Two brothers, Matt and Brad Allen, set up camp on a drizzly Wednesday morning, preparing for weekend festivities at the Grafton Rendezvous.
The rendezvous explores what life was like at a trading post in the pre-1840s era. Brad purchased a teepee back in January and was learning the ropes, literally. He showed us the knots he ties on the three stabilizing poles used in the initial set-up.
The brothers were striving to exemplify the simpler lifestyle of earlier times, even going so far as to canoe their way to Grafton. They made the journey from a previous rendezvous in Kampsville in two days via canoe. Seven hours paddling to Nutwood marked the first leg of their journey, followed by another six hours the following day. Add in another seven hours setting up camp, and the brothers were understandably exhausted.
“I’m new, just getting into it,” Matt explained as he spoke of the virtues of learning the crafts and skills of the folks at the rendezvous. “It’s kind of neat, our little group we’re forming. Everyone brings their own skill set. Everyone adapts to what they do.”
This sense of community and creating an alternative, simpler lifestyle seems to be at the heart of what drives people to the Grafton Rendezvous. Other skill sets the brother were working on include copper pot making, hide tanning, and furniture crafting. A blacksmith would be joining their campsite soon. In their lives outside of these rendezvous, both brothers work at the Illinois Air National Guard in Springfield.
“It’s a nice break from normal day to day working,” Brad explained. “I’m a single man, kids are raised, so I figured I’d have some fun.”
As far as the teepee itself, it’s surprisingly roomy and cozy on the inside. Even at more than 6 feet tall, someone could easily stand and move around inside. The brother praised the design sense of the Native Americans who came up with the concept.
The top of the teepee is left slightly open so a fire can be built in the center and smoke can funnel straight up. A lining would protect people from being seen as they moved around at night by the light of the fire. This was a safety feature that kept someone from being spotted and shot inside the teepee. It also insulated and created an updraft air flow to further aid in pulling smoke to the top. An awning hangs halfway across the teepee on the inside to protect the sleeping area from rain. Horsehair is traditionally hung at the top, which aids in telling the direction of the winds so the teepee dweller can know precisely how to open the flaps at the top. There are mythologies surrounding the horsetail. Some say it’s to ward away evil spirits. Matt shared another story he heard from an archaeologist and fellow rendezvous participant known as Blue.
“The female owned the teepee and everything in it,” he said.” She was responsible for set-up, tear-down, and everything inside. The male, only thing he could have was the horse tail from his best mount. That’s the tale I heard.”
These stories are only a small portion of the many interesting tales at the rendezvous from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 15-16. Guests are invited to learn about soap-making, metal-working, leather-crafting, road-making, bread-working and more.