Maybell student ‘fur traders’ hold Mountain Rendezvous |

Maybell student ‘fur traders’ hold Mountain Rendezvous

Students walk in shoes of trappers for an afternoon

Mikaela Rierson

Imagine being a beaver trapper in the Rocky Mountains in 1830, traveling by canoe down the old Bear River, trading your story-telling bookmarks for beads with the native Indians.

Story-telling bookmarks? Well, yes, if you’re a Maybell Elementary student in yesterday’s Mountain Rendezvous fall learning program.

“We’ve been studying about the frontier days and so this is a good way for them to learn how their ancestors lived,” teacher Linda McCabe said. “Our country was first explored by the trappers, and the children have been learning background information on those explorers. We’ve been reading literature about them, and learning about the history of those times.”

The students invited their grandparents, surrogate grandparents and the Maybell community to join them in the experiential learning event. Carol Hedaria journeyed from Craig to fill the role of surrogate grandmother for Megan, Talon, Brooke and Beth – all second graders at Maybell.

“I’m a friend of their moms and I have two grandchildren living in California I don’t get to see very often, so here I am,” Hedaria said. “It’s really very nice to be here, and I’m glad they invited me.”

Flint and Jane Vierheller were there as surrogate grandparents for fourth grader Nick Cammer. Many other grandparents and surrogates were also present to learn along with the children and to reminisce.

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While the students sat on the floor around the piano, dressed in Indian feathers and trapper hats with beaver tails, Maybell “old-timer” Katie Buffham played a repertoire of songs from her youth.

“She’s part of the long-time history here,” McCabe said. “She knew Ann Bassett [“Queen of the Rustlers” from Brown’s Park], she ranched here, and she might have even known Butch Cassidy. For years her music was the center of the community entertainment around here when people would get together.”

The llamas, Cosmo and Fenwick waited impatiently outside the school. Finally the kids pulled on boots and coats and found long-necked critters standing in the snow with their owner, Mary Carerra. Carerra answered questions and told what llamas like and what they don’t like. They don’t like dogs. They do like to spit. And their shaggy winter coat spins into a sweater soft as a young kitten.

Back inside the school house, Carerra plied more stories about life in the olden days at the Trading Post station. Students had made bookmarks in one of their social studies class, and they traded them to Carerra for a story and something from her table – beaded handcrafts, jewelry, and other items. Carrera raises llamas near Craig and currently has 12 in her four-legged family. Next to the Trading Post, Betty Noonan worked a spinning wheel at the Spinning and Carding station and told the students how the wool from llamas, alpacas and sheep gets sheared, carded, spun and woven into cloth and blankets. Noonan raises alpacas on her ranch near Maybell.

The students helped Julie Jantz make scented soap at the Soap Making station. Not exactly the way the pioneers did it, but the kids had fun pouring glycerin into molds and dying it different colors. Jantz owns her own soap-making company.

Lynn Haskins, a teacher’s aid at Maybell School, helped students string colorful beads on to rawhide strips at the Hand Craft station.

Gretchen Mack talked about dresses, mocassins and beaded bags at the Indian Clothing station.

The girls tried on handmade beads and Indian dresses, while the boys fingered the vintage rifles and powder horns. Mack sews the costumes by hand, making authentic replicas of Indian dresses found in museums. She uses deerskin and beads, and dyes the yolks of the dresses different colors, the same way the tribes did. Cheyenne yolks were always yellow, she said. She has a piece of clothing from every tribe that lived in the Rocky Mountains – including the Crow, the Blackfeet, the Cheyenne, the Shoshone, and the Arapahoe.

Wrapping up the program, K.C. Hume from the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department presented the Eddie Eagle Program and talked about gun safety, weaving the message into the children’s studies about trappers and hunters.

“Later today, we’ll have creative writing and explore our experiences about this Mountain Rendezvous,” McCabe said.

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