To Preserve the Heritage of the Fur Trade Era

New Mexico Mountain Men

Moon of the Crow

The sorry scribe didn’t make it to Moon of the Crow this season. That’s twice in the last three years. Gotta find a simpler way to pay the bills. Anyway, a great story was sent in by an individual new to buckskinning. It would appear he that has his wits about him, since he obtained the help of both of the NMMM’s Patrons. Sit back and enjoy Robert D’s account of Moon of the Crow.

A Pilgrim’s Experience

Loading the jeep then traveling 225 miles to the “Moon of the Crow Rendezvous” arriving at 4:15pm and setting up camp; by 6:00pm, I was tired and hungry. I started a small fire to prepare dinner when I received an invitation from the camp next door for some grub (Long Tongue & Redwing's). Concerned about leaving my fire unattended, K.D. (better half of Long Tongue) watched it while I grabbed my bowl/spoon and headed to their camp to load up on hot chicken stew. After two large spoonfuls I topped off the bowl and headed back to camp with a big smile. This dang good food truly hit the spot.. I was proud when KD said I had an excellent deep fire pit.

The next morning "Long Tongue", as promised, stopped in my camp and looked at my muzzle loading gear and with a few adjustments and explanations, we headed up the Trail Walk to the practice range. Placing the crossed haired paper plates on the board, he began giving me lessons in safety and the proper way to handle this strange object called a muzzleloader. After a very informative thirty minutes, he finally showed me how to load and fire the rifle….and he hit one inch from the center of the plate with my new gun.

Then he gave me the gun and said load it and fire. Nervous and remembering every detail he showed me; 6 or 7 minutes went by when I finally fired my first shot while he patiently stood by. I think I hit the plate, but before looking closer David said…..load up and fire another shot. With counseling as I went, this time I only took 5 minutes to load and fire the gun. I was on my way to making Kit Carson jealous. Over the next hour and only reaching the 6th target, he advised me the entire time and suggested I get a capper to speed up loading. Then he showed me the Mountain Man Run. After being totally intimidated by getting wounded or killed on that Run, I realized Kit Carson had no worries. Walking back to camp David said "stop by my lodge and we will take care of your shooting bag cuz it rides to low on your hip".

After resting and eating some vittles, I grabbed my shooting bag and some hemp rope (knot tying lesson) and headed back to Long Tongue’s teepee. He punched holes in the strap and hooked the leather lace up and told me to lace it up and it should work fine. While I was lacing up the strap, he showed me a few tricks in nesting, charring monk cloth and starting a fire in less than 30 seconds, which was about 5 minutes faster than I normally take. Then he asked me to”raise your arms and don’t get scared” cuz he had scissors in his hand. I lifted my arms and he cut an angle on my fringe by the wrist and said “no more lace in the soup”; which was often an occurrence for me. After going over some knot tying, I headed back to my camp.

That afternoon I felt more like a mountain man than I ever did before. I knew I had a long ways to go, but was very satisfied with the little progress I made with his help.

Later that afternoon, Peat (my new friend and brother to Redwing) told me Storm Dancer had some woman clothing to give away. He knew that I had a lady friend coming in on Saturday with little experience or clothing for a rendezvous. I loaded up and thanked her with a small donation. Thinking it will be a Rendezvous Christmas for my lady friend when she arrives. “It was”.

Finally, in the early evening Strawstalker stopped by my lodge and I told him about my great day. He suggested I holster the rifle and place it in the tent overnight due to the frost, which I immediately did. Another important lesson. He invited me over for some beans and posole in about an hour. When the time came I was there with my bowl and spoon again with another big smile watching him pass out flour tortillas from the open fire. I met the folks that made the posole from Oregon who attended the very first “Moon of the Crow” rendezvous 25 years ago. And the batch of beans made by Hands was a real treat too. The ole ‘Taos Lightning’ was being passed around and listening to Pack Mule’s toast added to the camaraderie.

The next day about 10:30am Long Tongue and Red Wing took me back to the Trail Walk for some much needed practice. After my second shot and aiming on the third target……..I rested a second with the rifle resting in my arms facing the target, fingers away from the trigger, then….. "Bang"……..the rifle shot and scared the hell out of me and perhaps a few people around me. While I was still in shock…..Redwing looked closely at my rifle and asked for it. After setting the trigger several times he said “your trigger setting is slipping”. Right there in the field he took it apart (actually scaring me cuz I could never put it back together if I had to). He put it back together and said “it’s temporarily fixed, but be careful”. Amazed, I loaded and fired several times again not hitting absolutely anything still nervous from the incident.

After that not being enough, I broke the metal tip on my wood ram rod and looked around, thinking, "you stupid pilgrim"……until Redwing said “those wood rods are good for one thing…..whittling them down to make toothpicks, ya need a steel/aluminum rod. I smiled and reloaded trying to seat the ball the best I could. A few minutes later Redwing showed up with a long steel rod saying "this will work". I said "you went all the way back to camp to get this rod?" He replied….."It don’t matter". Happy as ever I fired another two or three rounds, but I was exhausted from the experiences. I headed back to camp with my borrowed steel rod.

My lady friend showed up after Peat gave her directions to my lodge. She was delighted with the cloths, but felt she had to visit Stormdancer’s camp to determine which were under clothes and which were outer clothes. While they were discussing the girl stuff I walked over to Redwing and thanked him again……while he was digging in his shooting box. He said “go get your rifle and I’ll fix it permanently”. Elated, I ran back to get my rifle and again he took it apart and shimmed the trigger with a tiny washer. Now it was fixed permanently and he would not take anything for his efforts. He just told me, “Pass on a favor to someone else down the trail”. A memorable moment for me.

I returned to the talking women and Julia showed us her beads. She spent several minutes explaining the history of each kind of bead and where they were made over a hundred years ago. She also explained what to look for to prevent buying imitation beads. My lady friend loved the Padre beads, but didn’t buy them until she thought it over the next day. Julia again reminded her of the history of the beads she bought.

Later that evening they called the Council Fire. Gulping our food down and grabbing a capote, blanket and stools we headed to the Council Fire. It wasn’t until then did I realize that these same two men were now, “the only two Patrons” in the entire NMMA. One Patron is a nationally recognized gun maker who donated the muzzleloader for the rendezvous and the other Patron was close to being born a mountain man and can soothingly put you to sleep with his Indian flute sounds playing in the night air.

Now I someday want be a “Patron”, just like them.

Just another thankful Pilgrim; but watch out, I’ve got some real mountain men on my side.

Robert D.

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