisoner.
With so much disruption, we decided that the Ballaraat diggings where not the ideal place for us to stay. As our new friend Corporal Baker was due to return to his Regimental headquarters in Melbourne town, we chose to travel back with him and to seek our fortunes elsewhere.
Madame Sin Wy Fook
Sin Wy Fook – Jenny Baker; Wy Wy Fook – Sharon Lindsay; Corporal Baker – Gary Baker.
Readers will relate to this next story garnered from the Country Living segment of the Weekly Times back in August 2011. Strangely, my requests for permission to reprint it in the “Traps” were never acknowledged; now the kept torn-out page has yellowed and the print faded to an extent I’m fearful of losing it forever. I feel confident that the author, Chris Rule, and The Weekly Times will support our reprinting it for members.
Graduating from toys to real guns
The little bloke has nailed a rabbit. This is the culmination of a lot of interest in guns that, for a long time, bordered so closely to excitement that it precluded any actual contact with the things.
It must be a very frustrating logic for a boy, that the more he wanted to shoot stuff, the less likely he was to be allowed to do so.
But it has not all been unproductive, quite the opposite. He has produced a veritable armoury of toy guns, some with such realism as to qualify as replicas.
Bought plastic jobs are cannibalised for sexy bits and worked into the wood-and-pipe constructions on the workbench, mainly with many metres of my duct, electrical and masking tape. He seems to be on to all my hiding spots.
Still, after nagging for real bullets and pleading for some simple target practice for enough months, I was finally convinced he was interested enough in a sustained way. I wandered into the gun shop for a packet of cheap 22s.
As a kid my son’s age, I could buy these at the local milk bar. Now I get to feel a bit dangerously special being one of a shrinking number trusted to own weaponry.
Anyway, I set him up with a good target and he proved reasonably steady-of-hand and, more importantly, careful to the point of paranoia, which is how we train kids in the family when it comes to guns.
Just as an example, we do not have a tradition of using safety catches. Two reasons.
The first is you do not cock or even necessarily load the gun until about to shoot, so why use a safety and, somewhat paradoxically, the gun is considered ALWAYS loaded. It should not matter if it goes off because it is NEVER pointed anywhere but at a target or the ground.
The second reason is that I can never work out which position is “safe”, and only ever managed to leave it on right up to the annoying moment when I squeezed the trigger to find it locked and the feral I’d aimed at would insolently trot away unscathed.
So the boy shot his rabbit.
The story slowly emerged that it took not one clean shot but rather seven to finally plug an apparently profoundly deaf bunny nibbling the spring grass.
More target practice is indicated.
Chris Rule writing for the Weekly Times
More poetic plunder from the Club President’s scrapbooks – this epic by R.L. Baxter first appeared in Muzzleloader Magazine way back in 1988 in the May/June edition.
If you’re into flintlock rifles, You will learn to your dismay,
When they speak to one another, This is surely what they say:
“Although flintlocks have no feelings, We’re contrary as the mules.
No matter what the shooter wants, All good flinters have these rules.
If you want to bug your shooter, Bend the mainspring to its peak,
Then when he pulls the trigger, Let your frizzen spring go weak!
Let him knap the flint real careful, And clean and tune the lock.
Then when he’s set and ready, Let the top jaw lose the rock!
Or if the spark’s not coming, And the old stone has been doffed,
When he fits and trims a new one, Let your frizzen face go soft!
If the flint finds all this boring, And the sear wants in the plot,
Make your fly stick for some reason, So he finds the half cock slot!
If the shooter thinks he’s master, That he now calls the tune,
Let your innards get real sloppy, So it all goes off too soon!
Then, when he thinks he’s fooled you, But you know you’ve got him bugged,
Let the pan flash clean and quickly, But keep your touchhole plugged!
For those who want to shoot us, It must be understood,
We add colour to their verbiage, As they learn to swear real good!
In our private world of flintlocks, We know which one’s really trying,
Cause that’s the one who’s owner, Has real red eyes from crying!
Yes, we flinters render service, We really, really do!
If you take up flintlock shooting, We will make a man of you!”
Who would have believed that Victorian voters would swing so far against the Liberal government? The Trapper committee would hope all firearms enthusiasts carefully consider the future of our sport whenever at the polling booths. On the Monday after last election the Herald-Sun reported concerns over divisive political issues. Gun ownership laws were rated alongside of euthanasia and abortion. Hell, there had been no mention of firearm concerns in the lead up to Election Day. Can you trust any politician to defend your shooting sports interests?
Welcome once again Around the Traps. Publication has been somewhat off the pace since our last newsletter back in July; was that when Jim fell down a wombat hole, skun his shins and busted a few ribs? I can’t remember. Most readers would be aware that our Club treasurer, Bob Ellis, has been battling with a difficult cancer, while those who camped with us in September would know of Peter Convey’s struggle with kidney stones. Peter even mentions that in his ode to our last rendezvous. As for myself, well, my brand new pacemaker implant has me back on track, and that’s great.
Those who braved the September weather forecasts had, once again, a magnificent time camping on the beautiful Painted Pony Plains of Bernard’s Cache. The telling of the tale never seems to fully equate with the simple pleasures of camp-fire life shared with good friends, but please enjoy the read and share the adventure!
There was one or two who rather didn’t approve of the “Fair Dinkum” notes in Vol 48, while most gave strong approval. Although most original Mountain Men, Eastern woodsy folk, Coureurs de Bois etcetera tended to be loners, we re-enactors of that era do play a team roll. In that we gather on each particular occasion to enjoy the efforts, interests and company of fellow enthusiasts. Yes, it’s a team effort in authenticity!
Now, if you’re into footy, cricket, basketball and such, you are expected to wear a strict uniform that complies with the team set standard; we are different, yet no different. Our uniform standard is simply one of a pre 1840 era style outfit that in some way has connection with the American fur trade of that period – generally about 1700 to1840 – providing massive scope for individual portrayals. It’s really that easy!
The only binding restriction is an attempted authenticity to the pre 1840 cut off date.
How about a couple of suggestions then? I’ve already mentioned the Mountain Man, the Eastern Longhunter, Coureur Du Bois, so what about the Voyager, settler, his wife and family, the doctor/dentist, the inn keeper, store keeper, preacher, blacksmith, wagon master, wheelwright – all these and many more can be connected to fur trade activities of the era, and you don’t have to wear leggings and a breechclout. Adopting such a persona just makes it easier to find your true 18th C self. Think about it!
Thanks to the Hunting Gods – hunting with Le Reynard
Earlier in the week I had made up my mind that with the week end approaching it was time to make use of my game license and put some more ducks in the bag. A couple of days before the Saturday I had made sure that there was enough powder in the flask, the shot pouch was full, over powder and shot wads were re-stocked in the fowling bag and an adequate amount of percussion caps in the straight line capper was ready to do the job.
On the Saturday morning I jumped out of bed had some brekkie, threw on the hunting clothes and went outside to warm the ute up only to be confronted with low grey clouds and a slight misty rain falling.
I hesitated for a moment if I should go but with faith in the hunting Gods I packed the 12 gauge and its “fixings” and headed off to the hunting grounds. After an hour driving with the windscreen wipers still swishing away the light rain, I kept telling myself to have faith, all will be well.
The first port of call was to a couple of small dams that are relatively close to each other, and importantly, one of which has nice high banks that provide an opportunity for a careful hunter to sneak up from behind.
I loaded up both barrels with my usual load and made my way cautiously to the nearest dam bank. I slowly lifted my head up over the top but could see nothing. Not a single bird! As I looked around for a moment or two, my ears picked up on a sound that every duck hunter knows all too well, the “meow” of a wood duck. A short distance away, on the second small dam, the one without raised embankments, were half a dozen Woodies and three Grey Teal.
As usual, the Woodies were on sentry duty being on the edge of the dam while the teal were on the water. Having already been spotted by the “sentries”, they soon took to the wing and circled around for a few minutes, but never quite in range, before heading off to parts unknown. Well “that’s that” I thought, but to my amazement the teal had stayed on the water. The Gods hadn’t quite abandoned me yet.
With no cover, it was going to be a bit of a belly crawl to get close enough so I could take the shot. Slowly but surely I managed to get within range. I slowly raised myself up (after catching my breath) and there was an explosion of water and feathers as the three birds lifted into the air. I settled the bead in front of the bird heading off to my left and let that little copper cap do its work. Through the billowing white smoke I could see the form of a teal falling back down to the water.
Quickly I swung the gun back to my right to where the second bird was, as it was flying directly away from me, and loosed off the second barrel. With a bit of a cart wheel this bird also tumbled down on to the water’s edge. The third bird made a very fast circuit of both dams, obviously deciding that it was rather unsafe to dally about checking to see what had happened to its companions, and flew off to far safer places.
I walked over and after a bit of a wait, for the first bird had to float over to the water’s edge, I had both birds in the game bag. With some dark clouds on the western horizon looking ominous I quickly got back into the ute and went to check a small creek a short 10 minute drive away. No sooner had I pulled up, when from off a small puddle along the roadside, two Blackies took flight. This was looking most promising.
Having reloaded and placed the caps on I set off along the edge of the creek to see if those Blackies had dropped in somewhere. About ten minutes of walking a single Black duck suddenly lifted up in front me with a loud quack. I brought the gun up quickly, gave a little bit of lead, and promptly shot the mass of leaves and branches between me and the Blackie. I feel for sure that duck is still quacking his lucky escape.
Somewhat disappointed and bemused, I put a fresh charge of powder and shot down the barrel and set off once again, hoping to have some better luck go my way. And some did! It was only a short walk later when I could see a small group of wood ducks standing on the opposite creek bank about 100 to 120 metres ahead of me. With ample cover in front of me I began to stalk up on them.
I was still just over 30 metres away from them when a keen eyed Woodie noticed my movement and lifted off the ground causing the other ducks to take to the wing also. I quickly brought the 12 gauge up and fired at a bird slightly to my left. Through the smoke I saw the bird tumble down – followed by another one! Two in one!
I quickly scanned the sky for another shot and I could see a few birds circling back towards me. I crouched down low and when a lone Woodie came past, a little further out than I would have liked, I stood up, gave some lead and sent the left barrel’s charge on its way. I could see the duck give a flinch in the air and it started to lose its altitude very quickly and it eventually came down some 50 metres away – on the other side of the creek.
I headed back down stream and was able to find a make-shift log bridge over the creek and was able to cross over and pick up the three wood ducks and stuff them into the game bag. And not a moment too soon for the next heavy shower was starting to fall, so by the time I arrived back at the Ute I was soaking wet. I put the ducks in the back of the Ute and got changed into some dry clothes which I had fortunately put in the vehicle before heading off that morning.
Driving home through the continuing light rain yet being warm and dry, I was well pleased with the way the morning had gone. A double rise on the teal and a two-in-one on the wood ducks. I truly think the hunting Gods had smiled on me after all.
Ode to September 2014 Rendezvous
We climbed the mountain, in our Ford mule team
To find the pass to the campin’ stream, a fallen tree did block our path
So all three bent backs, till t’was cleared at last.
Then the campin’ site came into view, there we pitched our tents
And cooked up a stew, we gathered some wood, both straight and bent
Then we piled it high right near our tent.
The evening soon was rolling in, so we warmed up the stew and tucked right in
Built up our fires to a warming glow, for the hills did cover with a misty flow
While wild noises echoed to and fro.
Morning has risen o’er the hills; Pilgrims were arriving in all their frills
Greetings are shared, wise cracks made, as they unload all their foofaraw
While setting up camp, seeking the limited shade.
The morning sun rose over the hills, shone on the camps and warmed their chills
But Ian’s on a mercy dash to a town, for in one tent can be heard moans and groans
Tis Peter fighting with kidney stones.
Now Pa’s not here, how’ll I get home, Noah lamented with a wistful groan
Don’t worry said Ian, I’ll get you there, as he poured another mug of coffee
And lounged in his chair
Noah now happy, he headed on out, around all the campsites he did scout
An aroma of fried chips twitching his snout, then at Hawkey’s camp he was invited in
Hawkey fed him hot chips, both long and thin.
A book of fine cards on a blanket did lay, ya can’t sell them Chook, Noah did say
They’re worth too much, a great many pounds; so take it for free, Chook did sound
And in Noah’s arms a new home was found.
Ian, what are we shooting, Noah did say. At that gong ninety five yards away
Now ’member Pa’s advice, breathing an’ that; then the gong did ring at the rifle crack
And Ian said – By God, he hit that!
That’s it, said Tom, his annoyance vent; five shots fired for no song I’ve spent
Now Noah arrives, fires just one, hits the durned thing and made it rung
That’s it, I’m through, and Tom headed back to his tent.
Next morning saw the pilgrims in a hurry, packing tents and gear into their surrey,
They’ll be making tracks for home, with all good memories and just a hint of sorrow
At thoughts of returning to work on the morrow.
The Mountain Quill – Peter Convey
Rendezvous – What’s it all about?
Well here’s a brief description by one who was there: “Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns and frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent.” Jim Beckwourth
Vale: Brian Munro
Many club members will remember Brian from early days of rendezvous camped in his tipi in Dead Horse Gully at Taminick, or at Millmerran or the Fraser Coast, Queensland, or at the world championships in Monarto, South Australia in 2000 and many other venues. Some years back the Free Trappers had officially invited Brian and Rebecca to visit and camp with us but unfortunately circumstances were never quite right. Brian is fondly remembered as a larger than life character, a Kiwi who called Australia home and who marched to his own drum and loved all the primitive trappings. Rest in peace Brian.
Christmas 210 years ago
A little research from Jenny Baker noting the use of swivel guns and cannon as recorded in journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
25th December 1804 Christmas Tuesday (Clark) I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoons from the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 Cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some men went out to hunt & the Others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P, M, when the frolick ended &c
Tuesday 25th Decr. 1804. (Sergeant John Ordway) cloudy. we fired the Swivels at day break & each man fired one round. our officers Gave the party a drink of Taffee. we had the Best to eat that could be had, & continued firing dancing & frolicking dureing the whole day. the Savages did not Trouble us as we had requested them not to come as it was a Great medician day with us. we enjoyed a merry cristmas dureing the day & evening untill nine oClock—all in peace & quietness.
Tuesday 25th. (Sgt. Patrick Gass (June 12, 1771 – April 2, 1870) The morning was ushered in by two discharges of a swivel, and a round of small arms by the whole corps. Captain Clarke then presented to each man a glass of brandy, and we hoisted the American flag in the garrison, and its first waving in fort Mandan was celebrated with another glass.— The men then cleared out one of the rooms and commenced dancing. At 10 o’clock we had another glass of brandy, and at 1 a gun was fired as a signal for dinner.
At half past 2, another gun was fired, as a notice to assemble at the dance, which was continued in a jovial manner till 8 at night; and without the presence of any females, except three squaws, wives to our interpreter, who took no other part than the amusement of looking on. None of the natives came to the garrison this day; the commanding officers having requested they should not, which was strictly attended to. During the remainder of the month we lived in peace and tranquility in the garrison, and were daily visited by the natives.
Tuesday 25th Decr. (Private JosephWhitehouse) 1804. we ushred in the morning with a discharge of the Swivvel, and one round of Small arms of all the party. then another from the Swivel. then Capt. Clark presented a glass of brandy to each man of the party. we hoisted the american flag and each man had another Glass of brandy. the men prepared one of the rooms and commenced dancing. at 10 oC. we had another glass of brandy, at one a gun was fired as a Signal for diner. half past two another gun was fired to assemble at the dance, and So we kept it up in a jovel manner untill Eight oC. at night, all without the compy. of the female Seck, except three Squaws the Intreptirs wives and they took no part with us only to look on. agreeable to the officers request the natives all Stayed at their villages all day.—
Tuesday Decemr 25th This morning being Christmass, the day was announced by the discharge of our swivels, and one Round from our small arms of the whole company; about 7 o’Clock A. M. we fired our Swivels again, when Captain Clark came out of his quarters, and presented a Glass of Brandy to each Man of our party.— He then ordered the American Flag to be hoisted, which being done; he presented them again with another Glass of brandy.— The Men then prepared one of the Rooms, and commenced dancing, we having with us Two Violins & plenty of Musicans in our party.—
At 10 o’Clock A. M. the whole of the party were again served with another Glass brandy they continued dancing ’till 1 o’Clock P. M. when our Cannon was fir’d off, as a signal for dinner, at half an hour past 2 oClock P. M. we fired off our Cannon, and repaired to the Room to dance, which they continued at till 8 o’Clock P. M. There was none of the Mandans, Excepting 3 Squaws our Interpreters Wives at the Fort, the Officer having requested the Natives, to stay in their Towns, which they complied with, the Officers this day named our Fort, Fort Mandan,—
It may not be feasible for all Club members to fire off a swivel gun, small cannon or other small arms this coming Christmas day, but I reckon a glass or two of best brandy would partially maintain the tradition and maybe get a few up dancing. On behalf of Ian and all Committee members it is sincerely hoped all readers enjoy a fabulous Christmas, with perhaps a little brandy sauce on the old plum pud and a sip of your favourite tipple. Keep safe and well this festive season. Chook