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James R. Kyle: Writer, Trekker, Re-enactor

A Short Autobiographical Sketch

The subject, or aspect, of re-enacting a given historical event, or "could-have-been", event of historical noteworthiness, is one that comes to many people in stages of developments. About twenty-eight years ago, through my love of the outdoors, and interest in hunting with firearms and history, it occurred to me to combined the three into one ever-flowing "alternative lifestyle". Not knowing that there were other people of the same mind set as this, I went out in the wooded areas of my home State of Missouri, alone. Then one fine day, three years later, while looking at literature in a gun shop, I came across the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association's "Muzzle Blasts" magazine. Therein I read that there were other people out there doing just about the same thing.

About this same time I had a friend in Quincy, Illinois -- named Hollis Coulter, who was a fine gun and hunter buddy, he was also an muzzle loader. We each had the same flint-lock style of rifle, a Thompson Center half-stock .50 Cal. and we partnered up for hunting deer twice a year. Often we would just go into the woods and camp with our guns and do target shooting. At this time we did not have the background of any historical "correctness" of dress, but rather, just made do with what we had. One day we decided to "dress the part" and then go into the woods with just what we felt that the people of the "old days" carried. It was all very new to us, and we played it by ear.

In the year 1977 I took a position as care-taker of a farm near Salem, Missouri to place my out-door survival skills into practice. I did a lot of writing that year, and learned quite a lot by trial and error. With books written by Bradford Angier as a guide the year was a very good learning experience. Placing to practice in the field the passages of the books the learning of the woods became a reality, coupled with the knowledge given to me from a Native American some years previously, the living with the land became an everyday practice. After a time the woods took over, and supplemented the books on a much higher level.

After the year of 1978 I moved back into the city and resumed my trade as an electrician, and met with my first "buckckinning" partner, Vince Saitta. It was he who took me to my first rendezvous at Fort Chartres in western Illinois. There I met for the first time in my life many other people of the same interests, and was taken into another dimension of the alternative lifestyle.

Vince and I decided to made a voyage of the Gasconade and Missouri rivers, about 255 miles, from Interstate forty-four to the village of St. Charles, Missouri. I had taken many short treks in the woods of my home of Missouri and that of Colorado, Montana, and other places where I lived in the past, going from town to town looking for work. This time Vince and I were doing this as a qualification in the membership for the American Mountain Men, and as I have lived with the land we were going to do it without food or water. On this voyage once again I placed into practice what I learned in the past, however this time with a partner. We would float a day and rest a day, it was one trip that I can look back on with very good memories of a friend and partner. Sure we had a few problems, anyone would. For the first five days we had nothing to eat but "greens". Then on the sixth day Vince started to bring in fish, the fish became our main diet till we put-in at St. Charles.

It was the first of five trips on the Missouri river, the longest was in 1994 from Fort Osage to St. Charles, 311 miles in 6 days, with three other men of the same interests. This year was on the Upper Missouri, through the area of the "White Cliffs" of Montana -- and I might add that there is nothing, absolutely nothing to compare it to -- this area stands alone as one of the only areas that the hand of man did not spoil. Truly my "jewel in the crown", even though it was eighty-eight miles, it was with the finest of all as yet that I have voyaged with thus so far in my trekking life.

Next year I will return to the "White Cliffs" and do it with yet another fine group of men, but this time I shall go as a "pilot", or guide to the area. I look forward with joy and great energy to this voyage between Fort Benton and the Judith river. It is an area that will not leave my mind and dreams -- for I am a Brother of The River.

James R. Kyle