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RENDEZVOUS LOOKS AUTHENTIC - EXCEPT WHEN MEAL BELL RINGS

From the 100 tepees to the thousand buckskin-clad men, women and children gathered along the Ogden River this weekend, the biannual Trappers' Rendezvous looked authentic.

But when these re-enactors of the frontier sat down to eat dinner, you knew it was not the 1820s.Hungry after a day of pushing unwieldy lodge poles into place, shooting black-powder rifles, throwing hatchets and trading beaver pelts for beads, they stow away vittles that included supermarket fare washed down by drinks ice cold from electric freezers humming in their nearby circle of motor homes.

Bare-chested, bronzed "Hole in Lodge" (Joe Zucca, Salt Lake City) acknowledges his meat was beef steak, not dried venison jerky.

Nathan Mellis, 11, of Las Vegas had recently had a gamier repast.

"I had rattlesnake just last week. My dad killed it, skinned it for a hat band and threw (the body) on the barbecue. It tasted just like chicken, but it sure was chewy and stringy," he recalled.

"Stone Bull" (Russ Martin), Fort Buenaventura park ranger, brags about the beaver meat he has eaten during the years.

"It's dark like beef, and properly cured and prepared, it tastes just like the best beef," he insisted.

However, he acknowledged the curing and preparation required to make beaver meat edible is a bit more work than the average person would put up with. If not done right, the meat is so rank with grease that only a starving person could stomach it.

Nearby, Josh Nufrio, 19, who earned his trapper name, "No Charge," when he left the family's motorhome lights on all night, speculated on how life would be were he a mountain man.

"If I were a trapper for real, I'd be eating venison mainly, with maybe some native berries, and at a rendezvous where fresh supplies were hauled in from St. Louis, bread made from flour," he mused.

"As for drink, mountain men drank water 50 weeks a year, but at the rendezvous they drank up their wages on rotgut whiskey, which was really straight alcohol with some flavor - like pepper - thrown in. It wasn't no sippin' tea," Nufrio added.

Southern Cheyenne and Winnebago tribesman Carl Tasso, Brigham City, explained that his Plains Indian ancestors ate buffalo, deer, fish, fowl, berries, nuts and squash.