If you don't show up at the Easter Rendezvous this weekend at Ogden's Fort Buenaventura, your mountain friends will have to assume the worst.
"In the fur trading era, if a man didn't show up it was considered he was dead," said Chuck Willis, known by his preferred name, Thor, during the rendezvous he oversees as "booshway."
"It's from a French term, and means the guy in charge," said Thor, of South Ogden. The Rendezvous is today through Sunday, April 18-20.
Back in the day, rendezvous provided trappers a way to make money, by selling pelts; a chance to trade for vital supplies and tools otherwise unavailable; and a rare opportunity to leave the solitary life behind for a few days, and share stories and show off skills.
Modern rendezvous aim to reenacting the pre-1840 trappers' lifestyle, Thor said, and to rediscover and preserve the knowledge and skills that kept the trappers alive.
"The people who do this are called buckskinners, and buckskinners like to get together, and, as closely as possible, recreate something similar to the rendezvous of the late 1800s," Thor said. "These are people who only see each other once a year, unless they go to more rendezvous, so there's lots of singing, dancing, trading and lots of competitions. It's just a lot of fun, and at the same time, everyone's learning the whole time."
Spectators are welcome, and people who dress in pre-1840 style clothing and pay $5 for a competition medallion are welcome to compete. Events include aerial archery, gun shooting for different age levels, tomahawk and knife throwing, a canoe race, a frying pan toss and a Dutch oven competition. Vendors will sell food. Commemorative medallions also will be on sale.
The era was selected because beaver trapping was highly profitable due to the demand for beaver-felt hats. The tide turned shortly after 1840, when silk hats became the rage, and prices for beaver skins dropped.
"It's a pretty nice culture," Thor said of modern reenacters. "Some look rough and some talk rough, but they are pretty much all good hearted people. They are trying to preserve a lot of what early America was made out of, learning to do skills and being self-sufficient. One mistake we see in modern society is people replacing old information with new when we really should keep the old information and the new.
"A lot of the things done by these trappers were not written down because it was common knowledge in their day. So we do what we call experimental archeology. We read and study, and learn about the things done by these guys, and make the same equipment as close as possible, then try to do what they did. We learn a lot, and we share all the information."
The Rendezvous' biggest day is Saturday. Sunday events end at 2 p.m. The public is also welcome to visit Friday, but should be aware that many participants will still be setting up. Anyone who would like to remain after 6 p.m. must be in era-approriate dress, because camps go "primitive," Thor said, and clothing items including synthetic fabric and zippers or snaps would be untrue to the period.
"The weather is supposed to be gorgeous," Thor said. "There will be demonstrations set up with colonial and mountain man skills. You can move from one thing from the next. It's going to be a really great time. And if you have a question, just ask for Thor."
Friday, April 18
3:30 p.m. -- Aerial archery, Rifle Range
5 p.m. -- Evening shoot, Rifle Range
8 p.m. -- Candle Shoot, Rifle Range.
Saturday, April 19
8 a.m. -- Flag Raising Ceremony, inside Fort.
9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. -- Rifle Shoot, Rifle Range
10 a.m. pickup, 2 p.m. judging -- Dutch oven Cook-off
10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. -- Candy Cannon, camp center
10:15 a.m.-11:30 a.m. -- Kids' games, front gate
noon -- Kids' shoot, Rifle Range
1 p.m., Frying Pan Toss and Primitive Outfit Contest, camp center
1 p.m. -- Knife & Hawk Throw, Knife & Hawk Range
2 p.m. -- Mountain Man Run, Rifle Range
3:30 p.m. -- Highland Games, Rifle Range.
6 p.m. -- Council Fire, Raffle and Awards, camp center.
Sunday, April 20
7:30 a.m. -- Church, Fort
8:30 a.m. -- Easter egg hunt, Rifle Range
9 a.m. -- Blanket Shoot, Rifle Range
10 a.m. -- Archery Shoot, Archery Range
noon -- Canoe Race, the pond
2 p.m. -- Gate open, take down canvas