Before we meet the teams, a little history of the Chuckwagon. The Chuck wagon was a creation from necessity…Charlie Goodnight of the Goodnight-Loving Cattle trail fame, surely had no idea the impact his creation would have on the American west and the luxury it would create for the cowboy.
After the American Civil War, there were thousands of wild cattle roaming the Texas Plains and surrounding area. And there were thousands of hungry folks in the towns back east…the problem was, no rail lines connected these two entities. It took a shrewd but brave business man who knew something about cows to realize that the four dollar Texas beeves could literally walk themselves to the forty dollar Northern settlements, Army posts, Reservations and railway markets for transportation back east… thus was born the American Cattle Drives.
Moving 500 to 15,000 head of cattle at once required nearly a dozen cowboys. These adventurous souls required sustenance for body and mind, doctoring supplies for people and animals, bedding, animal feed, and various other equipment to survive out on the trail for months on end. Goodnight solved this problem by converting one of his wagons into a rolling kitchen and supply depot. He built a wooden box with drawers and cubbies. He added water barrels, “cowhide boots” to carry utensils, wood or coals, hooks, baskets and various catch alls to meet the needs of the cowboy and cattle. The cast iron Dutch Ovens were an irreplaceable requirement as well.
The chuck wagon rolled out of the ranch stocked. It “refueled” every time the cattle drive neared a frontier town – purchasing goods on “bank notes” that the cattle bosses would come back along and pay after the cattle were sold. The wealthy cattle owners seldom traveled the entire drive with the cowboys and cattle, but often rode out to meet their crews somewhere along the drive to visit with his trusty cow boss and ensure the safety and health of both his cattle and crew.
Cattle on the trail were big business in the 1860’s to 1890’s …it is said that nearly ten million cattle walked to the Kansas/Missouri Railheads, New Mexico/Colorado mining towns, various forts and ranches across Wyoming, Montana and into Canada…Cowboys were King and became heroes, idols and legends… but the settling of the West and the invention of barbed wire brought the drives to a sad end…many who had lived their lives on the trail had difficulty letting go of their nomadic cowboy lifestyle…and there are those who live today who were simply born a hundred years too late…
Thankfully, history can re-create itself. Rolling in from the dusty pages of cowboy’s past, join our “cookies”, “cuisineros” and “coosies” as they bring to life the last round up on the South Dakota Plains and compete for prize money and the title as the top Wagon on the plains during the Spirit of the West Festival:
MEET THE TEAMS
Todd and Lisa Bender will be bringing up their custom chuck wagon, the Broken Box. Todd and Lisa use their wagon for catering and history lessons down in Humphrey, Nebraska, and enjoy competition events to fine tune their culinary skills.
|Jim Patrick & wife Susan|
Hailing from Iola, Wisconsin, Wes Stigen returns to show off his beautiful “CCC” wagon that he has rebuilt from 1908 Sears and Roebuck blueprints after it was destroyed by snow crushing his arena a few years ago. Although the running gear is of unknown origin, Wes restored it and painstakingly recreated the S&R wagon to period era. As a blacksmith, he was able to create all the detailed iron work on this wagon himself. A friend built his chuck box, and Wes and his grandkids enjoy sharing and cooking from the wagon for events in their local area.
Old West Society Members, JT Hallson purchased and restored this Mandt Chuck wagon dubbed “Lost Creek” as an addition to the western re-enactments he is involved with. A life long history buff from Longview, Minnesota, JT travels the region to various western shows re-creating the drama and excitement of an era long gone. He enjoys Dutch Oven cooking and always look forward to competing at the Spirit of the West.
Bob Heavirland of North Branch, Minnesota owns actual trail wagons that have not been modern day restored. Owning both the ‘Ole 73 Ranch Wagon from Wasta, SD and a 1900 John Deere chuck wagon called the “Flying Star”, Bob travels the Midwest showing off his wagons at Roundups, city celebrations and competitions. He also does many custom catering events for private venues. Although both wagons were present at the 2005 Spirit of the West, Bob only be brings his John Deere for competition, as it is the most original and accurate of his two wagons.
Jim Johnsen of Wessington, SD, is Bob Heavirlands Cousin. Jim cooked on one Bob’s wagons at the first Spirit of the West Festival Cook Off and caught the wagon bug. He then restored and stocked a period chuck wagon for himself and shows up at area competitions to claim some of the fame for himself and his C Bar J Wagon!
Several folks have attended the Festival, and have gone home and had to find a wagon of their own to compete with – guilty of this are Mike & Patty Aspeslet of Stoddard, Wisconsin. They attended the first couple of contests, then found and restored their own Lazy A Wagon to show-case their award winning Dutch oven cooking.
Lloyd and Vickie Meyer from Huron, SD and Howard and Kathie Bragg from Madison, MN also attended the Festival and caught the ‘wagon bug’. Lloyd found and purchased his wagon, dubbed the “Secret Pass” and his son helped him restore it. This is a family operation competing, as Vickie & Kathie are sisters!
Arlin and Eleanor Sigmon of Auburn, Iowa found and restored their “Prairie Mill” Chuck Wagon for the same reasons – they attended the Festival, and knew they had found something they wanted to do in their retirement. A life long Rodeo Clown and Threshing Bee Host, the Chuck Wagon allows him to preserve history, and keep his western cowboy interests alive!
Judy Nielsen hails all the way from Hyattville, Wyoming, hauling into Spirit for the third year in a row. She states she is ‘hooked’ on this friendly, family oriented Festival, and loves coming out and competing with her “Heart D” chuck wagon. Although all of our Cooks compete with their wives assisting, Judy is our only female wagon owner, and often cooks with a friend, making it our only ‘all woman’ team!
The only wagon of this crew that has not been at the Festival in the first five years of competition is Randy Dyer’s “Rocking R” Ranch Wagon…Randy himself has been at the Festival three of the last five year, but this will be the first year he hauls his own piece of history in to compete all the way from Clay City, Indiana!
Bob Glanzer of Huron, SD – loves everything about the cowboy era…although he does not compete in cooking with the wagon he found and restored and dubbed “Sweet Sally Sue” after his daughter, Bob enjoys everything about having a historical accurate wagon parked out at Spirit of the West.
Chuck Wagons might be the central part of that era’s history, but it was the cowboys and ranches who kept them in ‘chuck’….one famous Ranch Owner will again join us at the show, and although the Ole’ 73 wagon will not be at the Festival, the owner of the ’73 ranch, Mel Anderson, will be, along with his wife Dorothy, sharing REAL South Dakota cowboy and ranch history and signing copies of his four books. The 73 Ranch in Wasta, SD was one of the final frontiers to give up the ‘old ways’ and continued using their Bed and chuck wagons into the 1990’s…the stories of these hard core cowboys getting those wagons down the Strongholds in the South Dakota Badlands is gripping to say the least. Stop by and visit with Mel about this fascinating history, and ask him about the chuck wagon he still owns and shows in parades out West – the very wagon his ranch cowboys found the wagon in a creek on his Wasta ranch many years ago. They spent days digging it out of the sand and discovered it was an actual Government issued Reservation wagon in relatively good shape. Mr. Anderson thinks it must have bogged in the creek many years prior, and was left behind. What a find!
If these chuck wagons and cowboy historians don’t interest you…don’t worry – there will be dozens of different entertainers, performers, vendors, western movie stars, arena events, re-enactments and more to keep you busy at the Festival. Truly something for everyone. The 9th Annual Spirit of the West Festival is “fun for the little Buckaroo ‘N You!”.
So, join us this year September 17-19 just north of J&L Harley dealer on North Kiwanis. Visit with the chuck wagons cooks as they show and interpret their authentic pieces of rolling western history. Belly up to their wagon and enjoy a tasty chuck wagon meal…or enjoy any of the great western festivities brought to life at the Festival…Come to the Spirit of the West and find your own western spirit…if only for the day. www.spiritofthewestfestival.com 605-334-9202
Our appreciation is extended to Cassandra Swanson who provided this Story and information and will be providing us many photos and the results of this exciting event.