Mountain Man

Mary-Leah Moore

www.chaostimessix.blogspot.com

 My husband, apparently with some extra discretionary time on his hands, somehow became intrigued by the idea of being a mountain man. Not like the guys on that TV show where they live in the harsh backwoods of Alaska and survive the winter by killing a moose and stuffing him in the freezer.

No, this mountain man type appears to be a group of suburbanites who work at Microsoft by day and spend their weekends shooting muzzleloader guns and wearing coonskin caps. I will pause here to point out that in my attempt to explain what a muzzleloader is I typed into Google "What is a muzzle loader (because I didn't know it was one word)?" and I received this reply: a gun that is loaded by its muzzle. So, you see, I do not understand this at ALL.

Once a month they have a "shoot" which my husband attends. Once a year they have a "rondy" which is short for "rendezvous" and means: primitive-type camping excursion wherein everyone dresses in period gear and you might win a box. No, seriously, a box. There is a rifle box, which I guess is where you store a rifle or things you might need for a rifle. And there is a camp box, which is like a treasure chest, only probably for things like lard and muslin. And the best prize of all? A tomahawk pipe. Yes, you heard right. It's a working tomahawk that you can also smoke through. So, in case you're smoking and someone tries to kill you....Thwap! Tomahawk to the head. No one saw that coming.

This year's "rondy" also touts exactly ONE activity for women and that is the frying pan toss. The WHAT? For what earthly reason would anyone need to toss a frying pan? Is there a target? What kind of frying pan? A super-lightweight non-stick saute pan? Or a cast-iron skillet? I'm guessing the latter. Which is why, if you are participating in this year's frying pan toss, you might want to lift some weights in preparation. Because those suckers are heavy. I have more questions: can you toss overhand or underhand? Are there points for style and technique?

Last year, around this time, my husband convinced me to go the the mountain man show. Yes, they have their own show, held at the fairgrounds. Kind of like Comic-Con for Daniel Boone. I wrote about this show here. I thought I would humor him, browse the offerings like bear heads and wood handicrafts, and that his interest would fizzle out. But here we are, a year later, and he's still in touch with his inner Grizzly Adams.

For the past week or so, he's been working hard on a "hunting pouch" which is code for man purse. This small purse is intended to hold lead balls and "patches" which are small squares of material that are essential to firing a muzzleloader. My husband worked diligently, cutting the pattern and assembling the pieces. The leather and pattern were given to him by a fellow mountain man, called "Broken Arrow" or something. Side note: their real names might be ordinary like Dave or Jeff, but they go by names such as "Two Balls" and "Trapper." My husband thought it would be fun to assemble this man purse, and after all, it was free.

Except not. Because we had to make a trip to Michael's to buy all manner of wood carving tools, a sewing awl, leather straps and bits, and waxed thread. So, this man purse ended up costing quite a pretty penny, all told. And it became a big project that took up the better end of the dining room table where my husband had the audacity to use a DRILL on his project! On my table! In the end, he added a handsome leather strap (ordered on Amazon for $27.99) and hand-stitched his initials on the flap to personalize it.

And now he has a ball bag.



Not to hold his own balls, mind you, although I forgive you for misunderstanding the purpose considering the amount of sewing and handicrafts that were going on. The bag will hold the little lead balls that one shoots from the muzzleloader. The whole process of firing this gun is laughable - in the amount of time it takes to load it and fire it, the bear, or deer or whatever it is the mountain man might be shooting at has long since disappeared, sauntering away at a casual pace muttering "get a real gun!" under his breath.

You see, you first have to pour black powder from a powder horn into this little metal tube thing, which you use to disperse it into the barrel of the gun. Then, you put a little square of cloth (the patch) into your mouth for some reason, get it nice and spitty, and into the gun it goes. Then, you insert a lead ball. Then, you use the ramrod to push the whole mess deep into the gun. Then, you put a cap on a spot near the firing pin (I'm just paraphrasing my terminology here, can you guess?), but only if your gun is a cap lock gun. There are also flint lock guns, in which case you put a little more black powder into a tiny pan next to the firing pin. Either way, you cock the gun, the pin comes in contact with the cap (or in the case of a flint lock, the flint sparks the black powder) and KABOOM! The gun fires! So, you see why the bear or deer or elk has time to take a little vacation while waiting for you to fire your gun.

So, it's a good thing someone made better guns. Or civilization would have died with the muzzleloader. And I guess I understand the history part of it. People like history. Civil war reenactments abound. Dressing up in mountain man gear for a "rondy" is no different than dressing up like a Japanese anime character for a comic book convention. Perhaps my husband is motivated by his most memorable teacher who quoted "Those who forget history are doomed and destined to repeat it." Which, by the way, is a misquote of George Santayana's saying "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But you get the idea.

And so, I will accompany my husband to this year's mountain man show. Last year I was squeezed provocatively by a dirty old man. I was hoping there would be snacks, but the only thing offered was horehound candy and sarsaparilla. However, if you were in the market for a nice teepee or a bear head for your wall, this would be the place to go. My husband is on the search for a tin cup. Because he feels too suburban drinking his coffee from a Starbucks cup whilst at the mountain man shoots. Natch.

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