Some of the first books that I can remember reading were of the life stories of Daniel Boone, Jim Bridger, Kit Karson, Jedidiah Smith, and other epic accounts such as the Last of the Mohicans. When my dad told me about a cousin, Jim Walker, who went to mountain man rendezvous’, I could hardly wait to ask if I could tag along. The first rendezvous I ever attended was with my dad and Jim in Kindred, North Dakota, at the age of 12. Mountain men, voyageurs, long hunters, natives, pioneers, traders… all makes and models of wild men, with names like Three Legs (Jim), Fawn Killer, Wood Tick, Uncle Ernie, Crooked Nose, and Colonel Tom, just to name a few. I continued attending rendezvous’ through my early 20’s. My wife Stacie and I attended her first rendezvous in 2015, where we met up with my friend, Fawn Killer at the Bemidji, MN Hang Fire Rendezvous. Since then, we have attended around 1-2 a year, including the High Plains Regional Rendezvous’. It was at the High Plains where one of our friends, TC, was looking at some of my brain tanned leather, and said, “ Brother Man….you should bring some of this stuff to Fort Bridger.” The following fall, I saved out some hides to finish in August just before the Fort Bridger ‘Vous. In early July, we got an order from a costume designer who ended up buying all the leather we had.
“Now what?”, I thought to myself. “Do we still go with no hides to sell…and pass up the opportunity to attend one of the biggest rendezvous’ in the country? Horse Feathers!!! We’re going!”
Labor Day Weekend arrived at Fort Bridger with a bronze sculpture of Jim Bridger pointing the way. It was a beautiful location, with mountains in the distance and a small stream running through camp, which had beaver dam just up current. It didn’t take us long to find our friends, Lance, and later, TC.
Down by the river…
Scott Schniedervin of Laramie, WY
Scott has been tanning hides for a little over 20 years. When we asked about how he learned his technique, he mentioned that most of it was learned from the Matt Richards book, From Deerskins Into Buckskins. Another influential book for him was Blue Mountain Buckskins. He recalled how the original book came with an actual piece of brain tanned leather. Scott has had the privilage of teaching Native American students the art of tanning. He has worked with elk, deer, and antelope hides. He normally tans around 10-20 hides a year. Below is a slide show of some of his work, such as a beautifully beaded possibles bag, decorated by his skilled wife, as well as some pants and leggings.
Lance Grabowski: An Original Mountain Man
Lance started brain tanning in the 70’s using the method of much trial and error from books he found. Most of the books were truly vague on how to tan, so he’d have to experiment with things such as brain to water ratio, and other aspects of tanning. Blue Mountain Buckskin was the most influential for him however, because it had troubleshooting tips and an actual sample of buckskin…how it should feel. He recalls before reading the book proudly strutting around in the first pair of buckskin pants he had ever made, which had an interesting noise about them…resembling crunchy wax paper. He eventually transitioned from brain tanning to focusing more on creating art using brain tan. Lance has a long and colorful history of being a mountain man; riding horse back through the wilderness tracing Jedediah Smith’s path, being the first mountain man reenactor ever hired by the US Park Service, being a mountain man model for famous artists’, as well as creating western and Native American historically accurate garments and art himself! Below is a gallery of some of the intricate work he does. If you’d like to own a one of a kind custom piece of wearable art, visit his website at http://www.lancegrabowski.com/.