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Rules limit activities at Cataldo Mission

Sun., Aug. 19, 2007

Fire restrictions put a damper on the turkey smoking, muzzle loading, cannon-firing and crackling campfires at the Mountain Man Rendezvous near Cataldo on Saturday. Red-hot coals for the blacksmith were out of the question, too. “I was hoping to do some demonstrating, but I can’t because of the fire danger,” said John “Shotgun” Gren, of Spokane, motioning to his homemade replica cannon. Small juice cans filled with lead sat in a pile beneath the cannon. The cannon’s capable of firing the 4 1/2-pound cans up to a mile, Gren said. But he didn’t get a chance to prove it Saturday. Because of the intense fire danger, 67-year-old Gren and others also couldn’t cook in the traditional mountain man way: over an open fire. Gren had to drive home to Spokane, with six of his grandkids, to fetch his Coleman cookstove. Someone else had to go for propane to smoke turkeys for the crowd of mountain men, trappers and the like who gathered for the annual rendezvous at Old Mission State Park. The sight of a Coleman stove next to his canvas tent made Gren wince. He began re-enacting life as a trapper in 1989 and prides himself in staying true to mountain men. “I walk through here and I see the craftsmanship and the know-how,” he said, his passion evident in the tears in his eyes. “Every year someone comes with something new they designed, created or dreamed up.” Gren believes his generation could be the last generation of “mountain men.” “It’s always been a fairly small fraternity,” he said, “and it’s shrinking all the time.” There’s hope, though, that a younger generation of enthusiasts – like Tina and Brad Hull – might keep the tradition alive. The Post Falls couple brought their three children to the event. The youngest, 18-month-old Sky, wore a tiny buckskin dress and matching diaper cover her father made for her. She chewed on a bear-claw necklace as her mother showed off her tiny beaded choker, personalized with Sky’s nickname: Rainbow Star. Jack Norton, 70, goes by the handle “One-Eyed Jack.” He pulled a deer-skin patch from in front of his eye to show why he had the nickname – and that he’d removed his prosthetic eyeball to appear authentic. “It’s a super lot of fun,” said Norton, who was attracted to the mountain man lifestyle by the shooting competitions. Of course, those weren’t happening Saturday due to fire danger. The Post Falls man showed off his knives, handmade medicine bag and the strange animal tucked into the beaded headband of his hat: an animal he created himself using the head of a mink and the breast feathers from a pheasant. A few tents away, Denny “Yellow Leg” and Cindy “Moon” Marshall, of Troy, Idaho, were selling handmade guns and clothing. After only a year of participating in re-enactments such as the Mountain Man Rendezvous, Cindy Marshall recently quit her job and dedicated herself to sewing period clothes. “The clothes are just so comfortable,” she said. “There’s no fit to it. It’s like a sack.” Her husband said many people are attracted to the rendezvous because of an interest in history – and for other reasons, too. “Everybody likes to dress up,” he said. “Everybody likes to play cowboy, step back in time and step out of their modern persona.”


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