Mountain men rely on
improvisation to survive, “Bud the Potter”
explained as his party members took a break
from setting up their canvas tent at Traders
Row on Monday.
“Mountain men had to make do with
what they had,” he said. Mountain men
learned to adapt to new situations and cobble
odd resources together to make things
The merchants of Traders Row improvise
on a daily basis by melding tradition
with modern necessity. The original mountain
men who trapped in the Rocky Mountains
would likely approve, Bud the Potter
The community of canvas tents going
up at the intersection of Mill and Sublette
streets is in many ways a recreation of what
the original rendezvous was – a living,
breathing marketplace. People from all over
gather to buy, sell and trade valuable goods.
Many of the experienced craftsmen and
artisans wear period costumes, sell historically
authentic items and some live in tents
and teepees all week. Traders Row, however,
is not a living history museum but a
working business, said the camp manager
Many of the traders, like Bud, depend on
their craft for a living. Others, like “Jesse
the Blacksmith” from Big Piney, follow
their craft with a passion they hope to turn
into a full-time career some day. Like the
mountain men of yore, they have to impro
He uses traditional tools, but said that he has
a credit card swiper on hand when business
opens. For many of his customers, plastic is
the only way they can pay.
“Missing Link,” a native of Upton, who
now lives in Texas, is a furrier specializing
in fur hats. The hats are “fashioned after
items that people had in the 1830s,” he
said. But to keep up with demand, Missing
Link brings along his 1930s Singer sewing
machine to make last-minute alterations or
ensure that there is always more than one
hat on display.
“You can’t make a living out of an empty
wagon,” he said. “Even while I’m here
(in Pinedale), I’m putting stuff together.
There’s always work to do.”
Work, work, work
“Gofer,” a mountain woman who received
her name because she “does a lot of
running around” (“go fer this, go fer that”)
directs her grandsons on how to set up her
canvas tent where she and her family will
sell Navajo tacos, scones and desserts.
The family ran out of rope and was improvising
with other materials to get the tent
up. Elijah and Kaden, Gofer’s grandsons,
spent the better part of the afternoon with
mallets and old iron pegs.
“There’s a lot of work involved with setting
up,” she explained. “I’ve been mountain
manning for close to 30 years, but I had
surgery this year. My grandsons help out a
Many merchants at Traders Row arrive
on Monday to get their stores in order by
opening day at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
“I’d sooner be two days earlier,” said
Bud. The potter and his family were at another
rendezvous over the weekend and had
to hurry down to Pinedale after closing up
shop on Sunday.
Some traders spend a good chunk of time
on the road, and the travel adds to the workload.
Bud usually attends 12 to 14 rendezvous
events each summer, although he is
seriously considering dropping down to 10
to 12 trips annually.
Missing Link’s large canvas tent is home
for the next week. He was a one-man party
on Monday, and it took nine hours to just to
get the enormous canvas tent off the ground.
He still had to unload his merchandise – all
3,000 pounds of it – from the trailer.
Missing Link makes part of his living remodeling
and repairing people’s homes. In
summer, he travels to different rendezvous
to sell his fur merchandise.
“My friends joke and say ‘it must be nice
to have the summer off,’” he said. “They
have no idea.”
In addition to setup and trading, Missing
Link and the others put in guard duty at
night. The guards are called “dog soldiers,”
Missing Link explained, a nod to the first
rendezvous of the early 1800s. Prowlers
sometimes show up, just like in the old
days, attracted by the valuable merchandise
or a chance to do mischief.
A good trade
Traders Row keeps the spirit of barter
alive. In addition to cash and credit/debit
cards, all the merchants interviewed said
they trade among each other and with visiting
For Missing Link, trading is an opportunity
to expand his inventory. He will only
trade for items that are historically authentic
and he can resell, he said. While Missing
Link will consider an ermine bag designed
for the fashionable set in the 1820s, he will
not take an electric guitar.
Jesse also barters with others at Traders
Row, willing to swap his skills at forging
iron into useful products for other goods.
“Blacksmiths were the first recyclers,” he
said. “They take old things, like a file, and
turn it into something new.” Blacksmiths
improvise “anything you can imagine”
out of iron, from eating utensils to traps to
squirrel cookers (a cooking device for roasting
small critters over a fire), he added.
Like Missing Link, Jesse will only trade
his services and goods for period-authentic
items. Some of the traders, however, are
more liberal in their trading policy. Bud and
his family have traded pottery for a brand
new lawn mower. At one rendezvous, they
even sold pottery to a dentist in return for
free dental work.
“We’ll definitely be returning to that rendezvous,”
vise to stay in business.
For 50 years, Bud made a living selling
handmade pottery at different rendezvous.
All of his merchandise is “traditional and
functional,” similar in design to pottery that
was used in the late 1700s and early 1800s,
he said. Yet the details in some finished
products are “stretched to accommodate the
Jesse labors over an old anvil and coal-fired
forge, like blacksmiths have for millennia.