Actor climbs to new heights as Capt. Clark

Thursday, June 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:47 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

David Hommes’ portrayal of Capt. William Clark started with a trial. When the re-enactor for Capt. Meriwether Lewis dared his men to climb a rock with him in 2002, Hommes was the only one who took the challenge.

“It was pretty dangerous,” said Scott Mandrell, who has portrayed Lewis since 1996. The 80-foot high rock was on the edge of the Osage River, Mandrell said, “and you had to take off your shoes and climb with your fingers and toes.”

The trial won Hommes the right to re-enact Clark whenever he was on board the expedition, and he has done it several times for the past two years. He played Clark for the week of May 24, while the permanent re-enactor — Payton Clark, the great-great-great-grandson of Capt. Clark — was away. When the expedition visits a town, Lewis, Clark and the dog Seaman go ashore, and Lewis always asks, “Is there a chief in this tribe?” Hommes said. During his week as Clark, Hommes talks with locals about the expedition and the everyday activities of the crew.

Hommes’ involvement with the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles started in 1996 when the organization’s founder, Glen Bishop, visited Washington, Mo., to recruit volunteers.

What he likes most about the Lewis and Clark expedition is that the members had a mission and they created lasting friendships during their journey.

“Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clark created a camaraderie within the unit,” Hommes said. “They were probably extremely good friends when they came back, as well as being a very good military unit. That’s something that I admire greatly.”

In the St. Charles expedition, most crew members know one another before they sail. Mandrell and Hommes have been friends for years. They have canoed hundreds of miles and climbed many rocks together, Mandrell said.

While he tries to portray his character as accurately as possible, Hommes still finds some differences. “I can spell better than he did,” he said.

Hommes works full time in a paperboard factory in Washington, Mo., and that prevents him from participating as long as he would like. In addition to the one week that he spent on the river in May, he also hopes to get in two more weeks in September. He plans to join the team again in 2005 when the boats will be in Idaho and will go into the next stage of the adventure — white-water rafting.

Hommes said he joined the expedition for his love of the Missouri River, but he says other participants may have different reasons.

“Every man probably wants to think that he is a mighty warrior and adventurer,” he said. “And you get out there and encounter those things and it can be a test. . . . It’s a test — the challenge to see what you can deal with. It’s kind of neat to be experiencing what your heroes actually went through.”

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