Back in time in Lake Benton
LAKE BENTON – The combined celebrations of Benton-Fremont Days, Te Tonka Ha Rendezvous and Hehdoka Knap-In provided much to do for those in attendance at the Hole-in-the-Mountain Park this past weekend in Lake Benton.
The annual Benton-Fremont Days, named after pathfinder John C. Fremont who was born in 1813 and traveled through the Lake Benton area, is in its 16th year and celebrates the 19th century with a variety of activities and attractions.
People of all ages seemed to enjoy learning to rope and crack a whip at the Swanson Cowboyography site Saturday. Steve Swanson demonstrated cracking a whip for the Olson and Misar families.
“The whip is traveling 796 miles an hour, so you never want to hit anything with it,” Swanson said. “You don’t use it for anything other than for sound. It’s going so fast that you’re breaking the sound barrier.”
Jeff and Priscilla Olson of St. James brought their three sons, Devon, David and Daniel, to the festivities for the first time.
“This is so cool,” Priscilla Olson said. “I love how it is set up so authentic like.”
Middle child David Olson tried roping a number of times.
“It’s pretty hard, but I’m starting to get the hang of it,” he said.
Eleven-year-old Clint Misar and cousin Gavin Misar, 9, took turns learning to safely crack the whip as grandmother Sylvia Misar looked on.
“They are learning so much,” Sylvia Misar said. “It’s our first time here. We’re having a great time and we’ll be back again.”
Further down the way, a black powder rifle contest was taking place under the direction of Alan Serfling and other family members.
“It’s a two-shot contest,” Serfling’s daughter Stacia Tuschen said. “The idea is to put both bullets into the white and not touch the black. You want to be as close to the center as you can but if the bullet cuts the black, that bullet is out of the contest.”
While Tuschen helped with the contest, her husband Dennis and 12-year-old daughter Shayla took part in the contest.
“I’ve been doing this since I was seven, but Shayla went to her first rendezvous at three months old,” Tuschen said. “It’s pretty neat. It takes you back to the Fur Trading days.”
Along with shooting the long rifles, participants also had to learn how to table load them.
Some loads were packed heavier than others, which resulted in louder outcomes. Tuschen said her husband was pretty good at the process of melting lead to make the 50-caliber round ball bullets that were used during the contest.
Bill Crapser gave tomahawk- and knife- throwing demonstrations, striking close patterns together in the large stump target.
“Once you get it down, it’s like anything,” he said. “It’s consistency.”
Rona Johnston and Denise Kaelin sat in front of a large teepee, cooking leftover soup on an open fire, while continuing to invite people inside the teepee to check out the buffalo robes, regalia and other personal effects.
“I was at the corn boil and started feeling hungry, so I thought I’d make me some soup,” Johnston said.” The only problem is you can’t just eat it right away. You have to prepare it first.”
Johnston, of the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers, carefully cut up a variety of garden vegetables, including zucchini, carrots, green beans, potatoes and corn, and put them into the soup pot.
“You just chop it up, put it in there and call it soup,” she said.
Johnston said she was enrolled Cherokee, while her husband Bud and daughter Camas, 8, were Ojibwa.
“We just sit here and pretend we don’t live in a modern world,” Johnston said. “We try to let the world just melt away and go back to the early 1800s.”
The Johnstons operate Keepers, which includes a gift shop and gallery in Pipestone, in addition to coordinating educational events, including Culture Camps. They also promote sacred traditions as far away as Europe, which is where Kaelin met the Johnstons.
“I’m from Switzerland and I met them at a pipemaking workshop, Kaelin said. ” I stay with them as a volunteer. I work with them. I’ve learned lots of things. It’s amazing.
Nearby, Tyler resident Janell Wagoner, Lake Benton resident Shay Huhta and Slayton resident Diann Haffner sat at spinning wheels, while Dick Berreth welcomed visitors from his authentically Native American built canoe.
“He built that canoe with the exact methods and tools the Indians did, “said Minneota native Herb Pagel, who also had his own site at the park. Pagel clearly had a passion for reliving history. “History is fun,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun learning about it now than it was in school. I don’t like just learning about who won a certain war. I like to know why a battle turned out the way it did.”
Pagel also enjoys giving his grandchildren the opportunity share the experience as well.
“When the kids are here, they’re not allowed to have any electronics,” Pagel said. “And without any prompting, they’re off playing human-to-human games, even inventing games. I have 15 grandchildren and the oldest is 21 now. He was the first one to come with me to the rendezvous.”
This year, grandson Henry Boysen, 9, who has been living in China with his family, attended the celebration along with his friend Storm Pattegar, 10. Pattegar played a number of songs on a musical instrument that Pagel called an autoharp or a zither. The boys called it a lap harp.
The flintknappers had their own area that showcased their work of art. Princeton natives Dave Ziemke and Buck Stearns manned a site with Tom Kulju, who they referred to as The Legend because of his superior skills.
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything,” said Stearns, who has spent 45 years making handcrafted beads.
Stearns’ beads are often joined to Ziemke’s arrowheads to create one-of-a-kind necklaces or other jewelry.
“It could take 20 minutes or all day,” Ziemke said about working a piece of stone into a specific shape. “It would go faster if I didn’t have to stop for a Band-Aid every five minutes.”
While somewhat joking, there was a lot of truth to Ziemke’s comment, as he was using a pressure flaker to work with volcanic glass known as obsidian.
Across the road, the Pickers Paradise flea market was taking place.
“There’s a lot of stuff here,” said Currie resident Gene Dold said, who came to Lake Benton with his wife Eleanor, son Ken and daughter-in-law Patti.
“This reminds me of Yellowstone,” Eleanor Dold said holding a set of antlers up. “They had arches made of antlers. It must have taken a lot of them.”
Dennis Krum was also attending for the first time and enjoyed looking at all the wares.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I collect a lot of this stuff myself. I just like the back-in-the-old-days stuff.”
Krum said he often wishes he could go back in time and live a slower-paced life.
“I could live up in these hills,” he said. “Put up a tent and live here. Sometimes I think we should change back to that way, but a lot of people wouldn’t know how to live.”
Teenagers Max and Sam Schardin of Lake Benton,joined friends Jacob Miller and Anthony Kotsala in looking around at the flea market.
“I’m just hanging out with friends and looking at stuff,” Max Schardin said. “I like unusual stuff. It’s fun.”
Schardin ended up purchasing a paintball gun.
“I go about once a year,” he said. “I already have one. This one was $10, so it’s not that bad of a loss if it doesn’t work or if it gets broken.”