Bureau of Land Management

Larry Ames at his desk, surrounded by computer hardware and reference materials
Larry at his desk, surrounded by computer hardware and reference materials.
Larry Ames

Interpretive Specialist

"[Driving] around a curve I saw a meadow filled with tipis and canvas wall tents, with a bunch of people dressed in 1840's period clothing shooting at targets with muzzleloading rifles.  I was hooked."

When Larry says his job involves "anything related to public outreach," he means it. Working from BLM's Ukiah Field Office, he lists among his tasks
- Developing and producing interpretive and environmental education programs and products;
- Administering two BLM California Websites (for the Ukiah Field Office and for the California Coastal National Monument);
- Coordinating the field office's volunteer program;
- Drafting news releases and articles; and
- Facilitating public meetings.

His most interesting project (so far) with BLM? He "developed, designed and installed a permanent six panel outdoor interpretive exhibit for the Cache Creek Natural Area" managed by BLM.

Larry also serves on the interdisciplinary planning team for the Coastal Monument Resource Management Plan, and on a planning committee which is drafting a charter for a new national interpretive advisory team.

He could probably also list under "outreach," that he's a certified emergency medical technician.

But where do the buckskin outfits come in?  Not to mention the muzzle-loading rifles, the local symphony orchestras and the informal jazz get-togethers?

We'll get to that later. To go back a bit, Larry says he's lived his entire life ("50-plus years") in California.  He was born in Ventura, and grew up in Simi Valley. He's "been involved in the interpretive profession for 28 years" - since graduating with a B.A. degree in zoology from Humboldt State University in 1976.

His first job after college was as an instructor at an environmental education camp in Shasta County.  After two years there, he was hired as a seasonal interpretive naturalist with the National Park Service at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. That began his 26-years-so-far federal career - the past 15 with the BLM.

It was just two weeks into that BLM career that Larry found his second-favorite hobby. As he explains:

"It was my second week in Ukiah (in 1989), and I was still learning my way around the field.  I drove across Cow Mountain, and coming around a curve I saw a meadow filled with tipis and canvas wall tents, with a bunch of people dressed in 1840's period clothing shooting at targets with muzzleloading rifles.  I was hooked.  The next year I was at that same event as a participant and have been doing it ever since."

This "buckskinning" (also know as "rendezvous") involves historic reenactment of the fur trade rendezvous era (also referred to as the era of "mountain men"). Paticipants camp and compete in events - all with pre-1840 style clothing ("buckskins"), equipment and weapons. Most are weekend events, but a few go as long as 10 days, Larry says.

He and his family attend one event every year, held outside of Smith River, California the week before Independence Day.

"Buckskinning is very family-oriented," Larry says, "unlike the original 'rendezvous,' which were very rowdy.  My children have always enjoyed the campouts, and my wife likes to shop at the various traders and sutlers who follow the rendezvous circuit and sell the accoutrements of the hobby.

"In the evening, at twilight, walking through the primitive camp area with the cookfires burning and folks settling in for the night one gets the sensation of actually being there (and then).  There is something soul-satisfying and stress-relieving in stepping back and living - if just for a weekend - in a simpler time, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.  The pace is slower, and everyone is friendly and helpful. It's very relaxing."

Larry also enjoys learning and practicing the "survival skills" of the 19th century. "Many of the skills that I have learned have carried over into my work with Boy Scouts."

Having described buckskinning so vividly - it turns out that Larry's foremost hobby is music.

"I've been playing the bass since I was 10 years old, and I enjoy listening to and playing a wide variety of styles," he says.

That includes playing jazz during an open jam session at a local music store. The "membership" varies from week to week depending on who shows up, he says.  "We just play for the love of the music and the camaraderie of fellow musicians."

Larry also plays classical venues: the Lake County Symphony, Symphony of the Redwoods, and as the principle bassist with the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra.

Larry lives in Ukiah with his wife, Dana, and three children: a son, age 18, and two daughters, ages 17 and 15.

For more information concerning this feature story, contact Larry Ames by telephone 707-468-4093 or by e-mail
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