The Power of The Revenant

Movie theaters are now flooded with a new mountain man story.

Well, not a new story per se, as the story of Hugh Glass is certainly not new, and the 1971 film Man in the Wilderness has taken this subject on before.  From what I have read in Muzzleloader and Backwoodsman, Brother Clay Landry has done an incredible job making sure the technical details are on the right path for this film.   However, we all know that some things will be “left on the cutting room floor” in the interest of cinematic storytelling.   The movie looks great, the filmmaker interested in authenticity, the vistas will be amazing, and it will probably be a really cool film.

And for a lot of us – myself included – I am excited to see a movie about mountain men, almost regardless of the treatment.   Just to be able to go into a darkened movie theater and watch some of our favorite subject matter unfold on the screen is a rare treat indeed.   Being able to watch a flintlock gun battle, or watching people loading from shot pouch and horn, makes it all worthwhile.

Over 40 years ago, Jeremiah Johnson came out, and for years after, become sort of the “unofficial” film of our hobby.   It gave us references to “Hawken rifles,” “watching your top knot,” and other staples of rendezvous culture.   But more than that, it became accessible way for us to explain to others what we do in our spare time.

In the way of Jeremiah Johnson, maybe authenticity wasn’t that important, because it wasn’t really expected in that time.  The technical advisor for the film – if that was even the word that was used then – was a man named Larry Dean Olsen, a survival instructor and expert in Indian survival skills.  More or less the Bear Grylls or Les Stroud of his time, if not the progenitor of the type.   His specific focus for the film would have been in how Jeremiah Johnson survived and lived off the land.   There was probably less interest in the accuracy of the accouterments and weaponry, as can be seen in the use of the CVA Mountain Pistols, plains-style Hawken rifles, and the like.

(But, to be fair to Hawken rifles, the film actually takes place after the heyday of the Rocky Mountain Fur trade – as seen by Bear Claw mention beaver being “trapped out” and a few brief references to Johnson having served in the Mexican-American War).

Having said all that, Jeremiah Johnson became a legend in its own time, simply because it was the most available version of the Mountain Man story.   It was something we could slip into the VCR (and later the DVD player) and get inspired.   And in that, always made it worthwhile, even if not 100% accurate . . . .

So where does that leave us today?   What is the power of the Revenant?

For us old hands that have been at this hobby for a while, I am sure we’ll find a few elements of dubious historical accuracy.  Brother Clay’s work notwithstanding, a lot of what’s done in the movie is done at the filmmaker’s behest to get a certain idea, theme or scene across – not be historical accurate.  The film also utilized natural light – a method that required many scenes to be filmed far, far away from the Rocky Mountains.

I would put forward that the power of the Revenant is in two things.   Foremost, the power of this movie will be in inspiring a lot of conversations around the campfire with old friends discussing how things were portrayed, how things would have been done, which item was used or not used.   That is a great thing and there is a lot of fun in that.

But for us, the real power of the Revenant may be to inspire a new generation of people who might have never been exposed to mountain man culture, or who have never fired a flintlock rifle or smoothbore.  They will have a new interest or curiosity kindled inside them that will lead them to seek us out and learn more.

These folks may end up becoming the future of the AMM and the future of our hobby!

So for good or bad, whether historically accurate or not, any time our favorite time period and historical interest is put on the big screen, it’s a worthwhile endeavor for us all.   And that is the real power of the Revenant.

Watch yer top knot!

–  “Many Rifles”

Staying Warm in the Winter

Going back a few issues in The Trace, I found a cool quote from Cuz about an event he attended up north, in the deep winter:

“For my bedroll, I layered up a canvas tarp on top of the straw already on the floor, two wool saddle blankets, a buffalo robe under and over me. Inside the robe were two Whitney blankets. The first two nights I used just the buffalo robe and stayed warm. It was to be colder Friday and Saturday night, so I used the blankets and a buffalo robe those two nights and again stayed warm. I believe with research, experimentation, listening to others, and planning, a person can remain comfortable in cold weather using the equipment of the Mountain Man.”

– Cuz, on camping in cold weather with period gear

All of the gear Cuz describes above is period, and would be carried as part of the regular kit/load-out for a mountain man traveling in the Rocky Mountains.

Getting Started in AMM

as excerpted from June 2014 Trace by Gerry “Lucky” Mesmer

As our brigade expands and we add new folks I thought I would ramble a few minutes . . .  about getting new guys started. Now, I don’t mean paperwork and the process, but really the kit side, equipage, accouterments…stuff.

Many of us started off doing something else like I did, RevWar, porkyvous or maybe just hunted with a black powder rifle. Some start with clothes, tack, weapon and “stuff”. But, what about the guys you want to bring into AMM that are the right fit for the Brotherhood, but have never put on anything other than modern clothes and hunted with a poly stock, stainless rifle?

Well, we had that conversation this past weekend, Brother Kraig and I. What we discussed was the importance of imparting knowledge early on, early enough to keep a guy from buying things twice. This is not an overly expensive thing, done simply and handcrafting all you can, outside of a good rifle or smoothbore.

The first thing to emphasize, and I back track a little to the process, is making sure the clothes are all hand sewn. Actually, as painful as hand sewing may seem to some folks, if you price a pattern and material versus a hand sewn article at an event or a machine sewn one from a trader, the hand sewing becomes a little more palatable, and cheaper. Besides, what better way can you think of to break a guy away from tv, xbox, netflicks or some other such time sucker?

As we talked to our new prospect and soon to be Pilgrim it was simple: hat, shirt, trousers and mocs to get properly clothed. Steer them to a proper pattern, proper material and then let them go after it. Of course, a hat is a purchase item. But the other items they can hand sew relatively cheap.

Next, look at accoutrements. One of my hobbies within the hobby is making powder horns and shooting bags. I enjoy making them, especially tailoring them to the person and when I buy the raw goods they are pretty cheap. What’s my point? If you are crafty, consider making or helping your prospect/pilgrim make items. Nothing cooler than carrying items from your sponsor or from a man inside the brigade!

As far as a rifle, let them know to be patient as many Brothers may have a nice weapon they may part with at a decent price. My son got a nice smoothbore from Brother Blackpowder Jim. He loves having a firelock from within our Party!

Bedrolls and tarps are simple too. Might as well just have them buy the Spanish brown oil cloth from Crazy Crow and hand sew both, blam, done and done right the first time!

So Brothers, just some rambling from Lucky down here in sunny south Texas to remind us all how we can help a fella get started right, fast and affordable. In this economy we can all appreciate affordable.

See you around a fire soon Brothers!

UPDATED DATE – Red River Brigade – 2016 Winter Camp Hosted by the Warfield Party

Red River Brigade – Winter Camp
Hosted by the Warfield Party
Feb 26-28, 2016
Oakville, TX

Note: date is now updated to Feb 26-28, due to land availability.

Booshway – Paul “Many Rifles” Laster – manyrifles@buckskinning.org – 512-914-2940
Segundo – Gerry “Lucky” Messmer – amm2016@reagan.com – 910-964-2580

Brigade camp in the brush country.  The year is 1835 and a party of intrepid trappers are hunting and drying meat before making their way west to the Rocky Mountains.   The drums of war are beating with Mexico, and the landscape is dotted with hostile Loyalists, Comanches, and other perils . . .

Plenty of wood and limited water on site.   Please plan on bringing some out.   Hog and small game hunting available – please have current Texas Hunting License.

Directions (from San Antonio):   Head south on I-37 towards Corpus Christi.   Exit 65 – Oakville.   Stay on southbound access road for about 5 miles, right on CR 381 just before the Brush Country Cowboy Church. Look for AMM signs!

Updated map - Oakville, TX

Fall Encampment at The Museum of the Great Plains – 2015

Hello Brothers,

Yes, it is soon to be that time of year again. The annual Fall Encampment at The Museum of the Great Plains is to be held October 20th through the 25th . I have been asked by Brigade Booshway Kraig Fallwell to Booshway this years event.

This year we are looking for great turnout of members. In order to have an estimate on how much provisions we require, we are asking that you contact either Tim Poteete, Living History Curator of The Museum of the Great Plains, or myself. I have a few meals planned already ( don’t worry its good food ), but I ask that you contact one of us about a food item that you as well as the rest of the camp would enjoy. I also ask that some “donate” something such as a brisket, loins, a quarter cut, or any type of meat, as well as any goods such as beans, corn, peas, peaches, etc. This would be much appreciated. However, Please contact either Tim Poteete or myuself about any foods you would like to “dontate” before hand.

Since the trading post lies on the museums grounds making it open to the public, I am asking that some of you are willing to do colleges for any visitors as well as for the rest of the camp. Colleges done in the past include fire starting, trapping, Indian sign-language, history of the Fur Trade, blacksmithing, hide preparation and tanning, knitting, sewing, cooking, and many more. If you would like to do one of these colleges, or one that is not listed, feel free to give me a holler. Other “donations” that we are asking for include any hides that need working, or any other materials.

I, as well as many others, are looking for good turn out of guest. We are inviting all brothers and sisters, as well as any additional guest, which may include family and/or friends, to join us. Shelter consist of room in one spare bunkhouse (two hold museum supplies and iceboxes, one houses The Fallwells) spare room in the trappers quarters, and spare room in the traderoom and on the porch. We have no problem with you setting up your own shelters, however, always be prepared for rain and cold weather.

For any extra information needed, please feel free to give Tim Poteete, or myself a hollar. If information on cooking arrangements or thoughts come to mind, give either of the three of us list an email. Cuz will be this years head cook, so he is the one to speak to about cooking or any food arrangements. We ask that you send an email with your statements and questions by at least Mid-September.

Thank you and I hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Hunter Offield “Stray Pup”

‘Cuz’ Trumble                                      Tim Poteete                                        ‘Pup’ Offield

cuz1927@gmail.com             lhistory@museumgreatplains.org      whoffield13@gmail.com

 

Tanning methods in St Louis

The below is a question an answer session from some AMM brothers about “German tan” in St. Louis . . .

Question – Does anyone know if “German tan” using fish oil was common in St. Louis?

V/R

Lucky

Answer: The process has been used in Europe for some time. However, I’ve never found any solid information pertaining to its use in the states. There was commercially produced “brain tan” clothing sold in St. Louis at the peak of the western fur trade, but no specification as to what tanning process was used. Texas was exporting around 90,000 “Indian dressed” deer skins a year to St. Louis between 1821 and 1835, the customs records start to disappear after the revolution. If you break the brain or other natural solution tan such as soap or fish oil down chemically it necessitates an oil that will produce an emulsion to tan the hide. So in my opinion there is no difference between the fish oil and brains other than the origin and smell. It produces the same product chemically. The only real difference is the hide itself, North American cervid species such as white tail, mule deer and elk vs. red deer, stag, etc… So unless you want to be that picky use what you have, what’s available or what you can afford. It all beats chrome tan any day.

What was for sure used in St. Louis and the states was the old word bark and vegetable tans. Which uses an acid or protein to tan the hide vs. an oil. This makes excellent tool leather but not always the best clothing. And of course alum tan, also acid based, has been around for centuries and would have used. But again it makes for much better tool leather than clothing.

– Taylor Tomlin

More perspective:
Here’s a good link to a fair amount of brain-tanning and smoking being done by whites in rural Pennsylvania. http://ojs.libraries.psu.edu/index.php/wph/article/viewFile/1261/1109

Fish-oil tanning is labor extensive, and demands a source for the oil. It makes more sense that brain would be more efficient as it could be widely had. Most of the fish-oil tan was imported and likely could have only been seen around the upper aristocrats.

– Allen Harrison

More perspective:
Great info, Taylor and Allen! Here’s a conversation on a tanner’s list that tells a little about the German tanning process, says it IS labor intensive and takes about a year:
http://www.taxidermy.net/forum/index.php?topic=80733.0

– Patsy Harper

Lead ball, per pound

In the January 2014 issue of The Trace, Brother Gerry Messmer mentioned the possibility of a future lead shortage in US.    He advised to consider stocking up on lead and provided a great chart on round ball per pound of lead.

Regardless of whether you want to heed his warning, the chart is a great way to think of any lead you have on hand in terms of how much ball you can cast.

Here is a rough chart on balls per pound based on caliber to help you plan your lead requirements for round ball.

32 caliber: (.310) 048g—approx 146 balls/pound
36 caliber: (.360) 071g—-approx 98 balls/pound
40 caliber: (.395) 092g—-approx 76 balls/pound
45 caliber: (.445) 133g—-approx 52 balls/pound
50 caliber: (.498) 180g—-approx 38 balls/pound
54 caliber: (.535) 220g—-approx 32 balls/pound
58 caliber: (.560) 280g—-approx 25 balls/pound
62 caliber: (.610) 341g—-approx 20 balls/pound
69 caliber: (.678) 468g—-approx 15 balls/pound
75 caliber: (.715) 545g—-approx 13 balls/pound

Watch yer top knot!

– Many Rifles

Traveling the Uneven Ground – A Poem

Traveling the Uneven Ground
By Ken Krueger #2012

Lonesome trails,
New paths found.
Our moccasins tread
The uneven ground.

Ever in awe
Of Nature’s wonder.
At ease I am
With rain and thunder.

A simple life
Along the trail
Makes modern days
Seem weak and pale.

A friendly camp
A crackling fire.
A way of life
We never tire.

Old ways learned
Good friends abound.
As brothers we travel
The uneven ground.

A Ride to the Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous – July 2010

by Kraig Fallwell  #1659 Hiveranno

A short while ago, Dick Pieper and I were talking about wanting to go on a  horse ride somewhere. He and Oliver McCloskey had been talking about it too, and had decided to take a trip through Colorado and ride to the Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous.

So then it was planned. Dick made the arrangements. It would be just after the fourth of July holiday.

I met Dick at his ranch on the 5th and got some sleep before leaving the next morning.

About 3:00AM, Mike Hancock arrived and we had a great breakfast by Mrs. Pieper and we set off toward Colorado. We were met by Oliver McCloskey and at the ranch of some really nice folks that were friends with Dick and were treated to a fine supper and drinks. Morning finds us arriving on the 6th at the trail head near Durango, Colorado. The place was called Vallecito Trail.

After we unloaded our horses and gear, we spent the night there to get a fresh start the next day. We are heading to the rendezvous that is near Creede, Colorado, some 80 to 100 miles away. We are a small party consisting of four men and seven head of stock.

Oliver McCloskey is our booshway, and Dick Pieper, myself, Kraig Fallwell, and a guest, a man named Mike Hancock.

7 July, Wednesday

Finally we start on the trail. It is good to be going and we’re just getting the feel of how our animals will work for us. We got a late start today and only make about seven or eight miles, but find a suitable camp and stop for the night. I slept well.

8 July, Thursday

We’re up and have breakfast of bacon , dried fruit and biscuits, with coffee.

We saddle up and get ready to leave. Oliver figures that we will travel about twenty miles or so before reaching the Continental Divide. We will make camp there.  Started out and along a narrow mountain trail, two riders go through and I see the trail starting to give away. My horse looses her footing and we go over the side! It was not really high or real steep but we fell about thirty feet and got banged up and scratched. I broke the stock on my rifle during the fall.

Lucky for the both of us, we weren’t hurt and I was able to get back on my horse and head  in the direction that the others went. Oliver found a way down to where I was and we rode back to where the others were waiting.  We all continue on down the trail. Rain begins to fall, we keep going, and cross many small streams and rivers. Finally, we reach the Great Divide. Beautiful scenery, everywhere I look. We stop and make a few sketches of the area and then, push on, we need to make a few more miles. We come to a nice spot and decide to make camp. It’s getting dark, we unpack the mules and unsaddle our ponies. Got a fire going to dry out. Oliver says he thinks we made about forty miles today. The other men sit around the fire for awhile, I’m banged up and sore from my horse wreck, so I just go to sleep.

9 July  Friday.

Morning sun wakes me, and I’m up and feeling pretty good! I check on the stock and get a fire started.

Get some hot coffee and food in my stomach and I’m all set. We start out and have a pretty good day, we make about fifteen or so miles, the going is pretty tough and we took a wrong turn at one spot and had to find another trail. Still on the Divide. Made camp about two hours before sundown. Dicks’ horse got stuck in some loose rocks in a creek and had to have help freeing it.

10 July, Saturday.

Woke up to a fine morning. Coffee on and bacon cooking. We hope to make some miles today. We hit the trail and rode some pretty rough country. After a while, we run into some weather. First it’s rain, then hail is pelting us and our stock. Nowhere to take cover, so we push on. After a while, we find a spot to hunker down and wait out the storm. We get a fire going, it feels good, and pass around a flask of rum.

Waugh! Good times! The rain stops and we get back on the trail. It’s really slow going,

Much timber and rock on the trail. Finally, we come to a most beautiful view, we make sketches and take in natures beauty. We move on along over more rugged trails. Finally, we make it to a place called Trout Lake and make camp there. After our work is done, we sit by our fire and enjoy the night. We are just coming off the Divide today. Weather is clear and chilly, stars overhead. Tomorrow we hope to make it to rendezvous. We figure we made about twenty five miles today. I slept well.

11 July Sunday

Woke up and noticed that one of the mules that I thought I had tied good, was loose.

It was Ol’ Doc, one of  Dick’s critters. Doc has a reputation for being an escape artist!

After coffee, we get moving and see much game. I am in front and jump a big deer. On this trip, we also saw many elk, and a moose and her calf. Move on down Trout Creek Trail and it is very slow going. There is much timber and rock blocking the trail, we have to get around it as best that we can. We are planning on about seventeen to twenty miles today. Our progress is slow. We have to cross the stream many times today. Along the way, one of the packs on the mule works itself loose and we have to stop and tighten it. After about ten miles, the trail gets better. We finally arrive at rendezvous about eight thirty in the evening. Many people come out to greet us as we ride in. We are offered refreshments and are welcomed into camp. We met with the booshway and were given directions to the horse camp. After we put our stock out to grass, we put together a small camp for a couple of days stay. We were tired from our journey. We estimate that we have traveled about a hundred and twenty miles or so on the trail. Although it was some rough country, it was beautiful.

12 July Monday

Woke up late this morning, weather is cool. I feel well rested. The other men and myself go in search of some breakfast and hot coffee. Oliver put out a trade blanket and Dick and Mike went to take care of some business. I went out to visit the other camps and see old friends and make new ones too. I stop and listed to music being played at several of the camps and am offered drink for my empty cup. My horse is in good grass and I am enjoying visiting everyone. I stop and trade for some items that I had lost along the trail. As afternoon turns to evening, I just rest and have a good time.

13 July Tuesday

I awoke a few hours after daylight. We go to a camp and have a good breakfast and some coffee. We are planning to leave the rendezvous in a few hours. Anxious to be on the trail again. We pack the mules and saddle our horses. As we are riding out, many people again come out and bid us farewell and a safe trip. We have had a really good ride and met some new friends here. It is a beautiful place. I want to thank all the men that were on this trip for making it what it was, and thank them for inviting me. It was a shining time!