Saturday, January 21, 2006

Clewiston Man Goes Back To 1800s

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Ever want to travel back in time and live how folks might have over 200 years ago? Bob Harper (photo: Bob Harper, in center) lived this past week like they did in early America, and lived as a Native American did centuries ago .

Harper, in everyday modern life is an FAA certified aircraft and helicopter mechanic, but this week played the part of a Cherokee living in a village of teepees near the small town of Homestead, Florida, just south of Bartow in
central Florida.

Bob spent the week at the "Alafia River Rendezvous," an annual event chronicling American life in past centuries. The Alafia River Rendezvous is a pre-1840 living history encampment where annually participants/reenactors set up and live in camps portraying and demonstrating life skills of various Early American cultures; British, Irish, Scottish, Spanish and Native

Over 1000 lodges were set up housing well over 1600 people. Traders Row hosted over a hundred traders selling everything from kettle corn to tents to firearms and knives, to beads and sarsaparilla to skins and period clothing of all sorts.

Historically, a "Rendezvous" was a pre-determined place and time set for Fur Trappers to meet up with Fur Traders. This kept the Fur Trapper from having to come all the way back to civilization to cash in their Beaver Plews and other furs they had collected. Usually the Trappers or Mountain Men would spend 11 months of the year in the mountains trapping beaver. The fur was made into the felt for the Top Hats that became popular in the 1790's.

To the Fur Trapper, "rendezvous" was like our present day state fairs. It was a great time to socialize with other Trappers and to find out what is going on back home. They would bring their furs and trade them for necessities they would need for the upcoming year.

Some of the things a Trapper would need are: coffee, sugar, whiskey, pemmican, jerky, lead, blackpowder, traps, clothing, blankets, horses, mules, and Foofuraw. When the trading was over it was time for fun. There was singing, dancing, horse races, foot races, target shooting, knife throwing, gambling, whiskey drinking and yarn telling.

Bob Harper, part Cherokee, has been attending these events for many years and owns his own teepees and authentic gear to portray how Native Americans lived in past centuries. Bob say in past years he's even brought along his grandchildren to take part in the event. One ceremony Bob enjoys is the drumming and chanting. A group of men sit in a circle around a large drum
and chant while hitting the drum in a steady beat with accented notes, while women around the circle chant along and others dance to the drum.

But come Monday, Bob intends to return back to the 21st century and his home in mid-Hendry county, and return to his job maintaining helicopters.

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