The acidic smell of black powder mingled with the sharp crack of rifle fire on Saturday, as part of the Endless Mountains Rendezvous Muzzleloader Show held at the Black Walnut American Legion.
People in colorful regalia from the 17th and 18th centuries gave demonstrations in blacksmithing, candle making, shooting, and other aspects of a by-gone era during the two-day event.
Alan Superko Jr. of Laceyville, president of the Endless Mountains Primitive Outdoorsmen which sponsored the event, said that the rendezvous has been held annually for the past 10 years.
The rendezvous is a tribute to those held in the past by hunters, trappers, and other people living in the wilderness, Superko explained. These people would gather at various locations on a regular basis for goods and services that they otherwise would have to travel a great distance to obtain.
“We’re growing every year,” Superko explained.
The event is a popular draw for young and old alike. Last year, 400 people showed up, and Superko estimated that even more would show up this year.
The rendezvous features people like local gunsmith David Williams of Tunkhannock, who specializes in making custom muzzleloaders. Williams is busy shaving down a piece of wood which will become the stock of a gun.
“It takes from 200 to 250 hours to make a gun,” he explained. “The cost is between $3,000 to $3,500.
Williams makes some of the materials for the gun by hand, and others he purchases from outside sources.
“It’s a challenge,” he said about making a gun as close as possible to original specifications.
Some things never change though. On one rifle is a site known as a ghost ring, which looks very similar to a peep site available on many modern rifles.
In other area, blacksmith Mitchell Smith of Monroeton practices his craft to an enthusiastic crowd. Using a forge fueled with bituminous coal, Smith heats pieces of metal until they become red hot, then pounds them into shape on an anvil.
One women orders a ‘dinner triangle,’ which people used to announce a meal was ready. While creating it, Smith explains the importance of blacksmithing, which lasted through the late 19th century.
“A blacksmith would set up a shop, and the community would grow up around the shop,” he said.
Blacksmiths made a wide variety of objects - including candle holders, fire place pokers and irons, as well as cooking and eating utensils.
“They also made wagon parts, tools - anything made out of metal,” he said.
Blacksmiths also fell into different categories, he said. One who specialized in cooking and eating utensils was known as a ‘white smith,’ because the metal had to be very refined and highly polished.
Nearby is Junanita Smith, Mitchell Smith’s wife, who is making candles. She starts by taking pieces of twine attached to a small frame, dipping them over and over in heated wax, adding a new layer each time until the candles are formed.
“I use a combination of bee wax and paraffin,” she explained.
Bee wax burns cleaner and has a nice smell, she said.
Normally, it takes about 35 dips in the wax to make a candle.
Jerry Heister of Hershey has an unusual trade - making horns.
At his stall are horns that came from cows as well as elks. Horn, Heister explained, was the ‘plastic’ of its era. When heated to 325 degrees, the material that makes up a horn becomes very malleable. This allows it to be molded into a variety of shapes for various uses.
Many people think such horns were primarily used to hold gunpowder. But Heister explained that the horns actually had a wide variety of uses. During the Revolutionary War, there were ‘rum’ horns, which a soldier used to store his ration of rum. There were also ‘snake bite’ horns, used to hold medicine for snake bites.
Horn were also used store use items as combs, musket balls, sewing materials, and salt, he said.
Other activities held at the rendezvous included a 50/50 shoot, hatch throwing, and a wood walk. People could camp out in tents for a primitive ‘back to nature’ weekend, Superko explained.
“We’re always looking for more people to come,” he said.