Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rivers of the Frontier pouch Series, “The Arkansas” by T.C. Albert

“Whoo-oop! I’m the old original iron jawed, brass mounted, copper bellied, corpse maker from the wilds of Arkansaw!”

That famous passage written by Mark Twain vividly illustrates how the river men of America’s early 19th century had already acquired a reputation for being true half horse-half alligator sons of the frontier approaching mythical proportion. As a whole, these men were known for their long and dangerous river journeys, their short and violent tempers, their iron fists, hard heads, and surprisingly, nearly as often for their soft hearts. They, and the many famous river towns that they frequented were quickly becoming legendary even in their own times.

The town of Little Rock on the Arkansas River was exactly such a place back in 1835 when Davy Crockett, on his way from Tennessee to Texas gave the following speech to the crowds gathered there in his honor. “ If I cold rest anywhere, it would be in Arkansas, where the men are the real half horse, half alligator breed such as grow nowhere else on the face of the universal earth but just around the back bone of north America.” This pouch set, named the Arkansas, is made to commemorate those events, that rough and tumble breed of men, and those historic times.

The oak tanned cow hide pouch is gusseted and fully welted in a simple construction technique common to other pouches of the day, while the flap is embellished with a home spun design of incised dots and crossed lines and sports a fancy, twisted fringed top, representing the flair for individuality and bravado that these seemingly simple men often exhibited.

The powder horn is like wise plain and simple, but has been fitted with a traditional turned walnut “bee-hive” style plug, commonly seen on horns originating in the south east. The accompanying large, file decorated powder measure is also made of cow horn and is hung on a strand of twisted cotton cord. A forged iron vent pick hangs on a length of antique clock chain, and functionally represents the predilection for these back woods hunters and river men to favor and keep their fine flint locked rifles even as the new percussion lock guns were quickly gaining wider acceptance. Both the measure and the pick attach to the strap with an antiqued brass button.

The specially made bullet bag has a large cane spout, and is purposely fashioned from embossed reptile skin to reflect the nature of these “alligator horse” men. Weather hunting, shooting the marks, or signing up to follow ole’ Davy to Texas, such men would have felt right at home using a “shootin’ bag” like this along the waters and timbers of, “The Arkansas” River.

Copy and photos by T.C. Albert

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