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National Trappers Association Convention 2006
By Marty Harmon*

Even though "convention" is the technical name of the event, we as trappers still hear “Rendezvous”. The name conjures up many images in our minds, maybe not the same as our predecessors from many years ago, but still we imagine the fun and companionship of getting together with people whom we share the same interest. I left home on the seven hundred plus mile journey about three in the morning. I arrived at Hutchison about two thirty in the afternoon. I can only imagine the laughter this tale would have stirred if I’d told it back in the mid eighteen hundreds. I’m sure I would have been taunted as the best liar in “Them there hills”. Then they would have put me on their shoulders and carried me around after I told them I just called my wife back home on the cell phone and told her I arrived safely. After an eleven and a half hour trip, I was very tired, but excited at the same time. I went straight to the fairgrounds and started walking up and down the aisles of tailgaters. A quick walk around in the heat led me to believe that I could wait till the next morning to examine more closely the many items they had on display.

I entered the air conditioned main building to a warm welcome from Mr. Paul Dobbins. Even though He is, and His Dad was, trapping legends, Paul talks to any trapper who stops by to say hello. After a short visit with Paul, I continued down the first aisle-- the building looked to be about a hundred yards long and half as wide, with row after row of trapping equipment. The mixture of so many kinds of lures in an enclosed building makes for a scent memory that will always be treasured by the die hard trappers. Here is one of the places our modern day conventions differ from those of yesteryear. I’ve read enough to know that the people who hauled the supplies over the mountains to the trappers had huge mark-ups on the merchandise, and sometimes left the mountains with all of the money that the trapper made over the winter months. Modern day conventions have a lot of great deals on just about anything the trapper needs. My next stop is the NTA booth where I renewed my membership dues. After this I proceed on, my head rotating from side to side, trying not to miss anything that might get sold out before I have a chance to walk it through again. As I round the next corner to the left and start down these rows, my eyes fix on the coin man. I started this tradition with myself years ago; each convention that I attend, I purchase one of the silver coins that marks the occasion. After asking what furbearer was on this years coin, and being told it was a wolf, I made my first purchase. I stuck it into my pocket to be placed in the box my wife made especially for them when I get home, and proceeded on down the aisle. I stopped by our association’s booth and caught up on a few of the proceedings with close friends. After resting for a few minutes I again continue on down the aisle. I never seem to get tired of seeing all the lures, books, and new things that trappers have came up with over the years.

I bought a couple of things that I was afraid wouldn’t be there the next day and then left with some close friends. I arrived once again early Friday morning and went to the cafeteria for what turned out to be a great breakfast. I’ve been to several National conventions and most all had great food, this one was just a step above though. The cafeteria was in the same air-conditioned building as the demo area. After breakfast I wandered over to it and was amazed, it was by far the best looking demo area I’ve seen. I heard outside that the Kansas trappers spent two days wheel-barrowing dirt and hauling in the many things needed to make it look so real. There were three or four bleachers surrounding the area so several people had a good view of some of the best known trappers in the world. On the outside of the partitioned demo area was a large screen, they had the demo that was being given inside broadcast to anyone who couldn’t get a seat inside. Several rows of chairs around the screen almost guaranteed that everyone had a chance to see the demo.

I left this building and started wandering the many rows of tailgaters while it was still cool. There is almost anything that you want associated with trapping, some new inventions, and other things that are just associated with the outdoors. I walked up and down the aisles until it started getting a little too warm, then headed back to the air-conditioned main building. I stopped outside of it where Greg Schrader, of the North American Fur Association was giving a demo on beaver. I watched as he told many small details that will help speed up the skinning and fleshing of them, then he even gave a few hints on making your own lure to catch them. I’ve seen him in videos, and in person at many conventions, but it always interests me enough that I stop and watch all of them that I can. I looked at the schedule, he was booked up to show the skinning, fleshing, and stretching of a different animal from 8:00 that morning until 6:00 that night all three days of the convention. I made a mental note of the demos I wanted to see and re-entered the air-conditioned building. I wandered around inside for most of the day, then I saw a friend that informed me there was another air-conditioned building just outside of this one. I immediately went to it and entered. Although this one was only about half the size of the main one, there were lots of different things and people to walk through again and again.

They shut down the buildings at 6:00 that afternoon, I walked outside and headed for the “Trapperman” cook-out. They have one at most of the big conventions, it’s usually on Friday night. I walked past the place Greg Schrader was and he was still talking to several people surrounding him as he cleaned up the demo area. I could not imagine skinning, scraping, and stretching fur for ten hours while teaching the whole time, then still standing around teaching afterward. I made the walk to the Trapperman gathering and ate some great food, there was the usual great conversation going on, as always when this many trappers get together. After eating my fill of the great food, I went from group to group, meeting new people, and catching up on the gossip from some of my old friends. As the time was approaching ten, I’d had about all of the excitement this old body could stand for one day. I headed back towards my car to go to the motel. As I once again walked past North American's demo area, I was amazed that Greg was still talking and teaching a small group of the die hard trappers who were still listening intently to any scrap of information they might pick up on. I thought to myself, this man is like the Energizer battery rabbit, he’s been out here fourteen hours and still going strong.

The next morning I arrived back at the fairgrounds about the same time as Friday. I ate the same thing for breakfast and it was just as good today. I left there and wandered back up and down the rows of tailgaters. Some had left and others had ventured in. I bought a few things, carried them to the car, then returned and spent the rest of the day venturing from one air-conditioned building to the next. When a convention is this big, it seems that you never tire of walking and looking, as there’s always the chance you missed something the last time through. For anyone that has never had the chance to go to a convention, the experience is worth it, no matter what the cost. If you can’t go to the “Big” one, the NTA annual event, the NTA has started having regional events so most anyone in the country can have the opportunity to go experience this great tradition. Even though the regional ones I’ve attended weren’t near the size of the National, they are a lot of fun also, so treat yourself to something special the next time you get a chance, let’s go “Rendezvous”.

*Marty Harmon is an avid trapper from Mississippi.

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