Vol. 10, April 2008

Jimmy Walker blatantly plays a “sly grogger” under the weak guise of selling coffee and refreshments.
Jimmy Walker blatantly plays a “sly grogger” under the weak guise of selling coffee and refreshments.

Accused, apprehended, intimidated, forced to undergo medical treatment, cheated at cards, doped and duped, no money, no gold, no prospects, but great friends, and all good fun, made for a fantastic Easter – no worries!

A very warm welcome to Around the Traps, Volume 10. Yep, that’s right “Ten” Volume 10 – We’ve reached double figures! Surely, it’s a milestone worth celebrating with a swig of your favourite tipple as you settle down for a bit of a read. And it’s congrats to all you contributor readers, for you have made our simple Newsletter the most interesting smoke-pole talk in all the Friendly Nations – and beyond.

So often at Easter we see that huge full moon glowing like a giant beach ball in clear starry skies. And that’s just how it was over the Holey Plains this year. The weather was warm and dry, albeit at times a trifle humid, but just perfect for camping and fortune hunting. The candle lanterns at night created the usual pleasing atmosphere, but they were hardly necessary, with the brightness from that big golden moon casting long deep shadows to rival those of the late afternoon sunshine.

And it was in the depth of those shadows where the mysteries and shame of the goldfields lurked. The lure of riches does things to men, and oh yes, to women also. But more of this later, just let it be announced here as front page news, that everyone attending this very first 1850’s Gold Rush re-enactment had an absolute whale of a time. Organisers can be justly proud of their achievements and we all look forward to a repeat event.

Our friends in The Blue & The Grey along with History Up Close had arranged the ideal gold fields tent village on the banks of the Latrobe River. Their most cordial welcome to us Trappers meant us changing our Longhunter duds – for 1850’s era miner’s costumes – but that was just half the fun. The second half was simply being there to participate in (and further develop) all the schemes and intrigue our hosts had planned, and more that they dreamed up on the run.

Changing personas, or for some of us, developing personas for the first time, turned out a lot easier than most expected and was all fun, fun, fun. What a Hoot! There were Shining Times aplenty during this Holey Plains jaunt. Lorraine’s clothes line full of sparkling white laundry advertised our hard working washer woman, right beside the ever increasing stock of trade goods at the Norris store and an abundance of fine cloth at Barrett’s the drapers.

A busy laundress!
A busy laundress! – (Photo by Richard)

The Scotsman Jimmy Walker had obviously paid off the Commissioner as the sly grog trade normally conducted in clandestine fashion at the rear of his Coffee and beverage tent was blatantly in operation right out front.

Now that Commissioner fellow was quite amenable to bribes (paid in gold, of course) and his enforcement officer, the Colour Sergeant of the 40th Regiment of Foot quickly slipped a one pound tip in his belt pouch whilst his Corporal wasn’t watching. I know!

And that rotund, jovial Undertaker come Medico chappie had some dastardly murderous reputation following after him like a faithful puppy dog.

And it wasn’t just the plethora of gold dust and nuggets that glittered, for Madame Sin Wy Fook was all aglow, but I just haven’t cottoned on as to the Wy. Why not? I say! Handsome profits from her gambling table at the Celestial Chinese Tea House, no doubt, as those innocent Chinese lanterns attracted customers like moths to a lamp.

Now, let me tell you about the gruesome murder of Lazarus Hobbs, and how I became a key suspect – merely as a result of Hobbs losing his stupid head, and with his outstretched fingers just inches from a lost weskit button of mine. Really, I mean to say! But hey, I’m stealing the thunder of all those who witnessed the resulting inquiries. You’ll just have to sit at our campfires to hear the full gory detail from the traumatised survivors of that dreadful den of iniquity.

And there will be stories around the camp-fires for years about History Up Close’s wonderful 1850’s Gold Rush premier. Re-enactment premier, that is! We can’t take it from the originals. But we did give it a damn good try – just for fun!

The Free Trappers pay tribute to History Up Close and The Blue & The Grey with special mention to Robert & Gina Brooks, Jenny Baker and Gary Mappin. Well done!

In this issue we feature Jim Walker in several different personas. Jim shows how simply changing one or two items of clothing can change a man’s outward appearance.

On front page we see Jim as a (semi) respectable refreshments vendor, who thinks nothing of relieving a miner of tools of trade for a cup of joy juice – anything for a quid! Jim then slips easily into that sneaking bushranger outfit with his double barrel percussion shotgun, and seen here with a shady accomplice removing wanted posters and lurking in the woods along the main routes to Melbourne town, two opportunists preying on any successful miners or careless traders.

“Dangerously suspicious”
“Dangerously suspicious”

Our next picture of Jim shows he has become the successful sporting type of gent with embroidered waistcoat and fob, just waiting for that half-after-eleven Cobb & Co coach to town.

All Jim’s personas are taken from S.T. Gill’s images actually drawn on the gold fields of Victoria. Jim’s outfits supplied by various Op shops at minimal outlay, proving that our hobby need not be an expensive one, whilst Op shopping can also be great fun.

After The Gold Rush

From around 1822 plains rifles made by Jake and Sam Hawken of St Louis, Missouri became the arm of choice of experienced mountain men, trappers, hunters and fur traders for many years. In 1859 Sam Hawken left the trade to seek his fortune in gold at diggings on Gregory Mountain near Denver, Colorado. Apparently his new venture was unsuccessful, for his foray into the mining business was short lived, and he set to gun smithing in Denver for a brief period before returning to the trade in St Louis.

Jake Hawken died of cholera early in the summer of 1849 at the peak of the gold rush.

Just like old Sam, we, who lusted briefly for gold and riches, revelling in sin, grog and debauchery on the gold fields, yet somehow surviving the hardships and the many deprivations, must now return to our usual trades of trapping and hunting and trading with associated supply wagons and stores.

There’s no better time to start planning for our next two events at Bernard’s Cache where a crystal clear brook flows ever abundant, and all the gold is the shining times we savour for keeps.

Events Calendar

It’s on! Coming very soon! April 25th – 27th Anzac day extended weekend
We received more than sufficient interest, so here y’are – A time machine magically returns us from the 1850’s gold bonanza to the pre 1840 American wilderness. We’ll rendezvous again at Bernard’s Cache on the Painted Pony Plains. Expect to help laying in stacks of firewood ready for our traditional annual Winter Rendezvous in June. We just wouldn’t want anyone going cold on that! Contact the secretary if you need a mud map.

June – 7, 8 & 9th Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
4th Annual Winter Rendezvous. Scouts report no sign of hostile Crow! Ample stores of timber for blockades or firewood have been laid in where the picturesque magic of Bernard’s Cache borders the Painted Pony Plains, central State. This is the event that binds us to the truth and to true primitive ideologies. You just wouldn’t miss this anniversary rendezvous for all the beaver in Bill Tyler’s dreams.

September Sat 20th – Sun 28th Spring Rendezvous coinciding with the first week of the Victorian school holidays. We push right through hostile Crow lands and over the Wind River Range to “Beaver Creek” below the big mountain called Buffalo.

Jim, seen here as the dandy, with plenty of time on his handsJim, seen here as the dandy, with plenty of time on his hands and gold in his pocket, waiting for a Cobb & Co coach and a spree on the town.

“Say, didn’t old Lazarus Hobbs own a fob watch just like that one?”

Well, maybe you too have a little time on your hands? Could we suggest a good book to read? Richard has established our Club Lending Library. It stocks many choice books on the history of the fur trade and early exploration of North America, plus novels about the era, as well as many back issues of magazines, such as Muzzleloader, Muzzle Blasts, On The Trail, and The Buckskin Report. All these may be borrowed for a token fee to benefit Club finances. See Richard for some entertaining reading – fiction and non-fiction…


Attractive 23 year old Lisa Matheson (daughter of our Beaver Creek hosts) has been dubbed “Victoria’s Lara Croft of the fire-fighting world” by the Herald Sun news-paper (Jan 21). Lisa is the only female “extreme fire-fighter” in an elite force of specialist volunteers protecting our state each summer. This dedicated team are trained to drop from helicopters into rugged mountain gullies to fight outbreaks that are inaccessible to regular methods of control. Demure and friendly, Lisa is also a dab hand with a smoothbore and shares our thrill of all the black powder shooting sports.

Psst! Bojo Products don’t really offer squaws with every tipi sold. The word processor keyboard typing up Bob’s advert last issue somehow picked up on my secret thoughts.
So don’t overlook our ads in each newsletter as they may sometimes contain specials. Like the special price deals Bob can offer on new canvas products right now!

Missed on the goldfields were Ian, Justin and Louise who all presented “sick” notes.
Spotted on the gold fields – some modern brassy medallion style belt buckles. Doh!

New Books

Primitive Fire Lighting - Flint and steel - a book by Keith H. Burgess

Primitive Fire Lighting – Flint and steel
by Keith H. Burgess

We mentioned Keith’s book in the last Around the Traps and feel the subject is well worth a second airing. Every modern Longhunter and Trapper should have this book!

Written for living historians and historical trekkers in Australia. Contains information not yet known by US living historians – Plant tinder, preparation, wet weather fire lighting, emergency fire lighting methods, reading glass fire lighting, and more. View index and purchase details at: http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com Cost is just $11 Aust plus $2 P&P from Keith H. Burgess, Wychwood Forest, MSF 2007, Armidale NSW 2350. Email: historicaltrekker@gmail.com

Club Committee 2008

President – Ian Convey, telephone 03 5367 8450
Vice Pres – Bob Ellis, telephone 03 5796 2753
Secretary – John Fowler, tel. 03 5753 4455 Email chookster@vfowler.com
Treasurer – Myrtle Barrett, tel. 02 6059 3951
Committee – Kevin Norris, tel. 03 5753 4415
Committee – Murray Convey, tel. 03 5346 1086

Bojo Products offers mid season specials on all new tents and tipis, primitive shelters, ground sheets & various canvas goods. Phone Bob Ellis 03 5796 2753 AH

Pioneer Forge for all your requirements in hand forged crafted black iron, fire irons, best quality throwing hawks & etc. Glenn and Anthea Mitchell phone 03 5729 5564

Northern Shooter’s Supplies a division of Stock, Lock Antique Arms, for black powder, ball, flints, and all the accoutrements for Buck- skinner enthusiasts. Contact Roger Mowbray tel. 03 5865 5440 or mob. 0427 451 911

Contributing articles most welcome. All correspondence and enquiries to John Fowler 252 Pini Lane, Mudgegonga 3737. Email chookster@vfowler.com Tel. 03 5753 4455.

All back issues of Around the Traps can be read at http://freetrappers.org.au/newsletters

Rocking the cradle - In search of Eldorado - Photo by Jim
Rocking the cradle – In search of Eldorado – Photo by Jim

Cradle snatcher?
Cradle snatcher?

Kevin & Richard panning for gold.
Kevin & Richard panning for gold. (Photos by Richard)

Jim, Myrtle and Colin discuss fugitives and rewards.
Jim, Myrtle and Colin discuss fugitives and rewards.

The recently widowed Sin Wy Fook extols the virtues of herbal tea to Lorraine.
The recently widowed Sin Wy Fook extols the virtues of herbal tea to Lorraine.

The image maker Mr Kodiak Eastman recording youngsters on the goldfields.
The image maker Mr Kodiak Eastman recording youngsters on the goldfields.

Lazarus Hobbs found murdered outside the Norris sutlers store.
Lazarus Hobbs found murdered outside the Norris sutlers store.

The arrest of Commissioner Brooks by the 40th Reg of Foot Colour Sergeant and troops.
The arrest of Commissioner Brooks by the 40th Reg of Foot Colour Sergeant and troops.

Eureka! Cripes, it's as heavy as lead!
Eureka! Cripes, it’s as heavy as lead!

Due to the keen desire of members to return to our traditional Rendezvous, following the long hot summer, this edition of Around the Traps is rather rushed, as the Anzac Day weekend has received tremendous support and is now just three weeks away. We apologise to those not featured in our Gold Rush edition and advise that many additional photographs can be viewed on the website at www.australiangoldrush.info