Mountain Man Terms
"If you are gonna to be a mountain man or a mountain woman, you gotta know these here terms or yur gonna get penned a pilgrim"... conagher
Nobody wants to be called a pilgrim when they go to a
rendezvous because of their wardrobe and certainly...not by the speech they
use. So here is a list of words that you can use to get you by when you
attend one of these events...
content, not alphabetized.
- The personal property of the mountain man, Such items as a bullet mold,
an awl, knives, a tin cup, his buffalo robe or a blanket capote, his pipe
and tobacco, flint and steel, sometimes a small sheet-metal fry-pan, and
other accouterments he considered necessary. Firearms were considered "pieces"
or guns" and not possibles.
- POSSIBLES BAG
- The leather bag in which the mountain man carried his possibles. everything
from his pipe and tobacco to his patches and balls. What could not be carried
in the bag or pouch were hung on the bags shoulder strap. Shooting needs were given
first priority, kept where they could be found with ease and speed.
- Short for "Tomahawk".
- BIG FIFTY
- The .50 caliber Sharps rifle used by the buffalo hunter.
- Refering to a popular rifle made by Samuel Hawkin in St. Louis around 1840.
- Another popular rifle, produced in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from the 1770's-1790's. Also known as the "Kentucky Rifle" made popular by Daniel Boone. It was also one of the many styles of rifle carried by Lewis and Clark (1804-1806).
- A true plains rifle made by Henry Leman during the 1850's-1860's. This rifle looks similar to the Hawkin.
- Round piece of lead that is pushed down the barrel; Bullet. (The actual projectile.)
- COCK THE:
- The hammer of a rifle or pistol.
- CONE THE:
- The nipple on a percussion rifle or pistol.
- DU PONT:
- FLAT BOAT:
- A large scow used to float up to three tons of fur and skins to St.
- FLOAT STICK:
- A stick attached to a steel trap used to show the location of the trap
and the trapped animal. From this comes the expression, "That's the
way my stick floats" , meaning , " That's the way I feel about
- GALENA PILL:
- Lead balls (bullets).
- GREEN RIVER:
- The hilt of a knife (from the old
GR trade mark up near the hilt). A knife made by Russell Green River Works.
A copy of a Russell Green River Works knife, A western river that has its head waters in the Uinta Mountains of Utah/Wyoming.
- KEEL BOAT:
- A 60 to 80 foot long flat-bottomed boat about 16 feet wide. In wide
use before steamboats. It is powered by men rowing or by wind with a sail and mast. Used by Lewis and Clark going up the Missouri River.
- A rawhide box designed to be strapped to a pack saddle.
- LASH ROPE:
- The rope used to tie a load to a pack saddle.
- The living quarters be it house, cabin, tipi, hogan, tent, or lean-to,
of the Indian or mountain man.
- A boat approximately 40 feet long, 10 feet across the beam, and 4 feet
deep, pointed at both ends. This boat, widely used on the Mississippi,
Missouri, and Ohio River systems, was capable of holding a cargo of approximately
10 tons. Often these were used for downstream travel only.
- MEDICINE BAG:
- The small bag, used to carry the medicine of the Indian. Adopted by
the mountain man and used to carry anything small, especially the "secret"
bait he used near his traps.
- Bait or smell from the caster glands of the beaver or another animal carried in a small bottle contained in the medicine bag that masks the scent of the iron and brings the animal to trap.
- The buckskin or moose hide shoe of the Indian and mountain man. Light,
quiet, and comfortable.
- Rawhide made from buffalo hide. It is exceedingly tough. In fact, its
name (French) comes from the fact that it could not be pierced by arrows
or spears. The word also refers to a carrying case or envelope made of
dried buffalo hide and widely used by both Indians and mountain men in
place of a trunk.
- The jornada or smoking tool of the mountain man. The distance between rest stops, which
were the only times his pipe could be lit up and enjoyed.
- Trade tobacco.
- PINCH, Give me a
- Tobacco used for chewing.
- TWIST, A
- Rolled tobacco leaves that are twisted. This can be broken and put into his pipe or can be chewed by the mountain man.
- The dried, dehaired but untanned hide of any animal, usually cattle
or buffalo. Very strong and useful.
- ARKANSAS TOOTHPICK:
- A large, pointed dagger used mostly by river men.
- AS THE CROW FLIES:
- The shortest and straightest line between two points. This term was
in use long before the invention of aircraft.
- BARK , HE HAS:
- Said of a courageous person.
- CACHE, TO:
- To put or store something in a safe place.
- CHAFF, TO:
- To make fun of someone. To rub someone the wrong way.
- CHAFFER, TO:
- To haggle over prices or trade goods.
- COLD FEET, HE HAS:
- He is a coward. Someone who seeks shelter when the going gets tough.
- COUNT COUP:
- To show bravery and receive honor by touching an enemy, usually with
a special stick used for that purpose only. In some tribes, touching a
living enemy had more honor than touching a dead enemy. Touching a man
had more honor than touching a woman. The first to touch received more
honor than the second or third. Credit was seldom if ever, given after
the third. When feathers were awarded for coup, they were sometimes depending
on the tribe, cut or painted to indicate the type and amount of honor they
represented. Oddly enough, killing the enemy did not count for coup the
first to touch took the honor, be he the killer or not. When used by the
mountain man, the expression "I'll count coup on him" usually
meant "I'll kill him", after which, the taking of the dead man's
scalp was normal.
- DIG UP THE TOMAHAWK:
- Start a war. Often the word "hatchet" was substituted for
- DRY, I AM:
- I am thirsty, likely for something stronger than water.
- FLASH IN THE PAN:
- A misfire. Also a man who spends a great deal of time bragging, but
never seems to be around when it comes to proving himself.
- FORT UP:
- Get ready to fight a defensive battle
- GO UNDER, TO:
- To die.
- GONE BEAVER:
- Said of someone who has been dead some time. He's about to go under;
but once dead, he's a gone beaver.
- GREASE HUNGER, I HAVE:
- An expression meaning "I am hungry for meat."
- GREASE AND BEANS:
- An expression meaning "Food".
- GREEN HAND:
- A term used by early traders meaning an inexperienced man.
- GREEN MEAT:
- Meat which still had the animal heat in it.
- GREEN RIVER, UP TO:
- Anything of quality was said to be "up to Green River".
- HAIR OF THE BEAR, HE HAS:
- The greatest praise a mountain man can say of another.
- HEFT, TO:
- A very old term meaning "to lift and feel the weight of".
- HELLO THE CAMP:
- A traditional greeting given before entering any strange camp. Better
given at a slight distance or the visitor may not leave in the same manner
that he entered,
- HOLLER CALF ROPE:
- Give up, surrender. An expression used by river boatmen.
- Delirium Tremans. After the first night or two at the Rocky Mountain
Rendezvous many a mountain man faced the horrors.
- LARRUPT TO:
- To eat in a hasty and sloppy manner
- LAVE HOI:
- Time to roll out of bed. This expression, usually given in a good,
loud voice, was used to awaken a partner or a whole party.
- LIGHTS WENT OUT, THE:
- He died.
- LOCK, STOCK, AND BARREL:
- In total; the whole thing. For examples "He sold his shop, lock,
stock, and barrel". This expression comes from the 3 major parts needed
to construct a muzzle loading rifle or pistol.
- MADE WOLF MEAT, HE WAS:
- A dead man left where he fell, for the wolves to dine on. An act of
- MAKE BEAVER, TO:
- To get a move on, to travel in a hurry.
- MAKE MEAT, TO:
- To hunt for and lay in a good store of meat.
- MAKE MEDICINE, TO:
- To hold a pow-wow or meeting. To pray for spiritual guidance. To hold
a religious service. To actually look for and find herbs, etc. to be used
- MEAT BAG, THE:
- The human stomach.
- MUD HOOKS:
- Human feet. This expression is still often heard among country people.
- NEAR SIDE:
- Left side
- NOON IT, TO:
- To stop for the mid-day meal and rest.
- OFF SIDE:
- Right side.
- OL' COON:
- A friendly nickname used between mountain men.
- OLD COOT:
- An eccentric or crotchety person, especially an eccentric old man.