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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Mountain men celebrate frontier lifestyle

  • Every year for the past two decades, Ted Ocker has come to Maxwell Wildlife Reserve from his home in Colorado to spend three days living like a mountain man.
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  • Every year for the past two decades, Ted Ocker has come to Maxwell Wildlife Reserve from his home in Colorado to spend three days living like a mountain man.
    "We're just trying to give kids a history lesson they won't get in books," Ocker said.
    Ocker was one of several people who came to the reserve Thursday, Friday and Saturday to put on the 20th annual Mountain Man Rendezvous. The event replicates meetings frontiersmen would have had with traders in the early 1800s to buy supplies.
    "It would save the mountain men three months of travel into town," Ocker said.
    Ocker runs the Spirit of the Buffalo Trading Company, which offered steer and buffalo horns, deerskin hats, necklaces and cookware, which mountain men would have purchased.
    Ocker said he started 20 years ago giving presentations in schools.
    "They wanted to show school kids what life was like in the early 1800s," Ocker said.
    School groups traveled to the rendezvous, where they could see Ocker's wares, period tents and period clothing. They also saw how things were done 200 years ago, such as candle making, blacksmithing and cooking.
    "The kids are just fascinated," Ocker said.
    Sam Brannon, a 13-year-old from Canton, went to the rendezvous Saturday morning with his father, Clint, and bought a knife with a deer antler handle from Ocker. Clint said it was their first time going to the rendezvous, though he'd heard about it in previous years.
    "It's neat seeing all of it," Clint said.
    Chris Newton from Hutchinson has been volunteering at the rendezvous for 15 years. He gave wildlife tram tours so children could see bison and learn about the animals' habits.
    "It gives them a sense of what the prairie is like," Newton said.
    Ocker said education is the biggest reason he's come to every rendezvous so far.
    "If we don't teach them, they'll never remember what their history is," Ocker said.
    Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.
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