Rendezvous 2012 at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, north of Canton, had a favorable outcome with more than 30 exhibitors attending the three-day event Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Owen and Della Meier, tour directors at the refuge, said this year’s event attracted probably the most traders or demonstrations since its inception 19 years ago.
“The crowds are about the same—maybe down a little bit—but the ones who were here were really participating and that makes a lot of difference,” Della said.
Owen said: “Years ago, more people wandered around and left. These are more hardcore people (wanting to learn).”
Although most of the exhibitors are loyal, Owen said the Ted Ocker family of Colorado has been present all 19 years.
Those with displays are typically from bordering states, he said.
“We haven’t had anybody from Missouri or, I haven’t met any yet.”
Exhibits included clothing and campsites of the mountain man, flintknapping, blacksmithing, trinkets, teepees, arrowheads and other wares.
For one couple, Dan and Cherokee, the trip to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge was 18 hours from Apache Creek, N.M.
“We have Navajo jewelry,” Dan said, adding it’s good to be back after missing the last couple of years.
Three flintknappers, Neil Garrison of Oklahoma City, Okla., Dave Ediger of Buhler and Randy Clark, who grew up in Marion County and now lives in Buhler, spoke about how they became involved in this process.
Garrison said flintknapping is an art and a science.
Depending on the type of detail for arrowheads, Garrison said he will use an antler as a hammer, a buffalo bison rib bone for making notches on the very end of an arrowhead and sandstone as a braider.
“It always seems strange that if someone went off 20 paces and threw a (sandstone) rock at my head, the bone in my head is gonna break,” he said, “but this thing would bounce around.”
Putting bone and stone against each other, it would be bone that’s going to be the thing that breaks, but an antler, Garrison said, is a tough customer.
Unlike Ediger and Clark, he also doesn’t sell his work.
For Clark, flintknapping was something he started out of necessity.
“I told people I never could find arrowheads and so I had to make them,” he said. “It’s something I got interested in and decided to learn how to do it.”
The way he makes his arrowheads is the same general principle in how Indians would have done it.
“The first step is making a stone tool out of any rock that breaks predictably,” Clark said.
“Then walk around the rock making it smaller and smaller. What is left is the tool.”
Clark said Indians weren;t the only people making arrowheads.
“Egyptians, Europeans, and others used arrowheads for weapons,” he said.
For Tom Duvall and his son, Steve, being a blacksmith years ago was more practical than it is today.
“They fixed everything,” Duvall said, adding that he learned the trade while attending ferrier school.
“That was 15 years ago, but I never got into the ferrier business because of back problems,” he said.
A woman who was lucky enough to marry a blacksmith was assured a steady income, he said.
“A blacksmith did just about everything from repairing wagon wheels to fixing barn equipment.
Demonstrating how a blacksmith works, Duvall heated raw coal and burned the impurities from it.
When Duvall wanted air to blow through the coal, he turned a handle on the side of the blacksmith forge.
“I am trying a different, new technique by making a belt buckle,” he said.
He also makes fire pokers and other equipment.
Although Duvall lives in Wichita, his son, Steve, is outside of Canton, and also does blacksmithing.
About 10 years ago, he met a man at the Rendezvous who sold beads, but needed a blacksmith to shorten something that holds up wild game.
“I think I was the only modern-day blacksmith paid in beads and cigars.
“My granddaughter was very young, and we didn’t smoke, but (my son) and I wanted to enjoy this homemade cigar,” he said.
After lighting it, the granddaughter asked them what they were doing and before they could tell her, they had thrown it in the fire.
The mountain man
Darrell Plenert of McPherson said he has a lot of Plenerts’ living around Hillsboro and he is related to them all.
“My dad, Roland Plenert, grew up in Hillsboro,” he said, “and my grandfather was pastor of a church in the 1920s and ‘30s on Kansas Highway 15.
As part of the Rendezvous experience, Plenert wore the traditional leather clothing that a mountain man would have had.
“I made the leather pants and shirt,” he said, “I can’t buy it at a store.”
Another mountain man, James Beckom of Hutchinson, said he is related to David Beckham.
“Two brothers in the original days of Wales, got into a fight over taxes,” he said. “One wanted to tax the people and the other man changed his name back to the original ‘Beckom.’”
He said his mother researched all the information.
“I am a history buff myself,” he said, “and started in 1974 when we were living in Texas and close to Fort Hood.”
After packing up and going to a rendezvous, Beckom said he met a man named Two Beavers.
“He was in a teepee and we got to talking and spent hours on a lot of subjects.”
The following weekend, he said, the man brought leather and made an outfit.
“I was 13,” Beckom said.
Karen Allen said she first enjoyed the rendezvous activities in her hometown of Creede, Colo., where there were mountain man era reenactments.
“When my husband, Russell, and I moved to Kansas, we found rendezvous events here,” she said.
The couple has three sons. They are Canyon, Timber and Race and they all continue to come as a family activity.
“This is the fifth time we have been to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge,” she said.
Two other friends, Joshua and Sara Kroeker of Inman, own an 18-foot teepee.
Sara said she and her husband arrived Friday morning and they made corn husk dolls for the school-age children who visited the event.
The Allens said they go to several locations in Kansas to include Medicine Lodge, Ark City, Haven, Lake Afton and Kanapolis Lake.
“Rendezvous events are all over and it’s a great learning tool for our children,” Karen said.
“They learn to barter, trade and be sociable.”
For more information on other events at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, call 620-628-4455.