I began going to rendezvous in the early 80′s. The canvas, the buckskins, and the camp fires were awe inspiring and I just had to participate. A friend of mine helped me to get started and I attended my first rendezvous in Jackson Hole, Wyoming as a trader.
I set up a small table with a blanket thrown over it. I sold beads, homemade whistles, toy tomahawks, and a few other items I can’t remember. If I made enough money to pay my camp fee and material supplies, but most importantly, I had a great time. I was hooked.
As I participated in more events, I improved my dress and campsite. Bought a wall tent and fixed the pickup to haul my stuff. After a couple of years I found that there was a need for camp chairs and tables. Within three years, I was selling a horse trailer full of chairs and tables and people were waiting for me to arrive. These many years of trading has given me the privilege of experiencing the art of trading.
Trading principles are easy, but the implementation can put a trader in emotional turmoil. Approaching the trade is different than being approached. Generally, the one approaching is at a disadvantage, but that can be neutralized in a short time, especially if it is reasonable trade. Both traders should always consider the trade. Would I use it, can I resell it; is the value of the trade more than what I am offering? Can I get a sweeter deal? Finally, should I just walk away as it being a bad deal? Once in a lifetime trades are very rare, despite what we think during the passion and drama of the trade.
My boys were young, but old enough to do some trading during those early years. They learned so much about how to conduct themselves. They learned not to let on how excited they were about a trade. They learned how to trade respectfully with adults and still keep their own interests in mind. They would walk away knowing that the talk could start up later under a different atmosphere, or perhaps the trade just didn’t feel right.
I have no doubt that the training my boys had as they roamed the rendezvous has made them excellent negotiators in their adult life. The same techniques they learned in the dusty lane of trader’s row are now used in big time deals in business. It has been useful in everything from dealing with situations arising with employees, to vendor pricing, to customer expectations.
Many times we view the rendezvous as just entertainment. It is a place to set a camp, eat out of a frying pan, and watch the sun rise over a camp of tents and teepees. I have found, as many have, that the rendezvous can offer so much more than entertainment. We have the best of times there, but the underlying growth and learning that can silently develop a young person’s life skills are truly a pleasure to watch.
I guess that a person has to become a grandpa, and then take a little reflection time to see what key activities aided in developing their kids lives. I can say that the lessons they learned from trading, and the general etiquette of camping had long term affects to their adult conduct and success.
As you walk the Fort Bridger Rendezvous in September, try to look deeper into the many individual deals and trades. Try your hand at a trade and experience the satisfaction of getting something other than just paying the asking sticker price. It might be more memorable than the planned attractions described in the flyers.