I have been badly neglecting this blog. This entry is out of sequence with a few others that have been started but not finished. I will try to post a little more often.
Thunder Creek Longrifles.
Last year I came to their Rendezvous here in Brown County, almost Morgan County, Indiana for the first time in decades. At some point that weekend Glen McClain introduced me to someone as one of the “old timers”. I think my first time was ’77 or ’78 when the shoot was held in a hollow instead of on a ridge, on another road, and several miles away.
There are a lot of memories tied to this place and this shoot. They are what bring me back.
The first one or two I had not acquired an acceptable canvas shelter yet so I camped in my van and cooked on my old Svea 123 backpacking stove. Sometime after a Baker lean-to came into the picture, to be replaced later by a 10X12 Marquee, the camp had been expanded to often include Tom Burch, his brother Ron and Ron’s wife Wanda, brothers Jim and Bill Kriemer, from near Sunman, and Gene Hall and Bob Herdink from near Evansville. Ron, Jim, and Bill are gone. I haven’t seen Gene or Bob in at least 25 years. The camp is down to one. Me. The Marquee was sold after the ’99 burglary, and, due to the scarcity of level ground on the ridge top, shelter is now an 8×8 oilskin tarp.
The shoot itself, like so many others, is but a shadow of what it once was, at least in terms of attendance. At its peak, it was a must make for anyone within at least a day’s driving distance.
Now it is common to refer to things at events like this as HC, historically correct, and PC, period correct. With a few exceptions, back in the earlier days of buckskinnig as it was called then, just about everyone was a different breed of HC. Hollywood Correct. In that one respect, the game has improved immensely. The average participant looks more like an extra in Drums Along the Mohawk than an extra in the Daniel Boone TV series.
At the top of the list is…..I better not mention names here even if there are a number of people who know who I am talking about. A guy had paid a substantial amount of money up front for a tipi, that once common Rendezvous shelter that is now so rarely seen. After the money was paid, the individual who was supposed to make the tipi sort of disappeared. He resurfaced a year or two later at Thunder Creek when he showed up to set out a trade blanket. He was still setting his wares out on the blanket when the swindlee appeared with a loaded Hawken pistol, a large knife, and a tomahawk. When it was over, the man who had been cheated had his money back with interest in trade goods and there wasn’t much left for the trade blanket besides the blanket.
Not witnessed, but I did see the result, was the well oiled guitar player who decided his 1 of 1000 Gibson acoustic sounded bad so he tossed it in the campfire. ‘’’Tis said that it went up like a jar of lighter fluid. Dude must have been rich because he laughed it off the next day.
Then there was the year that the Saturday night feed was a stew instead of a roasted hog. The guy doing the cooking apparently liked spicy food. He was also drinking. For those of us that prefer ice cream to ghost peppers it was a bad combination. There were a lot of holes dug and stew buried that night. It’s a wonder that the area escaped becoming a Super Fund site.
The sponsoring club raffled off a Damascus Bowie made by club member and then well known knife maker Sid Birt. They sold tickets for two years, and the guy that won it was only there to cook the hogs for the Saturday night feed of the shoot it was given away at. Someone jokingly offered him a hundred bucks for the knife and he sold it. Value at the time was around $1500 but the winner was neither a Buckskinner or a knife collector so he didn’t realize the actual value.
Today I set camp up in a far more relaxed pace than was the norm in the old days. Not counting the time to take the van back down the hill and then walk up again, I probably spent around three hours setting up a bare bones (well, sorta bare bones) camp. I built a fire and cooked supper around five.
Then I took a walk.
The current camp is about two hundred feet from where the group I have mentioned camped in years gone by. The presence of a trail leading up from the road cut made me think that the area had seen reasonably recent use. After climbing the bank by way of the trail and looking around however, there was no sign of anyone camping there for a long time. There was plenty of daylight left so I sat on the trunk of a fallen tree – that had probably been standing the last time I was there – and tried to visualize where we had all camped. I couldn’t do it. The hardest was to visualize where the marquee would have been. But – and it is no doubt just wishful thinking on my part – I do think I located the spot where the communal fire was always built.
Other areas west of the power line cut were always filled with camps. Now those areas are filled with briars and undergrowth from years, maybe decades, of disuse.
For a couple of reasons, I was out of shooting and going to Rendezvous for a little over a decade. Now that I’m back I will be coming here every year until I am unable or it ceases to be.
Hopefully, when the last organized big to not so big Rendezvous occurs, there will still be a handful who will get together in a hollow in the woods on someone’s farm or a National Forest once or twice a year and compete with traditional muzzleloading rifles. It is a pastime that is too memorable and enjoyable to die.