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Rendezvous offers taste of bygone era

KAREN WOODMANSEE
Appeal staff writer

Carson City residents and visitors get a chance to be a part of a bygone era once a year at the annual Carson Rendezvous.

The event is patterned after a staple of the mountain man era during the mid-19th century, when men with wanderlust and a sense of adventure went into the mountains to trap small animals for their fur, then sell the pelts at an annual get-together called the rendezvous, put on by the fur companies.

Men were paid for their pelts, then bought their supplies and often had a rip-roaring good time in the closest thing to civilization they saw all year.

A good time was also had by 21st-century Carson Rendezvous attendees on Saturday. Though they didn’t have to undergo the hardships of the mountain men, they did get a chance to see how life was for them and others who lived in the 1800s.

They could walk through the Mountain Man encampment, where they could see tools, clothing, tents and the lifestyle of some of the American West’s first non-native residents.

John Considine, also known by his mountain man name, Two Falls, spent the day teaching visitors how to skin a buck.

He has been coming to the Carson Rendezvous for about 13 years, he said, showing off the trousers he was wearing which he said he tanned, cut and sewed himself.

To tan the buck, a mountain man first used a sharp object to remove hair, skin and any remaining meat on the animal hide to make rawhide. Then they took the brains of the animal, blended it with some water, cooked it awhile, then soaked the hide in the mixture overnight.

The hide would be wrung out and stretched, pulled like taffy, making it large enough to stretch over a frame.

Then a wooden paddle works the hide until it is soft.

To waterproof it, the hide is made into a sack, turned upside down above a fire and smoked, which serves to both color and waterproof it.

“You end up with smoked, brain tanned leather and a new appreciation for the work that goes into it,” Considine said. “There was a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I did it.”

Those attending the Carson Rendezvous Saturday could easily pretend to be a mountain man. At Mills Park, browsers found buckskins, beads, furs, traps, tools and cooking utensils. Attendees could also find guns, holsters, ladies’ Victorian finery and

Native American crafts, along with the usual festival fare of T-shirts, dream catchers and jewelry.

Civil War buffs can find Union and Confederate encampments, a civilian town and field hospital complete with amputated limbs. Carefully choreographed shootouts abound, and the Native American village offers a taste of a culture that long preceeded the cowboys and the mountain men.

Even the game was time -appropriate, though horseshoes never went out of style entirely.

A horsehoe competition was the new event at the Rendezvous Saturday, with 26 entries vying for prizes of $100, $75, $55 or $30.

Player Charlie Prince said you get good at horseshoes with “Practice, practice, practice. If you practice the right way. If you practice the wrong way, don’t bother practicing.”

The sport takes a strong arm and a good eye, and since it was located near the Nevada Civil War Volunteer encampment, it also took steady nerves when the cannon was fired.

“Not havng a heart attack when the cannon goes off helps your horseshoe game,” Prince said.

The top four finishers were Geno Dawson, Marie Williams, Robert Smith Sr. and Chester Smith.

The Carson Rendezvous concludes today at Mills Park.