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Rendezvous features 'Gooseman' and new tower locale

Paul Messerschmidt of Modale, Iowa, herds his pet geese through the tent city during the Fort Belmont Rendezvous Saturday afternoon in Jackson.

JACKSON -- At the Fort Belmont Rendezvous, they really know how to party like it's 1899.

Although a few modern conveniences are tucked out of sight, a visit to the annual Jackson event does offer visitors a peek into pioneer life.

"It's just amazing how they've done this; the setup and everything they have is real," noted Jo Sirovy, a Jackson resident who was attending the rendezvous for the first time.

She caught a bit of beginner's luck at the women's games, sinking a heavy cast iron "pan" through a mounted rubber tire on her first try at the frying pan toss and walking on stilts without, as she put it, "breaking my legs."

Nearby, a volunteer outfitted in 1800s-era clothing demonstrated rope making while "Gooseman" Paul Messerschmidt of Modale, Iowa, hearded a flock of 11 geese through the tent city.

"People bring their kids to see the geese and ride on a horse-drawn wagon on the weekends," explained Fort Belmont board member Joanne Roesner.

Messerschmidt, who shows his geese at more than 100 events each year, has given each a bit of its own character. The birds have names like James Dean and Hobo, and he and his sister sew several costumes for each one, using toddler outfit templates to create cowgirl onesies and shirts with African safari or NASCAR themes. He can even tell you the preferred soft drinks of the animals, and let 7-year-old Chance Meyer of Jackson bottle-feed them with Mountain Dew.

"I think it's been great, the tent city, the tower, the whole thing," said dad Todd Meyer, also suggesting the watchtower's new site near Interstate 90 could bring more people into the town. "Chance has gotten so much out of it. Everyone is so willing to talk about what they are doing."

Among the "pioneers" camped out in the temporary city were Becky of Steve Bogie, Rice residents who have participated in regional rendezvous since 2007. The couple's awning had simple wooden furniture and cast-iron skillets over an open fire, but inside the tent was a bed built by Steve and modern coolers for their food.

"Anything outside your lodge is supposed to look pre-1840, but inside you can be modern," Becky explained. "Each rendezvous has its own rules, and some are stricter than others."

The couple said they learned about pioneer living as they go, with each experience motivating them to read more about the historical way of life.

Though camping for several days in a canvas tent hasn't always been easy, "I was shoving rags and washcloths in all four corners to keep the mosquitoes out, but we survived," Becky recalls of a past tent, they've had enjoyed the campfire camaraderie that comes with the hobby.

"We've found it's like one big family," Steve said. "If the general public is gone, the kids run around and everyone watches each other's kids and everyone parents each other's kids."

While Becky checks her entry for the Dutch Oven Cook-Off -- an apple pecan cake made with grandniece Sophia Spittle of Fulda -- Steve pulls out a deer hoof with fake beady eyes glued onto it.

"I call it a North American Hoof Bill," he joked. "I traded I guy a copper kettle for it up in Cloquet."