Bits Pieces of Fort Bridger
The recently passed Labor Day holiday, always finds our family in Fort Bridger, Wyo. Not just us, but several residents from Carbon and Emery counties make the trek as well.
We started going in 1986, that was our first year and have only missed one year since then, so it was our 21st trip. As things have evolved over the years many things have changed. We used to take five kids and jam them into our trailer which has never been big enough for all of us, but the kids liked to sleep out in the tent so most of the time unless it rained there was enough room.
This year it was just down to the two of us, if that isn't weird, no kids to shuttle around and worry about all weekend. Our son Luke was always getting lost and spending a lot of time on traders row visiting with the traders and talking them out of their goods. But, this son was far away this year in the Fiji Islands on a mission for his church. The other son, was playing football, his first year at the high school. Bow season always keeps the others away and so we were just down to two. But, it was still fun.
It's just fun to be in Fort Bridger. There are so many things to see and do. You can shop with the traders and find all kinds of treasures. There are furs and hats of all description. All types of clothing, from mountain man era to colonial, Spanish, French and everything in between. No reason to be a pilgrim when you can buy everything on site. What is a pilgrim? Well if you aren't dressed in your pre-1840 gear then you are considered a pilgrim.
There are dutch oven cooking contests and clothing contests. There are kids games for all the children and a candy cannon which shoots candy to all the children gathered on the parade grounds.
There are blackpowder rifle contests, flintlock contests, pistol, shot gun and smoothbore. The youth and women shoot together for a rifle. This year the top lady shooter was Emery County's own Cathy Gunter. She brought home the new flintlock custom made blackpowder rifle. Two other Emery County shooting club ladies shot in the top five including myself and Kelly Davis. In the mens rifle event, Ken Gunter was second and Mike Juggert was in the top five. That's pretty good representation from the county. I have to brag a little, my husband Willie took first in the flintlock shoot and third in the smooth bore. My brother-in-law Kevin Offret won a new flintlock rifle on the raffle. He is the luckiest dude, always winning on the raffles. I have won one thing in my life and that one thing was a gun, so I guess that's OK I haven't won anything since. But I still buy tickets, they tell me it's a worthy cause and I am such a sap. Willie often wonders why we don't have any money. It's because I give it all away.
The pioneer spirit of Fort Bridger can't be surpassed. Nearly every pioneer on the way to the Salt Lake Valley or Oregon and points in between passed through Fort Bridger. You can still see the wagon ruts near Fort Bridger. This year as I attended Fort Bridger I was reminded of Montell Seely and his recent passing doing the things he loved participating in a pioneer handcart trek. How he would have loved the spirit of Fort Bridger.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds an outdoor service at the Old Mormon Fort Wall every year. The church members from the Lyman ward and Fort Bridger ward hold the sacrament meeting. I guess this is probably my favorite part of Fort Bridger now. You can get up and go to church outside and you can wear your mountain man clothes. It's a unique experience.
There are many friends at Fort Bridger that you only see once a year. The local BookCliff Muzzleloader club shoots monthly throughout the winter and spring so we see the locals a lot but many of the people who attend Fort Bridger are from other states.
All and all it's a great time, even though things change and people come and go. You miss those mountain men who didn't make it through the winter. Last December one of our good friends was killed in a car accident, he was a shooter and in more recent years a trader. We actually helped get him started as a mountain man. He was a pilgrim and came to a shoot at St. George to visit us and then next thing you know he was all decked out in mountain man gear and had bought a gun. We do miss Tennessee. But, his widow Peggy is carrying on without him, she has downsized the tent a little, because she couldn't put up the big tent by herself. She has learned to drive the big motorhome to haul everything around in and she is still trading at the shoots.
Once it gets in your blood it's hard to get out of it. Larry Williams and Don Burge from Price always make the trip to Bridger. Don usually shoots primitive bow and Larry is always out on the shooting range, one of the best shots around. The Funks from Ferron sell Chet's handmade gear up there and the Frandsens value their time at Fort Bridger where Jay sells his hand made flint knives and jewelry. They enjoy the friendships they have acquired over the years and especially making music around the fire at night.
Whatever your reason, it's funnest when you are a participant. Get out and enjoy life and live it to the fullest wherever you are and no matter what you do for fun.