Vol. 50, November 2014
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 Joseph Whitehouse) 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