Back during the Middle ages when I was an impressionable youth, several things came together to make me want to become a Mountain Man.
When I was 12 years old I joined the Boy Scouts for the second time.(The first time didn’t work out so well.) Through the BSA I was learning many outdoor and survival skills, such as primitive camping, cooking over an open fire, fire starting with flint and steel, campcraft, lashing and other rope work. My dad had already introduced me to fishing and hunting, and taught me how to handle a canoe and a gun. Mom had seen to it I learned to swim and how to cook a meal. By the time I was 14 years old I was well on my way to being an outdoorsman. My weekend camp outs with the Boy Scouts, visits with my paternal grandfather for hunting and fishing trips, visits with my cousins Allan and Scott and stays at our cabin on the lake were the highlights of my life. School was just something that had to be done in between these trips. Kind of the same way I view work today.
In 1972 the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” was released to the theaters. I did not see it until it came around the second time in 1975 or 76. Before the days of video tapes and DVDs that is what they did so people could see the movie again or for the first time if they had missed it earlier. About this same time I read “Give your Heart to the Hawks” by Winfred Blevins and “Lord Grizzly” by Fredrick Manfred. In ’76 or ’77, on late night television, I saw Richard Harris in “The Man in the Wilderness” a fictionalized account of Hugh Glass’ story of survival after a Grizzly bear attack.
By the time I was 16 I had bought for myself a CVA Kentucky rifle. It was the first gun I purchased for myself with my own money. It was a .45 caliber percussion and in my eyes today it sure doesn’t look like much. But at the time it was the greatest rifle ever made! In fact my interest in muzzle loaders got my dad interested and he bought a couple and started hunting with them. I taught myself how to load and shoot the rifle, made a shooting pouch and accessories and made a full set of leather clothing out of split cowhide I got from the local Berman Buckskin warehouse in Minneapolis. When my cousins questioned my use of a single shot I demonstrated how to get a quick second shot by carrying a ball in my mouth, dumping loose powder down the bore, spitting the ball in the muzzle, tapping the buttstock on the ground to “seat” the ball on the powder, capping and firing, all in the blink of an eye! Well, a slow blink, anyway.
But the first influence I can remember was an article that was published in the March, 1975 issue of the American Rifleman. I was 14 years old. This article, and especially the pictures burned their way into my memory. Through the help of a man in Arizona, who has a complete set of American Rifleman back issues, I was able to find this article again. At the risk of copy rite infringement I have scanned this article and present it here.