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Archive for Thursday, April 19, 1990

RE-OPENING THE WEST

April 19, 1990

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Jim Brookover, the modern-day mountain man from Alaska who rode horseback through Lawrence last May, is coming back next month. This time, he'll have an entourage of eight men and 40 horses with him.

Officially, Brookover's expedition is called "Wm. Sublette's Big Shinies," in remembrance of trapper William Sublett's contribution to the opening of the West in the early 1800s. Big Shinies were the Rocky Mountains.

Brookover's goal is to take trade goods to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and bring furs back to St. Louis, just as the early-day mountain men did more than a century ago.

Before the expedition begins, members will camp near Gardner from April 25 to May 5 to make final preparations for the ride and present living history programs to interested people in the area, including school groups.

The group will head west over the trail May 6, along the route Brookover rode last year. They plan to stop south of Lawrence the night of May 7, west of Lawrence on May 8, and northwest of Perry on May 9.

OTHER SCHEDULED stops on the trail in Kansas include Shawnee Lake, St. Marys, Westmoreland, Blue Rapids and Marysville.

The riders cross into Nebraska May 19, and by June 15, enter Wyoming, headed for the Wyoming Sanctioned Centennial Rendezvous in Jackson Hole July 11-17.

On July 18, the group will turn back east, with a scheduled return to the Lawrence area Sept. 14 and 15, and arrival in St. Louis on Sept. 28.

In the 1800s, goods carried west were traded for furs, which were sent east for sale. On this trip, the goods will be sold in Jackson Hole, and donated furs will be picked up there and brought back to St. Louis to be sold.

Many items like the furs have been donated for the expedition and all will be marked with commemorative seals of authenticity.

Along the trail, Brookover and his men also will sell pewter commemorative medallions of the expedition, and set up "trade blanket" displays of typical goods, which they will use in interpretative presentations.

THEIR ATTIRE for the ride will be leather and furs, like their early-day counterparts, and their tack and other gear will be pre-1840 as well.

Brookover, whose mountain man name is Chilicote, has spent the interim months since his 1989 ride along the trail seeking men and horses, as well as equipment and financing, for the re-enactment.

"This project is a `go' project. It is going to be bigger than all outdoors," he said Tuesday while visiting in Lawrence.

According to Brookover, trapper Sublette participated in the first official Rocky Mountain Rendezvous in 1825, part of Gen. William Ashley's expedition, and worked to establish a viable trade route through the mountains.

Following the decline of the fur trade in 1839 and '40, the trappers' route turned into the Oregon Trail, used by immigrants headed for Oregon Territory.

BROOKOVER, A KANSAS native, said his work on this project has included moving his residence from Ninilchik, Alaska, to Brady, Neb., to work with the federal Bureau of Land Management on securing wild horses for the ride. The BLM is responsible for management of this country's remaining wild horses.

He has been breaking the mustangs to ride and said the animals should prove especially adaptable for the trip because of their ability to thrive on the different kinds of forage that will be encountered along the trail.

"This is an opportunity to view the real opening of the West," Brookover said. "We're authentic, even to the point of using wild mustangs."

Financing for the trip has been more difficult to come by than horses, he said.

THE BUDGET IS $156,900, and Brookover has scaled the size of the ride down. Originally, he planned on 17 men and 75 horses.

He said he has solicited funds from a number of national and state organizations as well as large corporations, but has been unable to secure any major donations.

"This is a project of the people, because the foundations, trusts and major corporations that have been invited to participate have declined," he said.

Among donations that have been received are horses, pack saddles and tents, as well as the commemorative medallions, furs, medical supplies and some funds.

Brookover said he also has agreed to sell souvenir T-shirts along the way to add more to the treasury, although T-shirts were not an early-1800s commodity.

Sponsorships are still available for pack saddles and for tents. The sponsor's name is engraved on a brass medallion, which is affixed to a particular saddle or tent before the ride. When the trip is completed, the sponsor receives the saddle or tent that bears his or her name.

The Gardner encampment will be two miles west of that city on 175th Street, then two miles north on Four Corners Road and one-half mile east on 159th Street, on Four Corners Development property.

The Lawrence camps will be on Dean Harvey's farm near Blue Mound and at the Brink farm west on Highway 40.

Persons interested in visiting the Gardner encampment before the trip or wanting more information on the project can contact local coordinator Sue Pio of Edgerton, 882-6849.

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