Bundled up in the tradition of the late Colonial Period, the hardy individuals walking through the snow-covered grounds gave the 45th Annual Rendezvous, sponsored by the living historians of the Jefferson County Longrifles, the feel of a primitive, winter woodsmen encampment. Adding to the 18th century authenticity, many of the participants were not only spending this past weekend in canvas tents, but also toting black powder firearms so they could participate in the rendezvous’ various shooting events.
Said Kevin Johns, organization president, “We range anywhere from 1750 to 1820. And the aim is to preserve the historical aspects of flintlocks and sidelocks. We try to live as they (colonial woodsmen) did, camp as they did, eat what they ate.
“When we say ‘primitive rendezvous’ we mean no modern nylon tents, no campers. We want everything to be period correct, so the tents and stuff should be in a colonial style.”
Though the emphasis is on historical accuracy, Johns explained that everybody adds their own personal touch, noting, “To be honest with you, as long as you’re close. When somebody tries to make a gun, let’s say in the style of a particular builder, it sometimes is just a little bit different because that’s their personality.
“You can’t avoid glasses. We’re not so hardcore that you need primitive glass or anything like that,” he quipped.
Because the rendezvous was a primitive event held over the course of a late winter weekend, eating hot food and keeping warm overnight, particularly as temperatures dipped into the single digits, could be viewed as priorities.
“A lot of guys will bring elk that they maybe went and got or I’ve seen caribou meat out there. A couple guys will roast a deer leg on a spit all day. Boy, I’m telling you, there’s no better eating on a cold day than deer meat,” Johns said.
“Most of us have wood stoves in our tents. We may be pilgrims, but we’re not dumb pilgrims,” he joked.
Shooting was a primary attraction of the rendezvous, with most participants taking the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities with period-realistic longrifles.
“We have a Mountain Man Course where people shoot at anything from marshmallows, lollipops, metal knockdown targets. One of the favorite targets is to try and cut a card in half. We have a Trail Course that is mostly metal knockdown targets. We have a Paper Course with 25-, 50-, and 75-yard paper targets,” he said.
“We’re all here to make sure the guns go off and be safe about it. There might be competition and they (other participants) might beat me, but we’re all here just to have a good time.”
To this end comradery and having fun with friends, new and old alike, was, more so than the shooting, the overarching theme of the weekend.
“I can’t stress enough how much fun we have coming together and everybody’s of a like mind historically. There’s a lot of people out there that make stuff; anything from a leathersmith to a blacksmith to a gunsmith. The friendships that you make, that’s really what it’s all about,” Johns said.
He also emphasized that newcomers are more than welcome and the existing membership is always willing to help those interested in getting started.
“The new people starting out, we try to help them, point them in the right direction of where to go, where to start. And then as people get their feet wet, the clothes come, the tent comes, the guns come. You start building up that persona you want to go towards,” explained Johns.
“We have a wide variety of people out here, we never turn anybody away. There’s some guys in Carhart shirts, Carhart jackets and they’re just starting out. And then there’s guys that are just full blown, totally primitive.”
For those who might have missed last weekend’s event, a summer rendezvous is scheduled for July 10-11. Additionally, the organization holds sidelock shoots at 1 p.m. every third Sunday of each month at its location on 1000 Harriger Hollow Road, south of Brookville.
According to Johns the monthly events are about getting together and shooting. “Sometimes it’ll be all shooting, sometimes there’ll be a good mix of shooting and throwing tomahawks and starting fires (a timed activity using flint and steel),” he said. “That’s kind of the fun of it, every month is always different.”