Vol. 5, July 2007

take wagons over the mountainsWho says “Ya can’t take wagons over the mountains” Bob Ellis thinks different.
Photo by Kevin
L to R – Richard, Prickle, Chook, Ian, Robyn, Myrtle, Jim, Colin, Bob, Murray.

First Rondyvoo for Free Trappers group! This past Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend would certainly rate among the very best Voos for most of us. The faces were familiar, of course, but we were camped together at a very different location, and for the first time as the Southern Cross Free Trappers. There was indeed a keen air of excitement at the experience we have all strived so very hard to achieve.

Welcome to the latest Around The Traps. Particularly to those who couldn’t make it to Winter R’voo. We missed you! You missed a sensational Rondyvoo with a happy atmosphere at a spectacular campsite, as well as some stimulating shooting challenges.

The good weather immediately prior to our event certainly dried out those muddied sections of track winding through the wallows leading to Bernard’s Cache. Booshway Joe Walker had blazed the trail and repaired some gates. An excellent axeman, he had also cut a huge supply of firewood in preparation for the wagon train and entourage.

And Bernard’s Cache – a hidden hole-out with ample protection for a Trading Post, wall tents, voyager tents, bell-end wedge tents, a tipi and a covered wagon. We had ample firewood, ample fresh water, Indian ponies, and plenty of sign for the hunters, and a safe range for burning black powder. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all beautiful sunny winter days and good camp fires made for toasty warm nights.

To hear more – just ask anyone who was there – make sure you have a spare hour or so.

No Squaw

Inspired by a resin Kaw Liga

Some Trappers sing songs of romancing their belle,
Whilst others recount battles from a past war,
That’s all very well, if you’ve known the joy or the hell,
But what if you’ve never known a squaw?

Now the Trappers song is his pleasure along
With the campfire and good coffee in store,
And with beaver a plenty, but only in trap and song,
Mountains attract neither white woman, nor whore.

When Trappers tell of clashes with the brave Blackfeet,
We’ve enjoyed their exploits o’er and o’er,
But, methinks for a different treat – Life could be so sweet,
Sipping whisky n’ watching, a hard-toiling squaw.

Longhunters trading a pony, or the hide off a nice buck
Exchange for ladies with plump bosoms to adore,
While I sit at the camp fire, brooding misfortune of luck,
Yet admiring their cleavage, I’m spellbound with awe.

Well it’s amazing how often some little thing said,
Can manifest into severe pain, blood, and gore,
I merely offered a blanket, and a warm place to bed,
She called me “Chauvin Swine”, and a bore.

So, was it witchcraft, or some other vexing brew?
Changed her sweet little hand to a grizzly bear’s claw,
Now my nose is all bloody, bruised, black and blue
And I’m spitting the teeth from my jaw.

While history will forget many Mountain Men and loons,
I could be written forever in Trapper folklore,
Remembered at winter through long nights of cold moons,
The only Trapper who couldn’t trap squaw!

Copyright 2007. Iron Rooster

Next Event – Spring Rendezvous, September 22nd – September 30th

First week of Vic. School holidays, a full week and including both weekends (or just do the weekends) at the Rolling Plains – Whorouly – Just 34 kms south of Glenrowan, or 16 kms north of the Myrtleford shops. (see VicRoads Map 49, B2 for general area. Detailed directions supplied to those confirming attendance – contact the secretary).

Early morning sunshine at Bernard's Cache, Winter R'voo 2007
Early morning sunshine at Bernard’s Cache, Winter R’voo 2007

As previously, our invitations to Rendezvous on private properties are not to be construed in any way as an open invite to re-visit these properties at any other times.
(Note also – We choose our event dates to align with the Victorian school holidays, therefore we cannot help it if these dates clash with other activities, either on any individual’s calendar of events or with any other club’s program.)

A Quick Outdoor Tan

No, it’s nothing to do with stripping your body to wash your only duds on a hot day. We’re talking of making leather here. It doesn’t have to be done outdoors, but it is not recommended you do this inside the house. This is Booshway Joe’s method for tanning Hopping Deer and should be commenced within hours of skinning the animal. Joe recommends keeping a few pounds of alum (available at garden suppliers) plus a few pounds of coarse salt ready for the task.

Sprinkle the alum liberally over the skin and rub in with your hands to ensure a complete coverage, then do likewise with the coarse salt (common table salt will do) straight on top of the alum. Remember, apply both liberally! Next, fold the skin in half, with the fur out, and then roll it up as it were a carpet mat.

Store the roll in a cool place for 3 to 4 days to allow the chemicals to pickle the hide.
Do not leave much longer, and then unravel the hide and using a rack, rail or saddle to support the skin, start scraping off all the alum and any fat or meat bits with a block of wood or any suitable blunted scraper. The skin will become quite white and should be free of any debris or flesh. Those attending the Queen’s Birthday R’voo would have witnessed Booshway Joe demonstrating this technique. When completely clean, hang the hide in a cool place for several more days during which it should be stretched and pummelled (even chewed) from time to time until it becomes really supple, white and plush. Well, it’s that easy!

Around the Traps Tattler

You saw it in the Sharpe movies, where the pretty girl is enamoured by the poetic cad; now how about Louise having a restless night writing limericks to another man? Oooh!

Winter R’voo tattles were mostly about non-authentic goodies being used, or left unattended outside the confines of closed tents. Eg., An idle chain saw was spotted by former host, Andrew, out early, walking his new-fangled rifle; then there was talk of modern spades, various galvanised vessels, some with plastic, a brown Esky, and one deceased covered-wagon driver wearing Blundstones, hair, and an arrow to the heart. No self-respecting Injun would have left that scalp untouched!

Remember too, stowing modern gizmos behind your tent ain’t hiding nothin’ at all – Mountain men can approach from any direction. And photographs taken for the good memories also show up all that bad extra paraphernalia that would never be loaded on a trusty mule, let alone a cantankerous stolen beast unsure of its rightful owner.

Breaking camp, and after filling-in the latrine, our last-task emu bob around the sites turned up a number of bits of foil-like wrapping, some shiny brass washer discs, quite a few globs of melted candle wax and some nylon string? Tut, tut!! Blue glass bead awards to Ian & Murray who left nothing behind except some slightly flattened grass.

Diary Notes

1757: Thadeus Bennitt decorates his fine powder horn with the following rhyme

The Rowse is Red
the Vilet Blue
and A fols Love
Cannot Be Tru”

1777: Some 20 years later, Valentine Prentice engraved his horn with the following account. Of course, his reference to Lobsters refers to the British red-coated enemy.

My horn and I have wandred far
For Lobsters, redskins, der & bar
From Mass to here in Ohia
We kept ye powdr dry

2007: Two hundred & fifty years after Thadeus Bennitt, I procured a fine carved horn from Ian Convey’s trade blanket. Days later, having a wet tent lying, drying, spread-eagled all over the lounge floor for days on end stirred some action. I finally got weary of looking at those tatty tent ties with the crappy .22 rimfire shells I’d crimped on the ends, years ago, as quick fix whipping, that I at last did something about them. Removing the offending brass hulls, I reflected – Happiness is authenticating your tent, and other gear – before the next camp; and it’s also in possessing a mighty fine horn!

Frizzen, Chop, Hammer or Steel ?

We use the first of these four words the most. But frequent use does not make it right. In fact, the word “Frizzen” was not one used in our historical time frame. I have read of the word “Chop” being used for this part, but I am unable to say just when that was in vogue. “Chop” does vaguely describe the shape, and I suppose the red hot sparks the flint scrapes from it have helped put lean cuts on the table often enough.

But the Frizzen word simply does not exist in the English or French languages during the contemporary period of firelock usage. Perhaps it is a modern bastardisation of the French frise` (to curl) thus attempting to describe the shape, as does “chop”.

That leaves “Hammer” or “Steel” and both of these are correct and most appropriate for our use. Re-enacting is learning history & we should encourage the general use of correct terminology. Frizzen is out! Now don’t say OK, because that wasn’t in vogue for our time either. Correct? Let’s try to drop the use of “frizzen” from our vocabulary.

Trail’s End - canvas convenience from Bojo Products.
“Trail’s End” – canvas convenience from Bojo Products.

Trading Post

Woodsy Runner has not had any success finding a supply of Apple Juice other than as might be brought in by traders attending rondy-voo. Moral – Don’t buy cheap booze!

Almost new Bell-end Wedge Tent. 8 ft H x 8 ft W x 7 ft L plus 4 ft bell end. Complete with poles and pegs, and heavily water proofed, it is quick & easy to erect. Made to highest standard by Bojo. $300 ono. Contact John Fowler 03 5753 4455

Subscriptions Due

Our fiscal year ended on 30th June and Myrtle has supplied the attached financial report covering our initial set-up, and costs to date. You will note that we have some liabilities for insurance premiums for 2008. This is because several members kindly paid their 2008 subscriptions well in advance, providing group a little working capital.

Now it is time for the rest of us to meet our membership obligations, thus providing for our insurance premiums. The major part of our subs goes straight to the Australian Living History Federation under whose umbrella we maintain our very necessary public liability insurance.

The Annual Subscription remains at $20.00 per person. Would those who have not already paid the 2008 subscription please forward, ASAP, your cheques or money orders direct to Myrtle Barrett, 342 Lawrence Street, Wodonga 3690. Receipts will be forwarded with your next newsletter. All committee tasks are performed voluntarily and your prompt attention to dues is both helpful and appreciated.

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