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Andre's Story

My First Rendezvous

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Andre's Story
My First Rendezvous
Andre Vasser

During the Weekend of 23-25 June 2000 I attended my first Rendezvous with JP. He asked that I write about my experience and thoughts about the weekend, since prior to that I had not been to a Rendezvous as a participant - or even as a tourist.
It has taken me some time trying to put it all together; as the days go by some of the details are fading. Yet, as I have had time to reflect on the experience, I have been able to give some thoughts about it and realize that I am learning more today about the experience than when I was first going though it.

JP has asked me to attend a Rendezvous for the past few years. At first there were reasons on why I could not attend, then there were excuses that became reasons why I could not attend, then there came a time that I had to answer for myself, do I want to go or not, and why?

To understand my hesitation you need to understand a little bit about my back ground. I am not good working with my hands. Ask my kids, any time I have to pick up some type of tool it’s a bad day. If I had to use it, my kids would run and hide in order not to be around me. The next thing is that every time I have been camping (In the Military or for pleasure) it always rains, so do I want to go to an event where I will have to depend on doing things with my hands and face doing it in the rain.

The time came to make a decision – JP informed me that there was going to be a Rendezvous the last weekend of June and asked if I wanted to go. JP stated that he could come up with some clothes for me to wear and that every thing I would need for the weekend would be provided; the only thing I had to bring was myself.

We are now going to our first Rendezvous. What I am about to write is more by subject vice "what happened" chronology (Friday, Saturday, Sunday etc.).

JP comes by my house midmorning on Friday to pick me up. I am all ready, all I have to do is put on my shoes and gather my things that are sitting by the door. Before we could get out of the door I am bleeding from one of my fingers (how, why, who knows) bringing this up now will mean more latter.

The 5 hour drive to the site is pleasant for the most part. We came upon a really good rain storm as we were getting closer to the site I looked to the north and the sky is really looking unkindly. JP informed me that we are going to be turning north shortly. I asked "Are we going camping or chasing tornadoes?" To the north it looked like a scene from the movie Tornadoes.

We got to the site around 2:30 p.m., just before the rain. The site for the Rendezvous was really a great area, a city park along the Des Moines river. We started looking for a site to set up camp, when JP says that this area by a phone pole looks like a good site (when you are looking for a camp site and some one says that an area by a phone pole looks good, stop and look up, for the phone pole may not be what it seems, for in this case the phone pole was actually a light pole and we did not have need for too many candles for we had more than enough light).

We unloaded the truck laying everything around us. Before we could think about how we wanted to set up camp the rains came.
So it rained, so what, what is the big deal? When I say the rains came I mean the rains came. It started raining before 3:00 on Friday and lasted until about 5:00 p.m. Saturday (It did not rain nonstop, there were a few moments with out any rain).
I talked with some of the locals trying to find out how much rain we actually had There was no official record for the area we were at, however, county wide there was 10” to 15” of rain in the 24 hour period.

As I said, the Rendezvous site was next to the Des Moines river. The river rose somewhere between 6 and 8 feet. Some of the camp sites had to be moved, or they would be under water. Some camp sites did not have to worry about flooding , they only had to worry about the bank washing away – one camp was about 8 feet from the bank and by the time they picked up camp, some of their tent pegs where no longer in solid ground, just hanging in the air.

After getting the tent up (along with an awning in front of the tent) in the rain there came a period of time when the rain let up a little, so the first thing to do was get some wood together, get some chopped up and try to get a fire started.

Ah! Fire. Now, there are many ways to start a fire, some easier than others. We are at a Rendezvous, so we are going to get a fire going like they would do a couple hundred years ago (and in the rain atop of that). Over the next few day JP would display various ways of starting a fire.

Have you ever heard the term that it takes “Blood, Sweat and Tears to get some thing done”? Well, the first fire that we got started took a little blood, a lot of sweat and some tears to get going. As you may guess the blood (and the tears) came from me. JP instructed me to take a knife and cut some shavings from some of the smaller pieces of wood – I am right handed and yet found a way to cut my right thumb. JP said to give him the knife. I was to take the tomahawk and chop some of the chunks of wood into smaller chunks instead. I found a way to chop the fore finger of my left hand.
JP took every sharp item away from me the rest of the weekend.
JP put in a lot of sweat but got a fire going (granted it was a very smoky fire, but a fire never the less).

The next morning JP decided that one experience of Blood, Sweat and Tears was more than enough. He decided to show another way to start a fire.
JP took the end of the candle used the night before and built a fire around it. Breakfast provide the best fire starter, grease. Wood covered with grease is a lot easier to get burning.

Have you ever had the experience where a small surprise was greater than words could express? When JP pulled out the clothes that he bought for me to wear I saw that they were not buckskin (leather), but some type of cloth. I was a happy camper.
Let me tell you, those where the most comfortable clothes I have ever worn. If I could get away with it I would wear them every day (even to work).
There is one thing I would change though, that being the pants. These pants look like farmer’s bib overalls with the exception that they are cut off at the waist. There were buttons and then more buttons. (Thanks to the person that invented zippers!)
Getting them on correctly the first time wasn’t so much the challenge as it was later that night.
As I said before, we had a real good night light by our camp. Seeing to go to the port-a-potty wasn’t to much of a problem until I got there, closed the door and found myself in complete darkness. I figured, hey, I am a big guy and I can find my ass and wipe it in the dark. Well, that wasn’t the problem, it was trying to remember where and how all those buttons worked on those dab-gum pants. I had to hold the door open with my foot to get what little light I could so I could see what was going on. I will say though that by the end of the weekend I figured out how those buttons worked pretty good due to the fact I had to pick that time to have the back door trots.

When you are at a Rendezvous and someone offers you some apple pie, don’t think about a baked good! While we were heating up something to eat the first night a neighbor camper came by and visited for a while. He asked if I would like some apple pie. I said not right then because we were about to eat. He and JP gave an understanding look at each other knowing that I had no idea what he was talking about. The neighbor goes to his camp and brings back a jug and asked for my cup. He pours in this liquid and says "Try it."
I can see why they call it apple pie If I didn’t know better I would have thought that I had just taken a big bite of pie.
That stuff can be dangerous! You may not pay attention to the amount of liquor intake you are getting.

The rain did prevent a lot of the planed activities from happening, however, it did provide an opportunity to experience other aspects of what goes on at a Rendezvous.
The camp was closed to the public from 5:00p.m to 9:00a.m. The only ones around were those that were participating in the Rendezvous.

Why were these people there? Why live the hard life like those who lived in what is now the United States? I am sure there are various different reasons, probably more than I could guess. There are a few things though that I know for sure. People don’t go just to rough it – I gave the example of ways of starting fires. Everyone used the easiest way used during their period to start their fires (some even cheated and used other means).

What stood out the most to me? The people there come from all walks of life and yet, at the Rendezvous, there wasn’t that distinction. The only distinction was what period of people tried to portray; if you were portraying someone from the 1700’s then you do not have and use things from the 1800’s.

You may say that those that go to Rendezvous belong to a sub-culture, which may be true. The Rendezvous I went to was like going a family reunion, however, in a lot of ways better, for everyone has respect each other and each other’s things and there isn’t the petty bickering. When walking about and if you left some thing somewhere and remembered about it a few hours later all you had to do was re-step where you went and the item you left would still be there. You could leave your camp and not worry about something being gone when you got back.

One other things that I appreciated was that there was no boom boxes blowing everyone away. Your entertainment was visiting each other. The rain did not stop people from visiting, going from camp site to camp site, sharing with each other (food, drink and for someone green like me, words of wisdom).

I look forward to going to another Rendezvous, hopefully with out rain so I get an opportunity to experience the other happenings that are part of Rendezvous. Then I will see how the bug has really bitten me. As I said, I enjoyed the experience and want to experience more. However, when it come to putting in the work that goes with it, can I, or will I, be willing/able to do it. As it stands right now Rendezvous could become an expensive endeavor for me do because most things that other people make (like clothes, shoes etc.) I would end up having to buy.

I coached youth sports for over 15 years and have taken a break the past couple years. I am trying to decide if I want to coach again or have some new hobby. The Rendezvous sub-culture appears very appealing. As one person put it, “When you live like you do at Rendezvous it can’t help but spread to how you live away from the Rendezvous”. It’s not a bad way to live.


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