- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Trail Blazer's?
Those hardy pioneers the Mountain Men & Women that blazed the trails for us are hardly even mentioned or noticed in today's busy world. We speed on through those same areas in fast moving vehicles and seldom even notice the road side monuments that depict that they had been there and fought and died there. The foot prints and blood of men, women and animals who fought to merely survive were spilled along those---trails.
It makes one wonder---now with the world so big with the masses of people, what it would have been to be that very first person to see it and set foot on that very spot?
• Mountain Men:
The mountain man and trapper led a very dangerous life. There was danger at every bend of the trail. There was Indian attacks and encounters with wild animals. The elements always played and unpredictable challenge---simply forging a river took many a life of a trapper. Freezing mountain streams and their exposure could cause a man to fall ill to the common aliments. Danger came in many disguises.
The majority of mountain men, were of French, French Canadians or Creole. Others were eastern Indians, full or mixed blood mostly Iroquois or Delaware ancestry.
Many seasoned mountain men took Indian wives and their families would often travel with them. For some Indian women this gave an alternate way of life that was often easier and richer in material ways.
Because there were no clergy in the mountains, they would simply follow the custom of the country. Marriages were not always viewed as a long-term commitment by either the trapper or by the women. Although there are many examples of trappers that formed life-lasting relations with their Indian wives.
Many Indian women welcomed the introduction of the European technology that their marriages and trading brought. Items such as kettles, knives, woolen cloth eased the domestic burdens of the woman. It turn there are references of Indian women actively interfering in attacks by their warrior-husbands on the fur traders.
Still the mountain men were drawn to the wilderness. They came for the high demand and the price being paid for the fur trade. Then as it is still today, fashions created a demand and a promise for---quick money. American and European hatters would pay high prices for the skins and particularly the beaver fur.
The newcomers that were drawn to the mountains would first come with clothing of cotton or linen but that would soon be traded for more durable and comfortable buckskins. Buckskin had its advantages in the fact that it was available and could easily be obtained by trading with the Indians. Cleaning of the buckskin clothing was soon learned from the Indians. A clay would be mixed with water and applied to the surface of the leather. The leather garment would then be dried in the sun and afterwards rubbed until soft and pliable. This process removed all grease spots and dirt. Different clays from different areas resulted in the buckskins color variations.
In the fall and the spring, the men would trap and gather their pelts. In mid summer the mountain men would form groups and gather at the rendezvous. There they would sell there furs, and supplies were bought and traded for the next season. This gathering involved into a carnival atmosphere in the wilderness and the men, women and their children, Indians, French and travelers soon depended on. This tradition was started by General William Ashley's men of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
Rendzvous was best described by the mountain man--James Beckworth as a scene of "mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic," that any white man or Indian could invent. After rendezvous, the men headed off to their fall trapping grounds. In fall when the streams froze, the trapper took a note from the animals world and he found a winter shelter. It was important to find a winter camp that could provide food. Some carried a well-worn book that they might have exchanged at the rendzvous, also some even learned to read during the winter camp, due to the boredom as they waited for spring.
• History Thoughts:
They say that we learn from our history. Yet, I wonder how many of us now in our busy world stop long enough to remember or be aware of all those trail blazers that forged ahead so we could be traveling down our vast highways?
• The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or women--- Willa Cather!