Magazine article Sunset

Mountain-Man Makeover

Magazine article Sunset

Mountain-Man Makeover

Article excerpt

Spending the weekend in the 1830s is no piece of cake, as Linda Hicks can attest. "It takes two days to get packed," she tells me. "Then another full day to set up the tepee and the wickiup." Behind her, Hicks's husband and son fling their tomahawks into a tree stump, the thwack of flying tomahawks being a common sound at the Fort Bridger Rendezvous in Fort Bridger, Wyoming.

The West has no shortage of historical reenactments, but Fort Bridger is in a class by itself. Every Labor Day weekend, thousands of people like the Hickses (who most of the year are ordinary Salt Lake City residents) converge on this trading post in southwestern Wyoming to celebrate and imitate Jim Bridger and his fellow mountain men. Think of it as an outdoorsy variant of the television show Extreme Makeover: you start in the 21st century but end up sitting in a wickiup in die 19th. "Talk to any mountain man, and he says, ? was born in the wrong era,'" says Kash Johnson, who served as the booshway-the fur-trapper CEO-of last year's rendezvous.

Ole Jensen and Ferrell Peterson, friends from South Jordan, Utah, have been attending the rendezvous for years. "We're losing the memory of what our ancestors did," says Peterson. "How can you go out in the cold and not die? How did the guy do it with no polar fleece?" Elaborately dressed in trapper clothes of their own making, Jensen and Peterson belong to American Mountain Men, the most hard-core of such groups. Their sole concession to modern life is sunscreen-says Peterson, "We may be primitive, but we're not stupid."

Jensen and Peterson looked authentic to me. But they told me that if I wanted to meet a serious mountain man, I had to hook up with Crazy Coyote, aka Roy Hansen of Arimo, Idaho. Hansen acquired his new name after living for two years in a tepee with a coyote cub. "My mom started calling me crazy," he says. …

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