By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — He was going to bring a full-scale cannon to the 22nd annual Muzzle Loading Arms and Historical Craft Show, but Gary Helget decided to just bring his three smaller ones instead.
"The big one would have taken up this whole area," he said with a grin, standing behind his display table. "It’s quite an operation to just get it in and out."
Helget, of Blanchard, has a collection of roughly 80 antique firearms. Among the relics in his collection is a long British Brown Bess dating back to the 1700s.
"It has British troop marks on it from the British Marine Corps,” he said, pointing to the symbols on the stock of the musket. "They put a mark to let everybody know this isn’t a civilian gun. It’s a military gun that was issued to a Marine in the Revolutionary War, and used here during the Revolutionary War."
Helget finds these treasures of history at trade and gun shows, the latter of which he has enjoyed since he was a lad of 13.
"And people know I like old stuff, so they bring me things," he said. "A lot of people don’t like old things, they want modern stuff. Me, I don’t let modern stuff in the house."
Antique hunters, history enthusiasts, mountain men and others with a love of antiques, art and wildlife strolled through Building 1 of the Kootenai County Fairgrounds on Saturday to find a wide array of items and artifacts during the show.
Tony Roberts, who runs Mountain Top Trading of Colfax with his family, is one of the main event organizers. He said this kind of show is big with people who re-enact American history from the Civil War all the way back to the American Revolution.
"There's stuff here for all those groups," he said.
He said he expected up to 800 or 900 people to come by throughout the weekend.
"Everybody looks, but you'd be surprised what you can find in a second-hand store," he said. "We just like history. We started Mountain Top with like $50 worth of stuff and some yard sale stuff."
Along with personal collections of historical items, several artisans displayed their handiworks for event guests to admire and purchase.
Jean Heinbuch of Weippe, east of Lewiston, brought hand-tanned and smoked hides that tinged the air with a beef jerky-like aroma. Some of her specialty crafts are made with dyed porcupine quills, which is no easy task.
"When I lived in Wyoming we'd pluck live ones, but now we just find road kills or hides that dealers have," she said.
A small deer leather slit bag she embroidered with the quills took her about two weeks to make.
"I've been doing this full time since I was 19," she said. "I'm an artist and it's just my medium. A day without quill work is a day without sunshine."
Brook Kruse of Priest River attended the show with her family. She said they're always looking for ideas for how to display and use the animals they hunt. They also enjoy the historical aspect of shows like these.
"I'm always fascinated by the artistic and the creative, the workmanship that goes into things," she said. "Some of that stuff, it's like, 'How do you think of this?'"
The 22nd annual Muzzle Loading Arms and Historical Craft Show continues at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, 4056 N. Government Way, Coeur d'Alene, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. Parking is free. Admission is $5 for adults and free for those 12 and younger.