The L'Anse Sentinel June 25, 2003
Seventeen youngsters stepped back in time last week - waaaay back!
At Jon Henkel's Pre-1840's Summer Youth Rendezvous the 12-15 year olds pounded out fire pokers with a blacksmith, sewed moccasins, threw tomahawks and knives and sparked fires with flint and steel. They fired black powder rifles and became somewhat proficient in target shooting. That was after they made their own lead balls to shoot. The experience was hosted at the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club although Henkel was catalyst behind the Rendezvous and arranged the experience on his own.
"This was 98 percent hands on," said Henkel, an enthusiast of such yesteryear rendezvous. "We explained enough to get the job done, and safety, of course, and then they did it."
"Throwing the hawk and shooting (black powder) was the best!" said participant Joey Kayramo of Herman Road.
"I liked the blacksmithing the best," added David Pynnonen.
"They learned to throw hawks and got to shoot black powder rifles. They used the same rifle everyday so they got familiar with it. They shot pretty well," Henkel said. "Throwing hatchets and knives - parents won't let you do that at home but here we encourage it, safely."
The week long rendezvous was sponsored by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and contributing local businesses. The Ottawa Sportsmen lent the grounds and facilities at the club house on M-38 west of Baraga. The club also supplied a host of adult volunteers to help. A big part of the cultural emphasis was provided through Keweenaw Bay tribal members.
On three of the five days Native Americans joined the group for powerful presentations. The mesmerized youth learned the significance of the Native drum as the Four Thunders drum pounded out its rhythm. Each of the rendezvous youth had a chance to drum with them. The significance of Native regalia was explained on another day, and a Native storyteller wove tales on a third day.
Henkel said. "The kids were almost hypnotized by the Native American part."
Through his black powder shooting and participating in rendezvous since 1989, Henkel has made a wide circle of friends who portray the period characters such as trappers, buck skinners, and mountain men. He notes that his nearly 15 years in the consuming hobby pales in comparison to people who have lived in times long forgotten for 30 or 40 years. One such couple is Tim and Ann Kazmar of Dunbar, WI. They were on hand to offer knowledge and traditional skills to the young participants.
Tim Kazmar is a veteran of the outdoor world, having worked as a conservation officer in Wisconsin for years. He's been living rendezvous style in his everyday life for years since. "When you go to his house this is how he is dressed," Henkel said, introducing Kazmar in traditional dress.
"I do this to demonstrate there was a period of time in American history where this all took place," Kazrnar said. "I portray the mountain man era, from about 1820 to 1840. They are a special breed, just like lumberjacks or farmers. The fur trade was involved. When the beaver petered out the mountain men became the guides for settlers moving west. They knew the trails," Kazmar explained.
The Kazmars led a fire building competition as parents and friends joined the kids for lunch and an afternoon of events on Friday, the final day Think starting a campfire is a challenge with a match? Try using traditional "tow" tinder, which comes from the process of making linen. You'll need squares of charred cotton to easily ignite when a tiny spark of high carbon steel is struck with a flint rock.
Kazmar has a steel tin in which to char the cotton. He cuts two inch squares of cotton and places them in the tin. The tin has a tiny hole in the top. The tin is placed on a hot bed of coals. As the cotton squares burn inside the tin a thick column of smoke puffs from the hole. When the smoke subsides the cotton squares are "done" and ready to help spark future fires. Tim and Ann Kazmar provided the steel and flint, tow, burned cotton, and carefully measured bundles of cedar kindling for the fire competition. Kids had three minutes to create a fire and burn through a string suspended over it, all with Tim Kazmar on the stopwatch. And many did just that.
Several others led portions of the camp and provided old time expertise for the kids in a variety of topics. A, beaver was skinned in one demonstration. But the moccasins and the iron fire poker the kids made to take home with them were favorites. Several kids were wearing their hand sewn moccasins for Friday's competition.
The popularity of the pre-1840's week was evident among the youth by Friday as their parents enjoyed lunch at the sportsmen's club with them. Henkel is tossing around the idea of a future rendezvous, perhaps including kids and adults.
"If the sponsors want to do it again, we may do it again," Henkel said.
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