Group braves cold temps to camp out like fur trappers, pioneers circa 1840

By Corene Brisendine

Muzzleloader enthusiasts braved the frigid temperatures this weekend to experience life as it was before the 1840s during the 33rd annual Frozen Butt Rendezvous near Blue Rapids.

Lee Tebbutt and his father own the land used for the event, which invites people from across the state to camp at the historic site along Corndodger Creek where fur traders William Sublette and Black Harris “pioneered a new route to the Rocky Mountains.”

Tebbutt said the route was later known as Sublette’s Trace. He the site, which they named Corndodger Station, makes an excellent gathering place for people wanting to experience what it was like in the early 19th century when settlers traveled across the country in search of a new life.

Tebbutt arranged for attendees to participate in a variety of activities that pioneers would have done to survive in the wilds of North America. Those included a rifle and pistol walk, a knife and tomahawk walk, and a shotgun and archery competition.

For the rifle and pistol walk, shooters walked along a wooded trail, and spotted and shot metal targets with period firearms.

Many of the campsites also aimed for period authenticity. Each site had a cloth tent or tarp for shelter. Some had only animal hides as blankets and open fire pits. Others chose to be a little less primitive with Coleman stoves and fireboxes.

Tebutt said the event is not as restrictive as some, where period costume is a requirement, but the organizers prefer campers at least try. Many of those at the camp dressed as close to 1840s as possible, but several sported jeans.

One group in attendance brought a beaver to skin and eat during the event. The leader of the group, Missouri Jim, said he has been going to this type of events for 20 years. He said what he likes most is the history behind it. He decided to go “hard core” and was invited to join a national organization called American Mountain Men. He said that to join, prospective members have to prove they deserve the title. He said the inductee must be a “pioneer” for at least two years, and in that time, must go to several events with his “sponsor,” live like a fur trader in 1840 during those events and even live off the land — alone.

“It’s slim pickins out there,” Jim said.

Jim brought the beaver to show attendees how a fur trader would skin and stretch the hide like a trapper in the 1800s. Afterward, he said, they would cook it for dinner.

Jim said he also likes the social aspect of the event, and convinced some of his friends to join him. They all spent the weekend dressing and maintaining their campsite like real pioneers, and sitting around the fire drinking whole-bean coffee and trading.

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