By: Bears Butt


His first time with them, the young man is somewhat surprised by all of the festivities and ceremony.  He is new to the world of mountain men and looks up to those “old timers” who appear to have it all together.  In his city clothing, the youngster, even if he is in his 40’s or 50’s at the time, stands out among those “old timers”, with their leather clothing, knives and seasoned rifles.


Not to be discouraged, the “newbie” confronts the task of becoming “one of them” with a heart felt desire that can only satisfied by earning it the hard way.


He camps somewhat away, and yet close enough to hear the sounds and smell the smells coming from the “old timers” camps.  At night he is near the firelight of the council fire, but out on the fringes of the light itself.  Again, relishing in the flavor of the night fire and the sacred rituals of the council fire.


Ahh, what a place to be at such a time in his life.  Rendezvous!  A raucous time being had by all who attend!  Drinking until the light of dawn, story telling constantly, continual harassment among all, each trying to out-do the other.  The first story told will be outdone a hundred times during the course of the rendezvous.  The youngster learns early on, that if you are to be the one telling the first “yarn”, you had better make it a good one.  For an old timer is going to come up and out yarn your yarn a hundred fold.


And still, the youngster delights in the festivities, for this is what has drawn him into the scene.  It’s a sure fire way of learning something different than what goes on in the valley day by day.  Fire starting with flint and steel, or bow and stick.  Knife and hawk throwing, muzzleloader rifle shooting and best of all, trading.   The new one spends his year in preparation for the rendezvous and makes items he feels will be welcomed by the old timers and desirous of a good trade for some of the old timer’s favorite accoutrements.


He practices with his hawk, making sure it sticks where the mark is and feels the confidence of those he is looking up to with such regard.  He’s watched them trade amongst themselves and their hawks hit the marks with power and accuracy.  Best of all, he practices his skills with the muzzleloader rifle he now calls his “smoke pole”.  He is learning the language.  He has breathed in the smoke of a thousand black powder fired rounds.  It’s in his blood now.  He can’t go back.  He’s hooked!


As time goes on, the youngster begins to feel that since some of the old timers remember his name from one rendezvous to another, that maybe he is becoming one of them.  He must remember however, that he is still new and that he must listen to the old timers.  He still holds their words and wisdom in the highest regard, showing them the respect they deserve.  And the occasional sharing of his drink, aids in his favorable reception.




Soon the youngster has earned enough deer and elk hides to provide himself with the buckskin clothing he has been years seeing the old timers wearing.  It has taken a long time for him to get to this point.  But still, it’s in the earning of the clothing that is the real prize.  He has gathered these hides, honing his skills as a hunter over the years and used only the smoke pole he calls his own.  The rifle has proved itself a worthy companion more than once and the youngster is proud.


With his new clothing, he enters the rendezvous with a vigor he has not felt before.  It’s his first where he looks like he is a seasoned mountain man.  A man among men, those same men he has been looking up to for years!  Yes, this is a moment to shine, and shine he does.  The old timers see him with new eyes, and notice the parts of this youngster they had doubts about, are now more seasoned and he is becoming a real challenge in the contests held at rendezvous.  Yes, they have done well in preparing this youngster to enter into this world of the mountain man.


The youngster feel so good in fact that at the next knife and hawk throwing contest, he strikes a hard blow to the one he has considered the best of the best.  And as fate would have it, the youngster is now the lead dog in a contest he could only be a part of in the past.  Lead dog in a contest that he was always last in.  Lead dog; and called upon at the council fire to receive a fine “old timer” type of gift for his efforts.  A proud moment to say the least!  And, better yet, the old timers yell and celebrate with this youngster who has shown them defeat for the first time.  The youngster is proud.


Time goes on, and the youngster is finding necklaces, knives and accoutrements are now hanging from him much like those he has admired in years past.  He’s now included in most of the discussions around the council fire.  How has this come to be so quickly in the youngster’s life?  He slipped in amongst the old timers and become as they are, his fate sealed.  Shouldn’t there have been some kind of ceremony that welcomed him into their ranks?  Shouldn’t he have had to do some great deed to earn the right?  The youngster is somewhat confused by the quickness of his being welcomed into such a highly esteemed group.


With his heart swelled with honor, the youngster offers the old timers his views and does the things they ask of him.  He assists with camp setup and breakdown, the range master duties and other tasks.  He takes his obligation seriously and does more than would have ever been expected.  The old timers like his work and his enthusiasm.  They comment on his abilities to start the fire with flint and steel quickly, even with wet wood.


The council fire would not be what it is without the youngster.  He takes on the task of being the first to tell a tale, knowing full well, his tale will not be the best of the evening.  He does his best and accepts the fact that the next story beat his honorably.





One day while getting a drink from the creek, the reflection in the pool shows a mountain man comfortable in his attire.  His new leather clothes have blood stains and greased fringe.  His hat fits snuggly, like a well worn glove.  His claw necklace hangs nearly to the water.  As he drinks from the creek, the claws of the necklace break the surface.


Could it be that this youngster is now not so young?  Could it be that his mentoring of the latest newbie to come into camp has made him graduate into the old timer’s ranks?  He sits back and contemplates his dilemma.   He thinks of all of the times he took last place in the hawk throws, the mountain man runs and the rifle competition.  He now thinks, without a boastful thought, that perhaps the others in the competition are gauging themselves on their position relative to his.  Has he become the one to beat?  How could that have happened?  Yes, he has taken his share of firsts and seconds and heard the revelry at the council fire and shook the hands of those who he thought should have won.  But isn’t this too early in his life to be happening?


At the rendezvous one late afternoon, the youngster is approached by a city clad young man, who begins to ask him about his clothing, his rifle and knife and says in a breath, “I sure would like to be just like you one of these days”.


And the youngster now knows he has solidly entered into the ranks of the “old timers”.  This isn’t too early in his life to be happening.


Welcome to the club!


Bears Butt


Written on July 24th, 2011 , Just more stories

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Just some of my old stories, new stories, and in general what is going on in my life.