Mountain Man Christmas Parade 2017
Dreaming of a White Christmas
by Terry Allen
December 11, 2017
Aylen Mills was making a project at the kids Christmas party at the library after the parade. I asked her what she thought Mountain Men did during the long snowy winters in our area.
"They stayed in their teepee most of the time," she said. "It was cold, cold. They would put on a fire and make projects. One project they did was stew up a fatty beaver tail for food. Once they ate all the fat out of it, they’d make a pouch out of it and give it as a gift to Santa or their girlfriend; but most of the time they’d just sit and read and keep the fire going."
Since my only education on the subject has been watching Jeremiah Johnson twice, I got online and studied up.
Turns out Aylen was pretty close to the mark. The mountain men trapped in the fall and stopped in the winter unless the trapping had been poor. Then it was hike in the snow and wade in the frozen streams just like in the movies. But, it was a team of 3 or 4 men living together instead of just one. It was out of safety concerns as much as anything. In such rough country a man could get hurt easily and a friend could save your life. Grizzlies and wolves were also a problem and a man would make a nice meal for either one. Indians like the Blackfeet were by far the most feared, but the Arikaras and Comanches were to be avoided if at all possible, too. On the other hand, the Shoshone, Crows and Mandans were less dangerous, but it was always a good idea to take proper precautions.
If they did well in the fall, after the streams froze up they’d go back to their main hunting party of 40 or so men and just sit around reading, playing cards, checkers, dominos, tell stories, singing and playing music. Boredom was a real thing being stuck in the snowy high country till spring, so they liked to relieve their boredom by challenging each other to wrestling and other tests of physical strength.
Come late winter when things began to thaw a bit and they could start to move around, it was again prime fur trapping time. This is when the animals’ fur is the thickest. Once spring was over they quit trapping because the animals would shed their heavy fur. Unless it had been a scant harvest so far, and then they would take anything they trapped. That’s about when they’d all head to Rendezvous and trade their pelts in for supplies; as well as being a time to meet old friends and party all over again...just a whole lot bigger. Six of the sixteen Rocky Mountain rendezvous were held in the Upper Green River Valley, which became iconic for the event. They even gave it a name, "The Green River Rendezvous" that we re-enact here in Pinedale every summer. Ours was held at the confluence of Horse Creek and the Green River, near present-day Daniel, Wyoming.
The Mountain Man Christmas holiday event in Pinedale is sponsored by the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce. It was held this year on Saturday, December 9th. It included the official lighting of the trees on the courthouse lawn by Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman, a night-time holiday parade down Pine Street with festively decorated floats, caroling, and late night shopping along Pinedale’s main street.
I hope you all like my experiment with a new kind of photo editing. I wanted to give a sort of historic look...in a snow storm. Last year the snow was deep by this time. This year, there might be a little snow in the shaded areas of buildings and trees.
Thank you to Dawn Ballou of Pinedale Online for sponsoring this story.
You may all use the photos in this story for personal use, with my compliments. I sell full-rez photos of people...only to family members for $35. Nature photos I sell to anyone who asks. I use Paypal at the email below.
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