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  Don Ogg

Don Ogg - A Remembrance

I remember Don Ogg from the first time I ever rendezvoused.

When I came back home and called all of my camping buddies about this new old hobby I had discovered, one of the first stories I told was of the man named Ogg - the self-described Oggliest man in camp - and how he didn't just camp in the woods - his camp became the woods.

I recall his camp, not in a tent or a bedroll, but literally carved out of a grove of trees - his weathered tarp strung-up between several trees, his blankets neatly laid out on the ground to fit between the bushes and brambles, and numerous candle lanterns hanging from branches here and there.

I asked him about his camping style - one of my typical newbie-journalist questions - and with dubious eyes he regaled me with the comfort of a camp built into the natural lines of nature (my words, Ogg would have laughed at me describing him in Thoreau-esqe terms). It was a weekend event - but Ogg looked ready to basically leave polite society and live right there in the trees.

He showed me his gear, his famous top hat with the firemaking kit secreted inside its stove-pipe top. For a new skinner, Don was a wealth of information, and his Dutch-oven cookery showed me that camping never meant starving and certainly didn't have to mean meager rations.

Later, at my wedding, Don Ogg and Smoke-In-Face would always be remembered fondly by my family as those "two guys who came dressed in blackpowder clothes."

Smoke-In-Face, Many Rifles and Don Ogg - Medina Apple Festival - 2003
Smoke-In-Face, Many Rifles and Don Ogg - Medina Apple Festival - 2003

Ogg and I were invited in an AMM pack-in back in 2005 and I was glad to see him and some other familiar faces among the group of skinners I had always stood in awe of. Ogg had packed himself a pretty comfortable camp, while I - taking a clue from Mark Baker some of my Buckskinning reading - decided that I was going to sleep through the night with only one blanket.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I had to sneak back to my truck to get a second blanket and of course, Ogg slept comfortably through the night in his first-class pack-in set-up. I remember the next day as we were changing camps, Ogg was struggling a bit with his gear - I tried in vain to let me help him carry his pack - but he would hear nothing of it.

Years ago, when Melissa and I were just getting started in the hobby, Ogg invited me to a Boy Scout camp he was hosting with his troop up near Hearne. Melissa and I wanted to go and I brought my Dad to give him a glimpse of what Rendezvous was all about.

I had volunteered to help lead some of Ogg's Boy Scouts in a demonstration of shooting black powder rifles. However, when I got there I realized that "helpl lead" and my understanding of what that entailed was far off-base. Ogg took me to the riflery area - a clearing in the forest with rifles aimed down into a slight cliff - and quickly left me surrounded by a herd of pre-adolescent boys - all nervously groping for my rifle and trade gun. I could hear Ogg's laugh in the distance as I quickly came up with the firing line and the "circle of safety" around the shooter - improvised safety ideas I still use when teaching folks today.

Thankfully no one was injured and I learned a lot about showing patience and compassion when sharing your prized hobby - and weapons - with new skinners and green horns.

Walking back through the camp, I passed by diamond shelter after diamond shelter - each with its own cooking fire and brace of excited boys. They were excited because Ogg gave them the experience they really wanted - the feel of the old mountain man times and the responsibility of being on their own hook.

Ogg was further down the trail showing another group how to make rope using a twirling contraption that wound strand after strand of smaller twine into usable rope.

I was amazed that this was a Boy Scout camping trip. It had nothing of what I remember from my brief stint in the scouts - no nylon cots, $100 technical backpacks, or a gigantic trailer filled with all of the "necessities" needed for a weekend trip.

Had I met Ogg in an earlier time I am sure I would have been pushing aside everything to attend his scout camps. No wonder he irked those parents - they were probably jealous of his time - and shocked by the way he challenged each boy to . . . gulp . . . act like a responsible young man.

Some of my best memories of Ogg were at the Medina Apple Festival - back in 2003. The preacher who married Melissa and I was the chairman of a local festival down in Medina, that took place on the banks of the cool Medina River. We had folks coming in and out of our camp last weekend and Ogg's wonderful Dutch oven cooking kept us well fed and happy. I remember floating in the river with Ogg and Smoke and thinking I was truly experiencing "shining times."

And of course . . . there was the car.

Don Ogg and his famous car - January 2005
Don Ogg and his famous car - January 2005

Ogg rolled up to a rendezvous in Shiner in a vehicle of his own design and build. At its core, it was a Toyota truck - how it was registered down at the Gonzales County Assessor's office - he assured me - but in reality it was nothing of the sort. It was built of plywood, miscellaneous car parts, and even the door from a drier as access to the engine. Despite the obvious miracle of its conception, it was Ogg to the core; it had storage compartments specifically designed for Rendezvous-related equipage, including longer bays for tent poles - something never often found in those ill-designed "vehicles" that come off the line in Detroit.

Another shot of the car - January 2005
Another shot of the car - January 2005

Ogg will always be an indelible memory on my Rendezvous experience. I'll remember him for all of the bizarre moments over the years, watching him walking a cat on a leash through camp, and seeing him as the madcap - getting into his cups and hooting and hollering with the best of them over at Rowdy Camp.

But mostly, I'll remember him sitting across a campfire from me, always ready to listen, always ready to offer a kind word, and always ready to laugh.

I'll never forget Don Ogg.

- Paul "Many Rifles" Laster, July 20, 2008

Smoke-In-Face and Don Ogg - On The Medina River - 2003
Smoke-In-Face and Don Ogg - On The Medina River - 2003

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