Vol. 38, July 2012 4 responses

The hidden charms of Bernard’s Cache in sunshine and shade, June 2012.
Bob Ellis photo.

June 2012, Winter Quarters

– and another fabulous time was had by all who came. The Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend was in fact our 8th Winter Quarters in the Highlands/Caveat region of Victoria’s Great Dividing Range. Hardly seems like yesterday when, as a newly formed group, we first camped on that south facing slope of Andrew’s farm at Highlands. Then, in spite of the winter deluge of that very first evening and the chilly winds that followed we returned there again the very next winter. We were rewarded with a full weekend of delightful winter sunshine.

We have now experienced the last six Winter Quarters at Bernard’s Cache, a rather more secluded and protected hidey hole with a gentle north facing aspect. A few timid souls seemingly avoid our winter camps, but I have to tell ya, they are among the best of times, and, the weather does tend to favour the bold. Clear, cold nights bring hardy folks together around roaring campfires to exchange personal news, stories, a drop of shrub to lubricate the throat and improve the stories, and a further drop to encourage the vocals for a sing-along under the starry brilliance of the Southern Cross.

The weekend actually started on Thursday, when Bernard on tractor snigged several logs of dead and dry Long-leafed Peppermint, dragging them close by to our camp site. Of course Jim was there too, with trusty petrol axe converting those logs into manageable fire wood for all. Thanks to Bernard & Judy and to Jim also.

Bernard’s Cache bathed in brilliant sunshine June 2012.
Bob Ellis photo.

By Friday evening we had the makings of a tent-town of A frames, wall tents and one tipi, with many cooking fires driving off the light, barely noticeable mist – the last of a recent cold front. Apart from morning frosts, that was about as damp as we would experience for the entire weekend. In fact Sunday, Monday and Tuesday provided warm sunshine and honest rolled-up shirtsleeve conditions.

By noon Saturday we had twelve camps of white canvas – a marginal increase on last winter. Attending this year were Cam Cowled (our newest member), Ian Convey, Murray Convey, Ron Davis, Bob Ellis, Chook Fowler, Tom Jefferies, John Morland, Paul Sly, Jim Walker, Glen Mitchell (Sunday only) plus our regular camping guests, Jenny and Gary Baker from the Frontiers Living History group.

Bob put in a grand effort working a whole day on our gentlemen’s urinal amenities. Cameron spent satisfying time getting acquainted with his new flinter. Both Paul and Tom made hunting forays along the creek and dams enjoying the exercise and nature walk but with no opportunity to make meat. Tom’s dessert dumplings didn’t quite meet his usual standard either. Just as well Bernard and Judy visited Saturday evening or we might all have starved. I jest, but somehow everyone managed a slice of Bernard’s damper with Judy’s homemade jams and lashings of fresh cream which were all wolfed down.

Sunday morning, slow and sleepy, passed with just a smattering of eye-opener sighting shots being made. After lunch Ian organised a couple of shoot challenges which he describes below. After our evening meals we all gathered in the Open Faced Shelter to enjoy the large fire keeping an early frost at bay. Ian produced his guitar, while Tom had brought some home brews; Bob produced his high octane shrub while everyone brought refreshments and well fuelled and lusty singing voices.

During the lulls in the chorus singing Ian cooked up a batch of traditional Indian style popping corn to share with all seated around the fireside, along with the less traditional crisps and wombat droppings (chocolate). All good thirst inducing fodder! Next day while preparing to decamp, many commented that this Trapper’s night had been more than equal to the very best of occasions.

By Monday late afternoon the camp site was looking somewhat deserted with only Tom, Jim and Chook remaining. We three whiled away the dark evening hours in quiet discussion – sitting close to a cheery fire inside the tipi. Next morning a light frost signalled yet another delightfully sunny winter’s day. Chook

Impromptu Shoot at Winter Quarters

For a year or two now several painted wooden serviette rings had been cluttering the walls of our Open Faced Shelter. Why? You may well ask. Well, they were Op Shop store bought as possible targets with a challenge. Being in the shape of ducks (3 of) and pigs (2 of) with centre hole (for the napkin) they were considered cheap targets to blast away, while the largish centre hole would indicate that carefully aimed head shots would be prudent. Here’s Ian’s commentary on the afternoon’s shooting…

“End of Season duck shoot: Targets mounted on stakes at about 20-25 yards. Single projectile only. 1st round all ten shooters have a shot, any position (kneeling being the most popular) the result is three shooters hit a duck each – Murray, Paul and Ron.

They each took the duck’s head off! No damaged meat that way, heh, heh. 2nd round – Ron’s gun fails to go off, Paul just misses by a bee’s whisker and Murray re-kills his headless duck. Murray is the winner and receives a silver tankard donated by Tom.

A headless duck napkin ring– nice shooting!

Meanwhile, Ronnie’s misfire was determined to be caused by damp powder (but how did it become damp?). Ron pulled the ball and dumped in a fresh charge of powder to try drying the bore by firing a blank charge. The rifle was capped and pointed down range. The cap fired the fresh charge and a sausage of mud blew out of the barrel. Ron repeated the exercise but held the gun muzzle straight up, creating a mud geyser resulting in the “Canoe Gun” being instantly re-christened “Mud Gun”.

The next event was the Two Little Pigs shoot, again with ten contestants. The rear and uppermost pig was to be dispatched first. Once again it was Murray and Paul winning the bacon. First Paul took out that hammy boar, and then Murray shot its little pink mate. They then had a shoot off to decide the winner using the “wounded” remains of one of the napkin rings. Paul claimed this win.

Hamming it up!

The last of our impromptu shoots was a massed volley attack on a thick skinned pumpkin. Bob grabbed his camera and managed to capture the moment of impact of ten round ball bursting that thick skinned veggie wide open. The larger remnants were then stacked up for two more volley firings. Don’t ya wanna have fun no more?” Ian

(Postscript) Murray and I had a bloody great weekend.

Smashing pumpkins!
Bob Ellis photo.


A certain scribe type person was observed wearing futuristic style spectacles at Bernard’s Cache when it is well known he possesses the correct period style. More effort to detail improves the experience for individual and group alike!

Pine Ridge 25th Anniversary Rendezvous

Twenty five years ago Glen Mitchell invited a group of black powder enthusiasts to camp in primitive style bordering a relatively young pine plantation near his home in Carboor, north-east Victoria. That was the first of several such rendezvous’ to follow in the ensuing years. Some months ago Glen attempted to contact group members from that early period to return to Pine Ridge to celebrate a 25th anniversary.

Contacts had been lost with the passing of time while several of that original group had passed on to final happy hunting grounds. Those Glen had been able to contact were delighted to rendezvous once again to renew acquaintances. Some additional friends were invited to make up similar numbers to those early Pine Ridge rendezvous.

Eddy Benc, travelling over 12 hours all the way from Adelaide was first to arrive spending Thursday evening on his Pat Malone. That all changed come morning and by Friday afternoon the gully between the two ridges was filling with lots of white canvas lodgings of friends old and new, where the new were mostly old also, but everyone knew this was going to be a very special event.

Trade blankets proliferated and some really top plunder was drooled over, bargained for, bartered, purchased or wish-listed. Goodies like powder and priming horns, powder measures, wrought iron tools, fire dogs and candle stands, tents, moccasins, voyager caps, possible pouches, sashes and other apparel and all sorts of other miscellaneous period wares…Traders and buyers all with equal enthusiasm.

Interestingly the very Throwing Block as used 25 years earlier was still in place and intact, however a fresh pine block was brought into use for some Saturday morning knife and hawk practice by Bob, Tom and Chook. All the trade blankets were out on display again receiving some serious interest; some deals done, some new friendships cemented, and the general goodwill and relaxing laid-back atmosphere of primitive rendezvous permeated the entire gathering.

Burning powder at Pine Ridge, May 2012.
Photo by Glen Mitchell.

Saturday arvo was scheduled to do some shootin’ and having black powder fun. For general plinking Glen had arranged a half dozen or so iron rabbits. These were set up at ranges varying from 15 yards to 45 yards as you might also come across a live rabbit in the field – well they never just sit there at a measured 25 or 50 yards, do they?
Oh, and then there was the 200 yard gong shoot, but that was stretching things a little on the day, somewhat akin to the truth around certain campfires.

But the plinking seemed to satisfy both rifle and smooth-bore shooters and the sharp crack of rifle and hollow sounding boom of fusil continued at some length. Later on shooters teamed up for a friendly cut-the-stake competition. Only the stakes were more like lumber-yard planks than your average tomato stakes. To even the odds small bores were teamed with larger calibres resulting in one team of four against another of three.

Bob Ellis, Tom Jefferies, Peter Hawkey and John Haskell might have had the edge in numbers but Allan Fox, Charlie Timma and George Mohr were equal to the challenge. After about a half hour both planks looked somewhat like cheese shredders so a drawn match was promptly declared when a rather dry croaky voice announced it was “Beer o’clock”.

Pine Ridge rendezvous group, May 12th 2012.
Photo by Glen Mitchell

But before the guns were retired and swapped for refreshments, everyone lined up for a group photo, and after some initial fiddling with you-beaut-gismo cameras, the pictures got took, then guns got cleaned and put away after which tonsils were oiled. Alan had shared some venison among the camps and no matter how cooked it remains the fare of kings as preferred by pilgrims. Late evening ushered in several misty showers but not enough to dampen the spirits of campfire brags or news from a town.

Sunday morning brought more light misty rain. Don’t ya just hate it when the canvas gets all wetted right when it’s time to decamp? I try to stay on another day – and I did!

Monday morning was blue sky sunny perfect, but there was only him and her and me to enjoy it. Mister and missus Scarlet Robin shared their reclaimed territory to delight my eye as I tried in vain to get a close-up photo of these charming native birds.

Of the original Buckskinners returning to Pine Ridge were Glen and Anthea Mitchell, Eddie Benc, Bob Ellis, Allan Fox, Bruce Kirkwood and George Mohr. Rendezvousing at Pine Ridge for the first time on the weekend was Colin and Myrtle Barrett, Justin Fletcher, Chook Fowler, John Haskell, Peter Hawkey, Tom Jefferies, Shane Nedeljkovic, Kevin and Robyn Norris, and Charlie Timma. Overall, two thirds of those who attended are currently members of the Southern Cross Free Trappers.

Glen admiring a fine powder horn from Eddy’s trade blanket.
Photo by George Mohr.

Glen Mitchell would like to thank all those who made the effort to attend, especially those from interstate or at longer distances over the mountains; also to those who helped with firewood chores and clearing the many years of undergrowth. Special thanks to Noel Collinson who spent several working-bee days helping prepare the site then couldn’t make it to camp on the weekend due to family circumstances.

On behalf of those attending, warm heartfelt thanks to Glen and Anthea Mitchell for kind invitation, and for making it all happen. Thanks to the extended Mitchell family for allowing access to this wonderful part of the north-east. Just one sad final note – We understand the pines in the area are due to be completely logged next summer; but our memories of the shining times at Pine Ridge will long linger, remaining as solid and as tall as a giant Mountain Ash! Chook

Upcoming Events

July 14th & 15th Ballarat Arms & Militaria Collectors Fair – We’ve attended each of the last three years to spread the joy of muzzleloaders to all them “Jack d’Levers” and new fangled turn-bolt shooters. So, let’s just do it – again! It’s a 2 day Fair but we will be there promoting the black powder sports on the Saturday only.

September 14th – 17th Spring Turkey Shoot Rendezvous – Our traditional weekend of 3rd Sunday of September extended from Friday 14th thru to Monday 17th. Members are asked to vote their choice of camp site between our regular September site at Beaver Creek or at Bernard’s Cache, Caveat. (See separate enclosure to all members.)

Annual General Meeting will be held during our September Rendezvous, as usual.

1830’s meets 1930’s
A 2013 early autumn camp, Labour Day weekend March 9, 10 & 11th 2013. We’ve invited members of the Austin 7 car club to witness our primitive black powder experience, joining us at a campfire luncheon on Sunday 10th March. A truly primitive camp at Bernard’s Cache during which, for just a few hours, we take a giant 100 year leap forward, visited by the Austin 7 club dressed in their best 1930’s style.

No modern camping, no 4WD mules – only Austin 7’s on the Painted Pony Plains. Camps to be open to visitors’ inspection, Trade blankets on display, rifles, knives and hawks on display, cannon capers etc. rolling pin throwing comp and more. Campfires and any demo powder burning will naturally depend on fire restrictions and weather.

2013 Saturday June 29 to Sat. July 6th – The 11th Millmerran Open Rendezvous.
Celebrating 20 years of Rendezvous at Captain’s Mountain Millmerran, Queensland. Rumoured to be the last of the great Captain’s Mountain rendezvous. Don’t miss it!

Like More Pictures? Check out our web gallery.

4 Responses feed

  1. Jim Walker says:

    Congratulations to all Buckskinners, hivernants and mountain men and ladies who kept up the chosen traditions of rendezvous for these two gatherings. HURRAH!

  2. Robert Timms says:

    Chookster, an absolutely brilliant and well written article with fabulous photos. I wish I had the legs (vehicle, equipment etc.) to join you all. I enjoy the Fox and his exploits as he is a most interesting character.
    Many thanks and regards,
    Bob Timms

  3. Don Robinson says:

    Chookster, The comments regarding the 2013 Rendezvous at Captains Mountain being the last at the venue are totally incorrect. There is no intention to stop having this major event on the SSAA Queensland calendar.
    Don Robinson
    Qld Rendezvous Chairman

  4. John Fowler says:

    Don, Thanks for the correction on Captain’s Mtn events. Apologies to all readers for the misleading info on the National Rondy.