Rendezvous brings unique crowd to East Fork campground

Managing Editor

Roy Glenn Duncan of Lewistown holds his 50 caliber center fire musket, pausing part way through the process of loading it. Duncan was preparing to fire at a target 100 yards uphill from him at the Snowy Mountains Muzzle Loaders Rendezvous held at East Fork campground Saturday and Sunday.

Photo by Deb Hill



Ka-thunk. That’s the noise a tomahawk makes when thrown hard enough imbed itself into a large chunk of tree trunk.

It was a noise heard frequently during the Snowy Mountains Muzzle Loaders rendezvous this weekend at East Fork reservoir, along with the explosive “bang” of black powder rifles being shot.

Around 100 people enjoyed two days of re-enacting the time of the fur traders, mountain men and Native Americans. Adam Walker, recently moved to Winnett from California, was one of those.

“I’ve been in Montana for about five months,” Walker said. “This is my first time throwing knives and tomahawks.”

Walker showed off one of each implement he had purchased recently.

“They don’t need to be too sharp, if you throw right,” he explained.

Meanwhile, up the hill from Walker, Roy Glenn Duncan of Lewistown, worked on his muzzleloader skills, shooting at paper targets. Before he could take a single shot from his 50 caliber Thompson center fire rifle, he had to go through the process of loading the gun.

“First you put in the black powder and a pad, then you tamp it down,” he said. “I have a 50 millimeter lead ball in there. Then I put this little nipple on which makes the spark when you pull the trigger. But for safety reasons I never put that on until I am ready to shoot.”

Duncan called his gun “one of the toughest guns built,” but said while it would knock an elk off its feet, it also had a “kick like a mule.”

Each shooter got five tries at the target for one entry fee. Targets are marked with rings, with the inner rings scoring quite a bit more than the outer ones. Scores were added up, with winners receiving prizes ranging from tins of black powder, knives, bone and bead necklaces, and for top winners, gold dollar coins in leather “pokes” (pouches).

This is the 12th year of the local rendezvous, according to event organizers Dean and Dorothy Kovacich and Norm Bristol. The Snowy Mountains Muzzle Loaders club started in 2005, and currently stands at 20 members.

“We started when our daughter married into a rendezvous family and we went to that event,” Dorothy said. “When we came back from that we started talking about getting one going here. It’s been pretty popular, although attendance and club membership has varied over the years.”

This year saw attendees from Terry, Bozeman, Great Falls, Joliet, Havre and even Tennessee and Colorado.

One of those was Jessie Keller of Colorado, who managed to hit the gong target at 130 yards on her first attempt, with a little coaching from Andy Owens of Havre.

“He told me right where to aim,” Keller said, adding, “It was fun.”

While some attendees were looking for fun, others, such as Micah Snodgrass of Joliet, were hard at work. Dressed all in buckskin clothing he had tanned and sewed himself, Snodgrass was simultaneously running a booth selling tanned hides and snake skins and a ministry, giving away free Bibles.

“I’m with the Lighthouse Bible Church now,” Snodgrass said. “Years ago I started ministering at a church in Broadhead, Wisconsin and some of the church members took me hunting. That was 1986. I got a deer the next year and didn’t know what to do with the hide, so I learned how to tan it. The next year my tanning was a little better and I’m still doing it.”

Snodgrass said he’d tanned all the hides for sale in his booth, from rabbits to goats to raccoons, deer, elk and even snakeskins.

“The skins come from animals I trap or shoot, or which are road killed or given to me. I’ve taught myself to sew shirts, pants, hats…even to make musical instruments,” he said, demonstrating a strange stringed instrument he called a “guitolin” – part guitar, part mandolin.

“I like to come to these rendezvous events; they are how I do my ministry,” he said.

The nearby visitors seemed a good deal more interested in Snodgrass’s pillory stocks and hand-painted cottonwood drum than in his free Bibles, though.

Between the teepees, food concessions, craft booths and contests, there was plenty to see and do at the rendezvous.

“We like to put on the event. It’s fun for everybody that comes, even though it’s a lot of work for us,” Dorothy said.





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