To Preserve the Heritage of the Fur Trade Era

New Mexico Mountain Men

McGaffey Lake Rendezvous - 2005

It’s been a while now and some memories have faded a little, but let me tell you about a place hidden way back in the mist, cloudy country of the Zuni’s. Back in the hills behind a pretty little lake lies a valley surrounded by pines and overlooked by blue sky and occasionally by those thunderclouds one finds only in New Mexico. The valley is both north and south and east and west of most anywhere. It is to this place that buckskinners and pilgrims journey each season on a pilgrimage looking to renew and re-energize a small part of the soul. Yup, McGaffey Lake Rendezvous!

Folks came early this year. The booshway and his family arrived on Monday and by Tuesday the site had begun to fill with canvas and rendezvous was still three days away. New faces pitched primitive camps.

New Faces

Ron B. had been designing his camp since Moon of the Crow. Looks good! Scott journeyed to rendezvous from Zuni and is a professional tanner of hides using the ways taught to him by his adopted Mescalero Apache grandfather. We’ll talk a little more with Scott another time.
Jim comes to us from Espanola. We don’t know him well enough yet, but we will. One very special face made his debut appearance at McGaffey. Known to hang with Pathfinder and Stands on a Rope, his character is somewhat in question, but as Long Tongue says, “We accept ‘em, warts and all!” So I give you McGaffey Jack – Mountain Man Extraordinaire!

Well, maybe we didn’t catch Jack at his best, but as you’ll see, he did play a key role during this here gathering.

By Friday all was ready. The events had been set up, lodges were pitched, and folks were ready. What’s a booshway to do? Why, git ‘er started!

There were trail walks, bow shoots, rifle and pistol matches, flintlock shoots, aggregates, a mountain man run, smoothbore matches, paper shoots, hawk and knife, best camp, egg cooking, and even a contest for liars. All day folks played hard, competing for a chance to approach the prize blanket.Come supper time, the pace slowed down some and the best times in life came forward. Stands on a Rope treated his compadres to a rack of ribs roasted slowly over an open fire. Man, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Several evenings were spent under a rain fly discussing both local and world events. Zuni weather forced everyone to seek a little shelter, but a good fire and friends go a long ways to warm the soul.

A Lot of Talent

A lot of talent exists amongst those present at any rendezvous and McGaffey was no exception. Ron D. and his son dropped in from Arizona. Ron works metal in his spare time and is developing a new throwing hawk. Given a little time, it’ll be a good’n. The rendezvous was especially blessed with a visit by Autumn, a teacher and artist from Zuni, NM. Autumn spent much of her time sketching folks while they played, worked, and relaxed. Autumn promised to share her work with us, so expect to see it in upcoming newsletters.
One of the more well-known and famous (infamous?) faces at any New Mexico gathering has to be Redwing. Walk around camp at the next rendezvous, and ask folks where their smoothbore came from. More often than not, Redwing made that fusil. Look for the bear on the stock. Normally extremely shy and retiring, I caught Redwing posing with a rifle he had recently built, which by the way will be the sister to one for Santa Fe Trails 2006. You have to wonder about someone who is capable of being comfortable sleeping on a rock, but if you’re lucky enough to get to know him, a better friend is hard to find. One last artisan to draw attention to would have to be "Scratch". Scratch is known for his collectable medallions and beautiful scrimshaw work. Many years from now, while looking through your collection of rendezvous medallions, remember Scratch’s smiling face and roll-your-own smokes.

It’s hard to sleep much past daybreak in a canvas lodge. Might as well be noon with the light a lodge gathers. So you get up, poke your head out the door and whoa! Rough night for Jack!

Ma and Pa Egg Cooking Contest

Well, life goes on. Saturday evening everyone gathered for the Ma and Pa Egg Cooking Contest, and this year it was a wild one. Stands on a Rope stated the rules. Basically, there were no rules. Start your fire, steal one, put out your neighbor’s, anything went. A bystander’s cook fire even suffered from the game. Pretty good fun.

McGaffey Run

One of the big events at any rendezvous is the mountain man run and this year’s McGaffey Run was a good’n. The scenario centered around a fellow buckskinner waylaid by a bear and left to perish in the wilderness. Yup, that poor fellow was none other than McGaffey Jack! After taking a few rifle and pistol shots and setting a trap or two, a competing buckskinner made his way to Jack. The idea was to retrieve Jack’s fusil, dig out a patch and ball from his bag or pocket, and dispatched the offending bear. He had three shots to get it done. Time was a’wasting if you had to dig for that second or third shot. Best to make meat the first time.

Buffalo Camp

Now while some folks were playing near camp, another much smaller and younger group ventured further out to establish their own primitive camp. Storm Dancer, and Meca and Casey scouted country south of the main camp and put together a lodge of their own called "Buffalo Camp". Not just for looks, this camp was home for much of the rendezvous to these hardy buckskinners.

Council Fire

Eventually, a rendezvous makes its way to council fire. Announcements are made, prizes awarded, special guests acknowledged, and ceremonies conducted. Jack would certainly have to be acknowledged as special, as he graced council fire with his presence.
Two young ladies were named and renamed at McGaffey this year. Lazy Horse named his granddaughter “Tracking Horse” for following Grandfather so faithfully, and Casey was renamed “Pretty Smile” by Ron D. Let them be known as such forever more!

Timber passed along the Ugly Man Award to a new deserving soul this year - Guido G. Don’t remember the story, just the result. Guido received the traveling pouch to which he’ll add a necessity, and then pass the honor along next year.

One other gift was given out at council fire during the rain. It seems that a select group, of which Pack Mule, Scratch, and Redwing were members, put together a pretty special powder horn and presented it to the scribe for doing his job. The scribe says thank you. Waits to Shoot made a bag just for that horn and brought the whole works to WTMR. A lot to live up to.

Monday morning arrived and it was time to honor those who have served and died in defense of this great land. You are not forgotten as long as a few can gather.

A lot else went on. Events were won and lost. Friendships renewed and made. Eventually though, it was time to break up the company and head for winter camp. Adios and vaya con dios!

More Pictures

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