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Friday, August 13, 2010

"Pikes Peak or Bust"

Wilbur Williams
Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving outfitted the first trail drives that moved herds of cattle which spanned from Fort Belknap, Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The trail would become known as the Goodnight – Loving trail. The year was 1866 when Goodnight moved the first herd of 2,000 Texas Longhorns across the rugged Pecos terrain with a crew of 18 wranglers. Through the logistic need for caring and feeding his outfit, Goodnight converted a surplus wagon equipped with a pantry that became known as the Chuck Wagon. The trail would pass through Fort Sumner, New Mexico, across the Colorado Front Range passing what would become the city of Colorado Springs before reaching market in Denver, Colorado. The trail drive was so successful, Goodnight had sold his herd before reaching Wyoming returning to Texas and building another herd.

Colorado Springs celebrates Western Heritage Days each summer. The crown jewel of events begins with their 70th annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Sanction Rodeo “Pikes Peak or Bust” Rodeo and Chuck Wagon Cook-Off that returned to the Norris-Penrose Events Center arena July 13-17th.

Opening ceremonies kicked off honoring members of the Armed Forces, with guest speaker Dana Bowman, former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, who lost both legs during service for our nation. Dana who today is a motivational speaker stated, “It is not about disability, it’s about ability.” Prior to the national anthem, rodeo officials introduced Major General David G. Perkins, Commanding General, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson along with the Command Sgt. Major Daniel A. Dailey. General Perkins shared words thanking the Rodeo Committee and people of Colorado as they honored members of the Armed Forces extending special thoughts to those who continue service in the Middle East conflicts.

Over the past 70 years the partnership between the rodeo and the military community has been one of mutual respect and admiration. Since the end of World War II, the rodeo's proceeds have gone to Colorado Springs military and community charities. The rodeo has contributed more than $1.5 million dollars to military charities, which includes Fort Carson programs. The rodeo is one of the many community projects that recognizes the courage and sacrifice of the men and women in uniform.

The four day event included PRCA Rodeo events of Steer Wrestling, Bareback Bronc Riding, Calf Roping, Team Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Bare racing and Bull Riding. Along with the Rodeo events, “Pikes Peak or Bust” included a Carnival; Pony rides, a mechanical bull and the circling of the Chuck Wagons.

“The Chuck Wagon Cook-Off was added to the Rodeo events several years ago,” stated Rodeo Committee member Chris Jones known as “Side Kick.” The PPOBR directors called upon Dean Venezia, aka “Trail Boss” to ramrod the Chuck Wagon Cook-Off event introducing another part of that proud western heritage the Colorado Springs “Pikes Peak or Bust” events. “The Rodeo seems to have increase additional ticket sales and interest since adding the Chuck Wagon event,” Chris added.

Eight Teams came from across the nation to participate in the authentic Chuck Wagon Cook-Off. Chris further explained that he is still just a green horn with the Chuck wagon cooking. This is his second year assisting Dean Venezia with the event. “I’m impressed with the dedication and quality food prepared by the Chuck Wagon crews. The Rodeo seems to have been missing something of interest that the Chuck Wagon crews bring with their old west flavor,” said Chris.

The Rodeo Directors reviewed what other Rodeo performances across the nation were doing to increase ticket sales. They found post rodeo music concerts, adding unique events and the “Come early-Stay late” attitude has help increase attendance again, up over past years. Their motto “Rodeo is Cool.” Nonetheless, the added Cook-Off hosting these authentic Chuck Wagons has taken lead. The streets of Colorado Springs once again appear as if the legacy of Charles Goodnight is moving his herd across the lands.

“The Chuck Wagons bring wholesome food from humble origins” states Chris. “These family names read from the roster of America Western Heritage. Haddock, Boyd, Richins, Conway, Wailes, Wilson, Sack and Waites who travel the distance to participate in the annual cook off,” explain Chris. “They are remarkable families who did not complain; who work hard to preserve this western culture; members who’s handshake is their honor and word true as the iron which they prepare the greatest flavors of outdoor cooking,” Chris added.

The crews set up camp, Broke out Cast Iron Skillets, Dutch Ovens and Coffee Pots. The host provided supplies sponsored by Ranch Foods Direct offering a selection of meats. Four teams choose chuck for their wholesome entree while the other four teams selected cube for some hearty chicken fried steaks. The aroma of selected fire woods (mesquite, oak, and pecan) began to filled the air from ground pits dug by each team. Crew members busy working family recipes from days past. Rolling flour into dough, grinding fresh coffee beans and soaking beans all apart of the early morning activity at the Chuck Wagon Camp sight.

The crowds of people flocked to the chuck wagons witnessing crews wearing authentic attire of the early 1880’s. The collection of beautifully restored wagons outfitted with collections of museum quality relics displayed amazed the on seekers. The food lines grew as wagon judges graded every detail from the over-all appearance of each team to the taste of the array of dishes cooked in this unique ranch style that portrayed life or the wrangler working the cattle drives.

Pikes Peak of Bust Chuck wagon Cook-Off Results:

Meat: 1st Heart Bar 2nd Famous Steak House 3rd tie Rocking RR and Rocking K

Beans: 1st Famous Steakhouse 2nd tie Heart bar and Rocking K

Bread: 1st Heart Bar 2nd Rocking K 3rd Rocking RR
Cobbler: 1st Heart Bar 2nd tie Rocking RR Rafter JB Breakaway Withers Ranch
Wagon: 1st tie Rocking K Withers Ranch 2nd Rafter JB

Over-All 1st Heart Bar (Kit Haddock) CO 2nd Rocking K (Jack and Karlenn Boyd) TX 3rd Rocking RR (Susan and Russ Richins) AR

Heart Bar Crew

Team “Heart Bar” owned by Kit Haddock or Monument, Colorado took home grand prize during the cook-off. Kit working from his Newton Wagon has 22 years of experience performing mostly Chuck wagon catering for private parties including the Air Force Academy. Kit’s wagon is all original and was recognized four years ago during the 100 year celebration at the National Western Stock Show Parade. Kit and his father who also works as part of the chuck wagon crews stated he enjoys these events and preserving the heritage of the cowboys. Kit’s secret to a great cobbler is in the whiskey sauce.

Team “Rocking K” is owned by Jack and Karleen Boyd of Slaton, Texas. While they came in second over-all in this event, the team was grand champion at the larger 2009 Ruidoso, New Mexico. The Boyd’s have competed in over 60 chuck wagon events and perform 5 – 6 each year. Rocky K 1892 Mitchell wagon is attractively restored. Jack knows a great deal of history sharing his knowledge with guest about other wagon companies like John Deere and Studebaker. The team’s favorite dish is Elephant stew and state “We may not be the best, but we get Christmas cards from the Best.” They hope to be back for next year’s event.

Team “Rocking RR” owned Susan and Russ Richins of Phoenix, Arizona have been competing for five years. Two of these years now with there own wagon, a converted 1890 Perkins grain wagon built in Perkin, Illinois. Susan loves making bread and the team performs training classes at various sporting good stores and at the Payson State park, Arizona. Their wagon was restored by renowned wheelwright, Glenn Moreland of Texas Cowboy Outfitters located at Fort Davis, Texas. Susan stated the best part of these cooking events is the camaraderie between crews. They met Cheryl and Rex Wailes of the Lizzie II team where they learned about this event.

Team “Withers Ranch” tied for first place best wagon is owned by Tina and Daryl Waite of Hugo, Colorado. The team purchased the wagon two years ago restoring the Northwestern Wagon. The Northwestern are rare today due to the factory burning down in 1906. “I only know of one other Northwestern wagon” stated Daryl. Susan commented, “It seems each time we have had their wagon our out displayed, some one wants to always donate a gift of antique relic to go with the wagon.” She nicknames the wagon as “Gift Wagon.” Their favorite dish which they served at the Pikes Peak of Bust event is Wedding Beef known also as “Belly cheater”. This meat dish is served over mashed potatoes.

Rafter JB   Becky & John Conway
Team “Rafter JB” comes from Cambridge, Kansas earning second in best wagon. Owned by Becky and John Conway, who have about 40 competitions under their belt operates from their 1910 Copper Wagon. John did all of the restoration (mostly just a cleaning removing dust) after purchasing from their neighbor who’s grandfather purchased new at Grenola, Kansas. The wagon earn second place in Best Wagon. The Conway’s enjoy cooking standard dishes, stews, biscuits, and cobblers which were all hearty original meals serve along the trail drives from the Chuck wagon. The most memorable moment was last year’s Pike Peak or Bust event at as the serving line open and the rain began to down pour. The crowds embraced the moment continuing too participate with such positive energy. The team is also three family generations joined by their grand-daughter Reatta on the chuck wagon crew.

Team “Famous Steakhouse” using an old unknown manufacture chuck wagon was operated by Professional Chef Brain Sack and his friend Randy. Brain holds a BA from Kendall College in Culinary Arts and was inspired by his father to become a Chef. Brain return to Colorado Springs after graduation and has worked several top restaurants as executive Chef. The wagon is owned by Jim Newell and the team proved their experience as cooks even though this was their second cook-off. Team Famous Steakhouse did win best in meat division and best in the beans division. “They proved to be as much fun as they are great chefs,” states Chris Jones.

Team “Lizzie II” owned by Rex and Sheryl Wailes of Bennett, Colorado operate their 1896 BAIN wagon. The wagon all original added the Chuck box, Boot and tool boxes using dispersion era wood off a grain truck belonging to Rex’s grandfather. The Wailes have nearly 6 years experience performing catering and try to perform 4- 6 cook-off’s each year. Sheryl stated she enjoy meeting so many wonderful new friends. Their first cook-off was participating in the Amarillo, Texas National Championship. The Wailes enjoyed and help in keeping the history of Western Heritage alive.

Team “Breakaway” owned by Wilbur and Annette Wilson of Stanford, Texas are well season. They have participated in over 100 cook-off’s across the nation. Both retired find that this is a hobby they both can share together. Annette loves to sew while Wilbur takes to golf and fishing. However, together, they cook some superb food. Their favorite dish is Beef Fajita’s served with rice and beans. Although, at the Pikes Peak of Bust event, Wilbur was cooking Chicken Fried Steak as Annette work hard dredging the meat into the flour batter. They operate their Peter Schettler wagon indicating the best part of this years visit is that their grandson Justin D. Wilson is in his second year at the United States Air Force Academy. Justin was there busy performing chores as part of the BREAKAWAY Team.

Every team performed superb as they blended spices up and turning everything into wholesome meals cooked from the chuck wagons. Each team commend for the wonderful work they shared and distance travel. “This is a wonderful quality that these folks shared coming to Colorado Springs for the “Pikes Peak or Bust” Rodeo and Chuck-Wagon cook off,” states Chris. He further added that they hope to see everyone again next year and hopefully, new friends that will come the distance to take part in the Chuck wagon Cook-Off. For information on this rodeo: They have already began planning for the 2011 event.

Story by Roger Edison
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