TRINIDAD/AGUILAR — A modern mountain man rendezvous re-enacts the lifestyle of the American frontier hunters and trappers, emphasizing period clothes, housing, firearms, everything as it was prior to 1840, when the lifestyle became unprofitable and ended. Rendezvous were organized by fur trading companies for trappers to sell furs and hides and replenish supplies. The companies packed whiskey and supplies into a location, set up a trading fair, and, at festivity’s end, the furs were packed out. Rendezvous life and enterprise ended in 1840. Beaver were nearly extinct which led to diminished harvests. Also, a change in fashion shrunk markets, lowering prices. The fur and skin industry continued, but the
business model no longer provided a living for the ambitious individualists who mythologized the frontier. Many adapted their skills to become guides and scouts for the emigrants, gold-seekers, and armies droving boundlessly west. Rendezvous are celebrated today with muzzle-loaded rifle-shooting, trading firearms, and throwing knives and tomahawks. Fred Dixon and Jerry Stodghill are a couple of mountain men who keep the traditions alive. Maryland native and longtime Colorado resident Fred Dixon lived the mountain man life as a young man, making nearly all of his necessities and sleeping under the stars, his dog Shunka and mule Rastus by his side. “I hunted and trapped as a kid, tried college, wasn’t for me, hitchhiked to Colorado, and never left.” “From 1979 to 1981 a beaver pelt went for $60, good money considering I was in the wilderness with nothing to spend it on,” Fred says. “I went to several rendezvous. Bent’s Fort was the best.” In 1981, Dixon began seeking a new adventure and looking for another occupation, one that wouldn’t fail to fulfill human beings and would provide a key to independence, simplicity, and peace of mind. “I became a cowboy and managed a cattle arrangement for sixteen years.” Getting hit by lightning ended that career, so Dixon taught himself computer system repair and has worked at it ever since, as Cowboy Computer. “Now we raise chickens, grow organic vegetables, and are starting a small-scale fish and lobster farm. I make just about everything myself and still do, whenever I can, my elk-skin jacket, boots, the kitchen cabinet hinges and handles and most of this fishery equipment.” By way of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, the Stodghills took up teepee residence in Sarcillo Canyon outside Weston in 1980. Jerry Stodghill says, “Working for a phone company, everybody hunted. That got me into rendezvous.” Stodghill’s son, Jody, went to his first rendezvous while still in the womb. When two years old, Jody took knife and tomahawk throwing awards. Jerry’s been the Santa Fe Trail Rendezvous organizer and says, “That’s a good one if you want to learn the mountain man ways.” “It’s about camaraderie and honoring history,” his son says. The Stodghills’ wives are involved, and with a newborn, Jody’s daughter might be taking prizes soon. Jerry says, “For kids to get involved there’s a 4-H county agent that can get them started. I’ve taught firearm shooting and safety a number of years.” In coyote cap, elk-skin pants, and moccasins, Stodghill knew it was time to shoot. The rifles kicked, flashed, and smoked. According to his son, “A good shooter could be accurate up to four hundred yards.” The mountain man is epitomized in history through literature, movies, and those who take time to re-live that wide-open era, keeping the spirit alive today. To get involved, Charles, the contact for the Santa Fe Trail Rendezvous, may be reached at 505-327-2029 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Fred Dixon’s contact information is email@example.com or by calling 719-941-4012. Reach Jody Stodghills at firstname.lastname@example.org.