Pioneer spirit on display at Cascade Mountain Men’s show

MONROE — They came from four Western states and a variety of backgrounds.

Yet they had something in common, these people dressed in colonial and pioneer costumes at the Cascade Mountain Men’s show Saturday and Sunday at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.

They love history, they share conservative philosophies and they revere self-sufficiency, most said.

“These folks wish they could have lived in an earlier era,” said artist and seamstress Susan Gruner, 61, of Snohomish. “They might have shown what they could make of themselves back then. For me, it’s about getting back to my roots and living as my grandmother did when she moved to Eastern Washington from France.”

Founded in mid-1960s by Seattle rifle maker Ted Fellowes, the Issaquah-based Cascade Mountain Men group is nearing its 50th year. Its annual show in Monroe has become a big event, said group spokesman Steve Baima of Bellevue.

Baima, 65, a retired Renton firefighter, also is a member of the Washington Historical Gun Makers Guild. The muzzle-loading firearms display and pioneer craft show was packed most of the weekend, Baima said, with historical re-enactors using the gathering as a social event and a place to trade.

Many of those at the show were dressed as mountain men, settlers and trappers on their way to a rendezvous to buy supplies and sell animal pelts.

Bothell’s Bob Austin, 60, who works in fire management for the Boeing Co., at Paine Field, got started with Cascade Mountain Men because he enjoyed shooting a black powder rifle.

“I shot at a target and hit it, and, well, that was it,” Austin said. “I was hooked. It’s about learning how people used to do things and then living that experience.”

The fairground’s event center was filled with people who displayed and sold muzzle loader rifles, knives, bows and arrows, leather pouches, fur hats, Hudson’s Bay blankets, linen and muslin shirts, beads, elk horn buttons, pewter mugs, moccasins and lots of history books.

People in costume had their photos taken next to a tepee set up in the middle of the floor.

Nearby, Bill Gruner and his wife, Susan, of Snohomish displayed her clothing and his metal forge work. Susan Gruner outfits the people who serve aboard the state’s tallship, the schooner Lady Washington, and sells her work around the country.

Bill Gruner, 70, who retired as a middle school teacher in Union Gap, said it feels good to be a part of the mountain men gatherings.

“Modern life is flat; it’s mundane,” Gruner said. “Re-enactors have a rich life. We study people in history and take on those personas. It’s about pride in our accomplishments, in learning to do the crafts people practiced to survive.”

Gale Fiege: 425-3392427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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