Monday, August 8, 2016

Feast of the Hunters’ Moon - 2014

Originally posted: October 6, 2014

A historic reconstruction of the original trading post playing host to visitors and costumed participants.
Officially, this trip would be the first time I’ve taken my travel trailer on, this, a voyage of discovery – a discovery of self and purpose and desire. Segment Number One of a period of my life which has taken on new direction since my decision to retire. What will I learn about traveling, about the process and about myself along the way? What do I intend to learn about life and why do I have this desire to travel when so many people my age seem content to rock-out on the front porch of a Cracker Barrel Restaurant near their hometown? These things will come to me in due time, I’m sure.

Right now, I’m content to prioritize my travels to meet personal needs. In other words, what feels right to do, where I should go and folks I should see, right now. I want to see things and do things I’ve never done before, but I also want to maximize and enjoy my family and friends wherever and whenever I can along the way. This trip serves just these purposes, but those in paragraph one are more long-range personal goals.

Historically accurate camps were established to educate and enlighten "Feast" attendees.
I loaded up the travel trailer with all the important things – too many “things” – when my goal was to live my life more simply. As in the book, “On Walden Pond”, Henry David Thoreau suggested what might be an ideal existence whereby a person could work one day per week for sustenance then study, meditate and reinvent himself during the other six days in the week. I thought it to be a grand plan when I first learned of it in high school literature class. The older I get, the more I see the loopholes in my own education and reformulate goals to fill-in those blank pages with the things I want to learn. Perhaps these travel plans also seek to fill those voids. Life is for learning.

Native American Dancers
The dance tells a story of a cocky male who seeks the attention of a lovely female. As he dances to strut his stuff, the female’s attention is taken by a younger and brighter colored “bird”. These folks were clearly having fun doing it.

After being instructed on how to properly hitch-up and stabilize the travel trailer to the tow vehicle for proper balance and stability – being a complete neophyte at any sort of trailer towing – ever – I slowly pulled the trailer out of the storage area and onto the county road. Pointing the nose of the tow vehicle toward the Interstate Highway exchange and onward to a new destinations and a new life experience.

This French trapper/trader tells tall tales of his exploits to fair-goers.
The next stop, was to be my home town, Indianapolis, Indiana to see my old friend , Steve, for a few days, then onward to the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon at Fort Ouiatenon in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Fur trappers would rendezvous at the fort annually for trade and rowdy fun.
This annual event is a celebration and reenactment of a time in our pioneer heritage whereby French trappers and fur traders would bring their season’s bounty to the Fort. There to meet with other traders – called “voyagers” who paddled inland waterways from eastern ports bearing goods up the Wabash River to trade with the trappers.

A pioneer contemplates an 18th Century-style leather-craft purchase.
This was a time just prior to the so-called, American French and Indian War or the Seven Years War as it was called in Europe. The limited number of these pioneer white people lived in relative peace with their aboriginal American neighbors of the Ouia (Wee’-ah) tribe, learned their language and even married into the tribes bearing children.

This pioneer youngster keeps her feel warm by the campfire. It was a  cold day, after all.
The annual event was a time for trading, meeting with other trappers, competitive feats of frontier skills, story-telling, lie swapping and yarn telling and general revelry – as one can imagine from men who, perhaps hadn’t seen but few other human beings. Many such events were attended under the influence of alcoholic beverages. It was rough and tumble, bawdy and gaudy, profitable for everyone and fun. However, no alcoholic beverages were served at this event.

A youthful fife corps braved the weather to entertain with with 18th Century music including "Yankee Doodle".
       That is, until Chief Pontiac’s Rebellion, battles with the British over control of the area. George Rogers Clark made possible the American era when his troops took over the area. While the French traders remained during those years, by the 1780s, growing conflict for agricultural land between the new settlers and Native American created hostilities. The French gradually left the area. In 1791, under orders from General George Washington, the American army burned the Ouia village and the trading post. The post was lost to time, but remembered in some history.

A colonial encampment. Note the barefoot lady on a cold, wet and muddy day.
The original site of the post was discovered in the 1960s and the resurrection of it’s history through the annual Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. Re-enactors and other costumed participants share their knowledge of pioneer history of this by-gone era with period music, craftsmanship in spinning and weaving, soap making, basket making, blacksmithing and many foods prepared in the open wood-fire ways. Blanket traders displayed their trade goods and hawked their wares. Accurate reproductions of period clothing and leather goods are available for sale – essentially, everything is for sale. That was the purpose of the Feast, but in 21st Century terms, the coin of the realm is exchanged rather than animal furs – although small game furs were also for sale as well.

Miserable weather or not, the show must go on. I enjoyed their performance and authentic costumes.
Despite the muddy fields following three days of heavy rains, the Feast was held on schedule. The cold, stinging wet winds persisted as attendees stood on queue for hot coffee, teas and cider. Then, as if scripted – just as in any restaurant business – everyone was hungry at the same time, so food lines were also lengthy. As for me, I was more interested in the craftspeople, the period folk musical groups, the pioneer re-enactors and the Native American dancers. I took about 250 photos and some short videos for my time there. I’m no longer the souvenir hound I used to be.

As this gentleman played the Scottish bagpipes.
This young lassie may have passed along the tradition of square dance calling.

This lady called the steps of the Scottish Dance.
As Americans, all of our "traditions" evolved from the immigrants who settled here.

An absolutely authentic flintlock musket.
In my life, I’ve collected coffee mugs, t-shirts and even have a large collection of hat pins – which are easier to manage. I’ve had to store my coffee mugs and my closet is stuffed with more t-shirts than I can wear. I’ve already given a large box of them to my daughter, Jennifer – who has an interest in quilting, so that one day, a “memory quilt” might cover my camper bunk.

Speaking of music, there were various little venues where players were scheduled to play authentic music. I really enjoyed the music and fortunately had my pocket video camera with me.

I then, washed it through PowerDirector and created this video to share. It's still a fairly large file, but I hope you enjoy the music as much as I did. It's not rock, but this was the music of the common man during the times.

Warming their numb fingers before their concert, the violinist first tried playing in gloves.
What do I do with these hundreds of hat pins? Still working on that. These days, I take the backpacker’s creed – “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”. My photos, videos and my written blog, here, will be my only souvenirs from here on out. I hope you enjoy both and return to visit again.            

My first, full set-up of my new camping rig at site #23 at Wolfe's Leisure Time Campground near Lafayette, Indiana.
 I had a great time, in view of the weather conditions. Until next time …


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