Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Father's Mid-Life Crisis as a Mountain Man

My 1980s childhood was like almost everyone else's 1980s childhood. I had two parents, a dog, wood paneled walls, neon socks, a Nintendo, and MTV. My mom had that eighties perm with the flower shaped claw bangs and it was all about the leg warmers in our Jazzercise class.

However once the 1990s rolled around my father decided he was a mountain man.

We could not watch our shows because we had to tape record TBS's Centennial mini-series.

Instead of watching Seinfeld we were watching Redford in Jeremiah Johnson.

Or Little Big Man.

It did not end there.

My father has always hunted and he always subscribed to the latest hunting magazines.  Being the artist he was, his new interest in becoming a mountain man created a need to make mountain man clothes. We began attending trade shows and conventions on weekends.  Along with learning the piano and guitar, my father and I spent many afternoons playing with bird calls while he'd ask me to fetch sinew thread for his deer hide.

That deer died to be my play clothes for this awkward but awesome camping trip. P.S. This little girl's name is Robin and I have no idea what happened to her after this camping trip.  If you are Robin, hi!!!! 

Little did I realize that deer hide was going to be something I would wear for a week in the mountains. As mountain men traditionally participated in the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, a group of National Rifle Association members would reenact this event. They attended semi-annual events where we tried our best to live like we had a time machine to our nation's past.

A lot of our nation's past involved getting warm when it was 20 degrees outside.
I was not aware of cultural appropriation, or of the colonization of early United States of America and later genocide and plight of the Native American at age 8.  All I knew is that some of my cousins in Oklahoma were Cherokee and that my father was interested in celebrating that part of his heritage.

Fuck your Bonnaroo, we made our own music and our own clothes with information from our own family.

I don't think that my father was trying this on as a vacation or as a costume. My father never succeeded in school, so his deep interest in history came later. He did all the research he could on this fascinating subject, making sure as much as our experience living the life of a colonist or a Native American was as authentic as possible.

I was there when he welded these.

This was important as the staff members of the event would ride horses around the campground and inspect our canvas lean-to. We could not have so much as a modern book or convenience. We started our campfires with flint. We kept warm at night with pelts. We welded our own cast iron for cooking. We traded for goods and art.

My dad is laughing because he knows I will be embarrassed by this photo later. WELL I AM POSTING IT ANYWAY. THAT WILL SHOW HIM.

To my dad, he was living out his dream as a mountain man in spurts.  To an eight year old I got to take off school for a week with the approval of my teachers because of the experiences of learning about colonial times and survival.  

I also did not have to take a bath, so I had that going for me.  Which is nice.


  1. Even at 8 this would have been torture for me. I am so indoorsy it's not even funny, and my mom was the same. Because of that, I never went with my dad on his canoeing trips in Canada. But he went through a similar phase where he was going to buy a canoe and a tent and go live in the Canadian Rockies or something insane. Never did it. I often wonder what my mid life crisis will be.

    1. Perhaps my next post will be a guide to your midlife crisis. I think how yours turn out depends on what you're all about.

      My father has always been all about escaping the mundane. He wanted to fulfill his fantasies of sticking it to the man, of adventure, and of saying no to everything what he thought of as boring modern life. After his mountain man phase there was a biker phase and now he does World War II reenactments. He started the mountain man thing when he was in his late thirties, the biker thing in his forties, and the World War II thing in his fifties.

      Some people just want to reenact their childhood so they buy big kid toys like nice cars to work on.

      Some people want to make the world a better place so they volunteer.

      At 32 I've never been as fascinating as my dad has been so I think my mid-life crisis will be crazy cat lady. Yes.

  2. Man, I thought MY dad was outdoorsy….your dad wins this one, that's for sure!


    1. That's for sure! He was always that dad who wanted me to go outside and play not because I was bugging him but because it was time to throw tomahawks or look for signs of deer.

  3. Oh...yes. My mom got ALL into handmade leather and fringe in the 70s. I remember a big bag of leather scraps that she would use to make beaded mocassins (yes, I wore those) and little purses. My dad decided that we needed to experience it first-hand, too, so yeah, I hear you on every level.

    1. I'm overjoyed you found this post as reading your Time Traveler entries I thought, "Stef needs to know about the summers I spent in the mountains in the 1990s in questionable attire."

      I think my dad was mad he never got to do what your parents did. He would have been all up in that shiz I think.

    2. Right?!? I can't believe my mom let him drag us to north Idaho to DO it, but we *did*. I have some pictures of me in impoverished/hippie kid clothes that will make you feel better. Stay tuned for those in a later post, lol.

      Too bad I don't have pictures of the communes...!