The life of the mountain man has always intrigued me. Men like Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau and William Henry Ashley were among some adventurous men that explored the vast unknown wilderness of the west.
It was a hard life but the rewards were numerous. They saw things that the Native Americans had only seen. The great buffalo herds, the vast elk herds and the great abundance of wildlife were subjects of their diaries. They were truly blessed by the beauty of nature in these uncharted areas.
William Henry Ashley is credited with devising the rendezvous system in which trappers, Native Americans and traders would meet annually in a predetermined location to exchange furs, goods and money. This system is still celebrated in various areas and re enacted today. Men and women gather together to relive those days and keep the rendezvous system he created almost two hundred years ago alive today. If you have never been to one it is a site to behold. Black powder shoots, knife throwing, trapping demonstrations are a part of the days agenda and they wear the original clothing of the era. They cook with Dutch ovens and over an open fire filling the camp with an aroma that is sure to entice ones taste buds.
Every time I fire up the Dutch ovens, cook over an open fire or run a trap line my mind wanders back to the stories I have read about these courageous men and women and I hope deep down inside that their accomplishments are never forgotten. Long live the way of the mountain man.
Jim Bridger wrote, “Hunters and boatmen took the weather as it came, believing that men who never slept under a roof were in little danger of sickness.”
Jedidiah Smith said, ” I wanted to be the first to view a country on which the eyes of a white man had never gazed and to follow the course of rivers that ran through a new land.”
In my life I will never be able to experience the true ways of the mountain man but I can cherish their stories and imagine life as it was in the days before the west was tamed.