The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 45 - 7/6/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Long-time Rendezvous revelers remember the good old days
by Jennifer Binning
"Rendezvous used to be a blood bath," says Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland, recalling the three-day parties that raged during Rendezvous weekends in the 70s and 80s. It got so crazy, in fact, that local officials called the police departments in neighboring counties for extra help during the raucous weekend.
"People would pour out of the bars and onto the streets, causing traffic problems. There were a lot of wrecks and drunk drivers. Then a bunch of drunks would show up and try to help out directing traffic!" said Mr. Ruland, laughing at the memory. "In one night during a Rendezvous weekend, we arrested a record 22 people, about 9 of which were from fights alone. I hated to work Rendezvous back then."
Although the booze factor made law enforcement officials cringe, it has also played a major role in some of the most memorable Rendezvous moments.
When you ask a local what they remember most about Rendezvous of the 70s, more than likely you will hear about the outrageous fun and the fights, both real and the ones which have, like a fine wine, grown more rich with age.
"I remember one night we were trying to break up a fight, when some gal came out of nowhere and sucker punched me!" said Mr. Ruland. "Well, I assumed it was a man, and just reacted. I turned and took a swing without looking and ended up cold cocking her. The fight we were trying to break up was a bit more dangerous, so I turned my attention back to it. When I finally looked for the woman who hit me, she had come to and run away. I never did figure out where she went, but I doubt she went around hitting cops anymore" said Sheriff Ruland wryly.
Courtney Davis of the Cowboy Bar remembers one year at closing time, Pinedale Police Chief Win Farnsworth "wanted to be Pinedale's General McArthur, " and brought in the heavy artillery to help keep the peace.
"There were some people having a powwow out in the street, making but a little noise, and Farnsworth called the fire trucks out!" As Mr. Davis remembers it, he went out and talked the Chief out of using that kind of force by telling him he had better be prepared to buy him a new building if any damage was done by the powerful hoses.
Hank Ruland says that one year they did in fact hose people down, but they never had to do it again, calling the simple presence of the trucks a "wonderful deterrent." But even Mr. Ruland drew the line on some of the Police Chief's tactics.
"There was a big brawl near Pine and Maybell at about 2 or 2:30 a.m. when the bars closed," chuckles the Sheriff. "I was riding with Chief Farnsworth and all of the sudden he decided he was 10 feet tall and bullet-proof!" Mr. Farnsworth apparently jumped from the vehicle, ready to take on the entire crowd while Mr. Ruland begged the Chief to return to the safety of the car and waited for all hell to break loose. After calling for backup and making a few threatening noises, Mr. Ruland emerged from the police car and came to the Chief's aid. The crowd suddenly realized there were now two cops on the scene and dispersed. "I really thought we were going to be killed that night," says the Sheriff with relief in his voice.
The bars also provided a lot of other entertainment for Rendezvous revelers who weren't too thrilled by the boxing matches going on outside, or inside for that matter.
" I don't remember a whole lot of bad fights," said Mr. Davis, who employed the rather strapping Gosar boys as bouncers, but every Rendezvous would bring the need to buy new windows and bathroom doors for the bar. "I 'd love to have people punch each other, rather than tear my doors off, but that's what they do!" says an exasperated Courtney.
One year, Courtney recalled Darlene Penton and Courtney's wife Sharon were literally scooping up beer bottles from the street with shovels, when it was discovered that someone had made off with the Cowboy bars juke box. It later turned up mysteriously at the Triangle R, where the ZZZZ Inn now stands. Somehow in all the commotion, the pranksters had removed the massive music box without being noticed. "We plugged it in and it worked just fine, so we loaded it up and took it back to the bar."
Mr. Davis recalls how he would have 16 waitresses, 4 bouncers, 2 bartenders and a cashier, as well as two "fetchers" who's job it was to keep the bar stocked and the beer running nonstop from the tap, and they were kept very busy. According to the Davis', the waitresses had to work in teams of two, one bringing the drinks, and one breaking trail.
Judi Shaul remembers working as a cocktail waitress during those wild Rendezvous, witnessing several things which certain residents in Pinedale would rather she forgot.
Mrs. Shaul, along with several other local gals, would dress up in period costumes to add to the fun. This continued for a few years until Mrs. Shaul almost laid Skeeter Golden flat for pinching her on the backside. "He didn't know how close he came to getting a tray of drinks in his lap," she says with a chuckle. That was the last year Mrs. Shaul dressed up as Miss Kitty.
Courtney brightens up at the mention of sexual shenanigans, and tells about one Rendezvous when his wife opened up the broom closet and found more than she bargained for. "Perpendicular sex in the broom closet!" crows Mr. Davis, "The brooms were just a' shakin'!" he grins.
Local lore has it that humans aren't the only animals that misbehaved during Rendezvous. There was once a sighting of a horse trying to do a little shopping for his inebriated master at Falers General Store, and several customers of the equine persuasion have also been bounced from the downtown bars, one being ridden by the quintessential mountain man himself, Charlie Golden Sr.
Courtney recalls that one year Clem Skinner forgot to dismount, and rode his horse right into the bar. Courtney shooed the beast out, but not before it left a rather large, wet calling card on the floor of the Cowboy. Anyone who has been shooed away by Courtney can surely sympathize with the four-legged fella. Fortunately, Clem was a nice guy and returned to mop up the mess.
Although most of the stories that have gone down in Rendezvous history occurred downtown, the pageant itself developed it's own traditions and lore behind the scenes.
"Everybody used to make up a jug of various things that we would bring up to the Rendezvous grounds before the pageant," says Ralph Faler, a 15-year Rendezvous veteran. "We would pull in behind the fort and everyone would sit around and drink for an hour or two before the pageant began" he continues. When the mountain men finally staggered out into the set, nearly everyone had a full belly of false courage, and the resulting wrestling matches nearly stole the show.
Terry Reach, a 21-year member of the trappers camp, agrees that everyone took a certain pride in their "concoctions, " and thankfully they "always had people monitoring us" so they did not get too out of hand.
Mr. Reach said the pageant organizer Burt Reinow always had a big wooden barrel of water available in the camp just in case the cooking fires got out of control. One year the trappers got a wild hair and dumped Wade Wilson in the full barrel of water head first, and they promptly forgot about him. Fortunately, Dr. Tom Johnston was not too far away, as the prank almost turned into a tragedy when Wade was unable to pull himself out of the water. "He damn near drown," said a reflective Dr. Tom a few decades later.
Ruth Reinow recalled one of the scariest moments she ever witnessed was during the introduction of the fur wagons, when one of the teams spooked at the sound of a firecracker under its feet. The team bolted, and to Ruth's horror it was headed right for the children in the Indian camp. While Ruth and the other women literally grabbed the children and threw them into the relative protection of the tents, Benny Pearson leapt onto the frightened horse's backs but slipped under the thundering hooves and heavy wheels of the wagon. Amazingly, Benny escaped with relatively minor injuries, but it left Dr. Johnston muttering something about Hollywood stuntmen. "No one even noticed that anything was wrong, they all thought it was part of the show" said Mrs. Reinow with just a hint of pride that the show did go on.
Terry Reach muses that he may have started a tradition among the trappers when he snuck up behind Chris Sievers during the trade scene, and attached a beaver trap firmly to Chris' backside. Unfortunately, the traps are a bit difficult to remove and if you watch carefully, you just may notice a brawny trapper chasing his own tail around in an attempt to dislodge the device.
Burt Reinow helped direct and narrate the Rendezvous pageant for just about 35 years, and anyone who worked with him knew Burt wanted the show to be just right, so it was with glee his wife Ruth tells the story of how Burt introduced many visiting youngsters to the concept of dramatic irony, as well as a few new phrases.
"It was the year Hap Frank narrated the pageant," begins Ruth. "Burt was directing the action from in the crows nest, and Louise Noble was signing the Lord's Prayer to the Indian children" during a somber scene depicting Father Pierre DeSmet introducing Christianity to the Indians. "Hap was reciting the prayer and all of the sudden Burt starts to swear. 'Get those God damned things out of the wagons!' was heard on the speakers loud and clear." Needless to say, the children began to wiggle and the adults began to giggle, and poor Burt had no idea why.
Appropriately, one last great Rendezvous legend, of which this is not nearly a full accounting, involves the actively used outhouse behind the fort. According to Terry Reach, Don Sherman had somehow managed to lose his muzzle-loader down the hole of the outhouse. Although an important part of his costume, and obviously of great personal value, Don was loathe to descend down into the hole to retrieve it. The next day, Vance Brewer earned Dons undying gratitude by rigging up a big magnet, and fishing the muzzle-loader out of the mire.
How does one reciprocate such a beautiful display of friendship?
Rob Shaul contributed to this story.
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