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As an effective device for economic exploitation, the rendezvous lasted only about a decade, or until the beaver were all gone. However, as an entertainment (which was widely publicized, first by word of mouth and later in penny-dreadful novels and all manner of subsequent media forms), the rendezvous permeated the imaginations of American males and, it seems, had a lasting effect on their behavior. Though the original facts have become distorted and by now are all but forgotten, the legacy of the rendezvous is that when a group of American men find themselves far from hearth and home, for various vague, chauvinistic and machismo reasons they are more or less required to have themselves a bash. The spirit of William Henry Ashley's rendezvous lives on—at fraternal and business conventions, class reunions, in locker rooms and military and civilian R-and-R centers, and especially on hook-and-bullet outings.
The good steady hunter ethic prevails in many places like Tod's Kin-Kan Kamp, but a number of those taking part in the Deer Hunt feel obliged to do a few rendezvous turns when they arrive in God's Country. A good place to observe this action is a public watering place, of which there are many more in Potter County than there are motels, bowling alleys and movie theaters. One of these can be misnamed (for reasons of propriety and back-home peace of mind) the Roaring Buck, which is more or less what a lot of spots are called in Potter. On the Sunday night before Opening Day, 50 or 60 flatland sports are pushing and shoving in the Roaring Buck, drinking and sweating. Everyone is already dressed up in long Johns and wool suits and talking very big. Great stretchers are told about the size of bucks that have been spotted and will be shot come the morning; about how much snow has been wallowed through: about long-range shots of the past; about what they said to a dumb so-and-so who tried to take a deer they had downed. In the great American rhetorical I'm-half-alligator-half-wolf-and-was-born-in-a-grizzly-den tradition that goes back at least as far as the original mountain men, there is a lot of stylized bragging but, as a reflection of the times, it is not so much about personal prowess as about the powers of mechanical possessions—scopes, 4WD rigs, CB transmitters and snowmobiles.
One of the merriest groups in the Roaring Buck is made up of half a dozen men who come from the eastern part of the state, where they are executives and managers of a large sheet-metal firm. They have been hunting together up in Potter for almost a quarter of a century and, for obscure reasons of their own, call each other, at least during this outing, Cousin; as in Cousin Ed, Cousin Willy, Cousin Flunky. A prominent cousin and sales manager is Sam, who among other distinctions has never shot a buck (in fact has only shot at one on three occasions) though he has been trying to do so for 22 years. Cousin Sam's bad luck has become a folk myth for the group, and he takes a lot of needling about it. ("What he does not tell," howls Cousin Ed. "is that he very seldom gets a chance to see a deer because he is too busy taking our money at poker.") However, he remains the most exuberant of the cousins, belting back the vodka and Squirt at a great rate. Also, he is carrying on in a very public fashion with a blonde waitress by the name of Joan. In regard to Joan, Cousin Sam has two things in mind, or so he loudly keeps saying. He would first like her to sit on his lap—which she occasionally does, perching for a few seconds on his knee like a bird and leaving as easily and quickly. Secondly he would like her to inspect his brand-new $26,000 motor home, which is parked outside the Roaring Buck. She turns down this invitation, but in a manner that doesn't spoil the fun.
In the days of the first rendezvous there were always a few girls in the mountain meadow, mostly Snake and Crow beauties, but arrangements about them had to be made with hard-bargaining male relatives, who brought the women along more or less as trade goods. That is how it always has been at rendezvous—very few, very inaccessible women and a lot of men who have removed themselves from regular centers of femininity but who talk stud incessantly. At the Roaring Buck it would seem, just from eavesdropping, that virtually every man jack has just come from or is just leaving for an assignation.
Joan is, in fact, a young woman who has left a Pennsylvania college for the fall semester to repair her finances by working at the Roaring Buck. However, for the moment she is in the historical position of a Snake woman, and her views about rendezvous may be quite similar. "When I see hunter's orange I think of green bills," she says, taking a break behind the kitchen door while waiting for a hard-pressed bartender to catch up on back orders of vodka and Squirt. "Last night that——," she nods toward Cousin Sam, "put a 20 in my pocket. I guess he was trying to buy some respect. Did you see him?"
"He got bragging about chewing tobacco. He stuffed half a pack of Red Man into his big mouth and threw up his whole dinner.
"Old Cousin Sam is a perfect example of a guy whose wife lets him out about three times a year, and he tries to act like he does it all the time. He's a nerd but absolutely harmless. Some of them are mean. You wouldn't believe the black and blue marks I've got!"
By and by Cousin Sam gets into the motor home, without Joan, and weaves back to the farmhouse where his party always bunks. He cannot sleep—"That cot was spinning around just a little too much"—but drinks a lot of coffee, lays out some solitaire and is inspired to play a good practical joke on Cousin Flunky. He sneaks Flunky's boots from under the bed, ties the rawhide laces together in double granny knots, wets them and puts the boots in front of the fire to dry. "We all split a gut laughing at old Flunky when he wakes up hung over and tries to pick out those knots."