The Saratoga Sun -

Big shots hit Encampment


Erik Gantt

Photo by Erik Gantt Howard Hill, of Riverside, checks a percussion cap while teaching his niece Mattie Miller, of Long Beach, Calif., how to load a black powder rifle at the Mountain Man Rendezvous and Black Powder Shoot.

The sound of black powder rifle shots echoed through Encampment this weekend.

The Sierra Madre Muzzleloaders Club sponsored a weekend filled with competitions at the Sierra Madre Mountain Man Rendezvous and Black Powder Shoot on the grounds of the Grand Encampment Museum. Competitions included a variety of rifle and pistol shoots, knife throwing, tomahawk throwing, fire pan throwing and fire starting. Participants came from around the country to enjoy each others company, talk shop and even talk a little trash.

Zach Knight, who said he was "shooting pretty spot on," was in Encampment from Pueblo, Colo. He was visiting his grandparents, Wayne and Karen Lancaster, whose family has lived off the Blackhall Road for generations. It was Knight's first shoot at the Rendezvous after being a spectator for eight or nine years.

Bob Tarell, of Laramie, is a member of the Sierra Madre Muzzleloaders and has been coming to the rendezvous for years. He was dressed in a full set of skins and a beaver felt bowler hat that he made himself. As an ardent fan of shooting and primitive arts, he said the rendezvous "Couldn't be more fun than a barrel of monkeys."

Bob Baker came up from Golden, Colo. Baker has been involved with high-power sporting rifle competitions for some time, but this was his first time competing at the Encampment Rendezvous.

"(The muzzleloaders) are more about the event and having fun," Victoria Baker said. She and Bob both find the modern rifle competitions are focused more on the expensive equipment and solving the engineering problem of hitting the target, rather than sharing knowledge and making friends.

Bob Baker worked on building his replica Hawken rifle for several years before finally having a friend help him complete it last year. He is proud of the engraving and stamps on the barrel and firing mechanisms which make it more authentic. They have attend another rendezvous in Vernal, Utah and now wear period costumes to enhance their experience at the events. Bob even made his own shirt.

Sierra Madre Muzzleloader Club President Gary Millhouse took turns making the crowd and competitor's alike jump at the sound of his .75 caliber rifle. "We're lucky to have the support of the kids, the people, the town and the Carbon County Visitors' Council this year," Millhouse said. The event appeared to be one of the best attended rendezvous' in years.

Mattie Miller came all the way from Long Beach. Calif. to compete in her first black powder event. With the help of her uncle Howard Hill, who Mattie is visiting in Encampment, Miller learned how to load and shoot in the kid's competitions. "It's loud, it's fun. You don't hear too many gunshots in California, unless it's a murder," Miller said in good humor.

Characters abounded among the traders and vendors at the Rendezvous. "Sneaky" Pete Uhl was showing off some of his museum quality beadwork, which is done in a Native American style. When he was questioned about the duality of men dressed in clothing from the 1800s talking about following each other on Facebook, he remarked his computer is really old. "How old is it?" he was asked to which Miller replied, "It's so old, it's wood fired."

Lil' Grizz, no Christian name given, is a self-professed liar extraordinaire and hat maker. He started making hats in the old-time styles with antique tools after he lost his job in the oilfields in the late 1980s. In a big career change he started an old-time photography studio and made the hats for his customers to wear. Grizz perfected his trade working for larger hat companies and in the Amish country of Pennsylvania. Today, he takes orders from around the United States and at rendezvous'. He may be the only person in the country making hats in the old-time way in the field.

"Wild" Bill Burleigh spent the weekend flintknapping and showing rendezvous attendees his teepee and historical artifacts side by side with his modern reproductions. Bill and his wife travel around the West demonstrating flintknapping and other Native American and pioneer skills for schools and events like the rendezvous.


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