Sports

A walk through history at the Rendezvous

Don Abel, known as The Ram around the Rendezvous encampment, makes a small  adjustment on a piece of animal skin attatched to his walking stick. Abel said a Mescalero Apache medicine man gave him the stick 30 years ago.   - Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times
Don Abel, known as The Ram around the Rendezvous encampment, makes a small adjustment on a piece of animal skin attatched to his walking stick. Abel said a Mescalero Apache medicine man gave him the stick 30 years ago.
— image credit: Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times

For two days, Aug. 15 and 16 the Rendezvous encampment on the Plains of Coupeville at the Central Whidbey Sporstmen’s Club gave 21st-century people the opportunity to relive a time when it was an adventure for anyone to travel anywhere west of the Mississippi River.

Mountain men and women, along with fur trappers, traders and buckskinners from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada gathered for a weekend to relive a period in history when groups of daring adventurers explored uncharted lands in western America and the Rocky Mountains during the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s.

Just like the old days, the seventh annual event featured a primitive encampment with wall tents and teepees, along with a traders row where everything from beads to buckskin clothing was for sale.

Competitions in black powder pistol and rifle shooting were held, along with tomahawk and knife throwing events and primitive archery contests. All of these events could have made the difference between life and death once upon a time, but at Coupeville it was all for fun.

Naturally, there were some interesting characters wandering around the encampment. One of the most interesting was Don Abel from Kenmore, who said his Rendezvous name is The Ram.

Abel and his wife have attended Rendezvous celebrations all over the United States for the past 37 years and he was eager to explain how he got his name.

“About 30 years ago, a Mescalero Apache medicine man gave me his walking staff, but he was high up on the side of a cliff and I had to navigate a narrow trail to get to him,” Abel said. “When I finally arrived where he was, he called me, ‘The Ram Who Walks Tall’, and I’ve been The Ram ever since.”

At the Coupeville Rendezvous, Abel said he was the host of the Buckskin Church.

Shooting wasn’t strictly a man’s sport at the Rendezvous, and Barbara Sherwood from Lopez Island, known around the encampment at Fallen Woman, was right on target with her rifle.

“My husband, Clark, who they call Squatting Hawk, and I go to about 14 of these events every year. We’ve been doing it since 1996,” she said.

Not everyone had earned their Rendezvous name yet and Gary Sheets from Concrete, known as Ricochet, was teaching his friend, Kris Hemenway from Stanwood, the proper way to shoot a black powder rifle.

“She’s gotta do something crazy or outrageous before she’ll be given a name,” Sheets said.

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