The preservation of western cultural and the American Cowboy. Sharing the history of the early trail drives, the Chuck Wagon and those who pioneered untamed land. The content is for educational and entertainment purposes. Cowboys and Chuck Wagon Cooking reviews cooking techniques, products and western gear which today is part of western life style. We hope you will enjoy your visit and look forward to comments, recipes and shared heritage. Thank you for your visit. Hope you follow us along the trail of news, stories and the Cowboy way.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The All American Chuck Wagon Race

CHUCK WAGON TRUCK - Pitch Fork Ranch, Texas
In every major city today, food vendors are often found parked along the street corners serving up some simple staples of food. Today called a mobile canteen, these trucks have found their way as portable kitchens operated by many food entrepreneurs.  These vehicles have also been used to ration food through Civil Defense, American Red Cross and other organizations during various disasters. Although, long before the idea hit the streets for a mobile canteen, Charles Goodnight knew he needed to feed his cowboys along the trail drives and created what would become known as the Chuck wagon.

As the cattlemen turned to the railroad for moving their herds to market, slowly the chuckwagon found its place being stored in barns until needed during round up season. Through the years, even the railroad now has been replaced through interstate trucking and most daily meals dished out from the bunkhouse for the cowboy.

As ranchers began modernizing during the turn of the 20th century, they invested in trucks. The truck seem dependable for ranch work. They could easily carry equipment for fence mending, haul feed and travel all day without the need for rest. Surely several were also converted into modern Chuckwagons carrying the necessary supplies to feed the wranglers working during round up season. The trucks bed easily allowed to  carry the chuck box with plenty of room for food, pots and pans. When needed for other duties, the bed could be set up to meet any of the ranching needs becoming a necessity of modern ranching.

At the Lincoln County Symposium held each year in Ruidoso, New Mexico, part of the activity is holding "The All American Chuck Wagon Truck Race." The event is the only race like it in the world featuring Chuck Trucks with 22.5 Horse Power engines dating no later than 1927.  It is no surprise, that the two competing trucks in the race are both Ford Model TT trucks.

The Ford Motor Company began building the Model TT in 1917 using the same concepts of the model T automobile adding a heavier chassis and rear axle that operated a worm drive system unlike the crown and pin drive of the sedan. Additionally, the TT chassis was longer giving it 125" inches in length over the 100" inch Model T automobile.

Ford sold most of the Model TT with out truck beds allowing the purchasers to outfit the truck bed in any manner desired. This also aided in the ease of production along with lower cost. Mass production began by 1925 through 1927 where Ford had already built over 15 million automobiles.

The horse and carriage moved into extinction from the inner cities. This was much due to sanitation of the city streets, although the new automobiles allowed commuting at such ease. Unlike the horse which often was stabled blocks from the residence, the automobiles easily parked in front of any home or business. It became an affordable and rapid means for transportation.

Calk entry from El Paso, Texas

Grubelnik entry from Lubbock, Texas

As "The All American Chuck Wagon Truck Race" begins, you find each team of the Chuck wagon Truck crews standing at the ready. The team consist of four members who are required to break down camp, loading all the equipment into the bed of their chuck truck as one member cranks the shaft to start the vehicle, two others saddle and mount either horses or mule working as out riders. Once loaded, vehicle started and horses mounted, the Chuckwagon Truck is off heading down the course.

The race coarse requires the trucks to drive around barrels then head out on the long straight away. Out riders remain along side the vehicle during the race as they head to cross the finish line. While penalties can be assessed for any infractions of the rules, the first team to cross the finish line typically wins.

With exception to the outriders, the teams are also require to have competed in Chuck Wagon Cooking competitions for three years to be eligible to participate in the race. Trucks must also have wood spoke wheels, auxiliary transmission and or a two speed axle. The vehicles must remain stock with exception to chuck wagon configuration. The Chuck and boot boxes must be built from planked wood as no plywood is allowed. Additionally, all required equipment must be period correct, including riding high back saddles.

Grubelnik Ford Model TT Chuck Wagon
While both teams got off to a great start, Wayne Calk held the lead until the final turn allowing Dale Grubelnik, from Lubbock, Texas to cross the finish line first. Although after judges tallied access penalties, both Grubelnik and Calk held the same time ending the race in a tie.  Looks like they will have to run again next year to see who really has the better crew.

Dale operated his 1923 Ford Model TT and is also owner of Grubelnik Ranch in Raton, New Mexico along the Berla Mesa. Additionally, he also uses a 1905 Weber Wagon competing in Chuckwagon Cooking events. His Model TT Truck was once used on the famous Pitchfork Ranch as a chuck wagon.

Wayne Calk, of El Paso, Texas operated his restored 1927 Ford Truck.  Wayne found the truck in Riverside, California and converted it into a working Chuck wagon. Wayne stripped off the original flat bed and replaced it with and all new Oak wood bed with side boards. Then added his constructed chuck box and boot box built from using pine wood. Wayne and his crew Skip Clark, John Cooper and JR Guinn also participated in the Chuckwagon Cook-off with his John Deere Triumph wagon that is at the turn of the 20th century era. He obtained this wagon from Wayne Snider of Amarillo, Texas. The wagon originated from Chandlerville, Illinois, and Snider bought it in St. Joseph, Missouri. Wayne once again did most of the restoration turning the wagon into a classic piece adding the chuck box, pan boot, seat, brakes, tool box, and water barrel shelf.

Keith Davis of Austin, Texas  also assisted the Calk Chuckwagon team during the Lincoln County Symposium. Keith grew up in  Kermit, Texas where Wayne Calk was one of his school teachers during the 1970's. Keith had owned a restaurant business over 20 years and loves cowboy cooking. After 30 years, Keith reconnected with his former teacher to be part of this great event. "I love this sort of thing. I really had a great time in Ruidoso and the chuckwagon group are such a great bunch of people," stated Keith. 
Both Grubelnik Ranch and the Calk chuck wagon team have won numerous awards for their competition cooking from these chuckwagons that were on sight in Ruidoso. Additioanl, both teams have much to be proud, not only for owning such beautiful restored master pieces, but in addition for their great contribution preserving the history of the American Cowboy and the chuckwagon which were once home to those cowboy working the range.

Wayne Calk's Chuck Wagon Truck
Dale Grubelnik's Chuckwagon Truck

Starting Line for the Great American Chuckwagon Truck Race

Ford Model TT Chuck Wagon Truck
Chuckwagon Truck Camp

End of the trail Lincoln County Symposium

Ford Model TT Chuck Wagon
                   Above photo is of vehicle displayed at the  
      Edison and Ford Museum

photo credits: Keith Davis, Lincoln County Symposium, Edison and Ford Museum

    1 comment:

    1. I just love these stories about the chuck wagons and cooking. You seem to bring a vase onset of knowledge on the American cattle trails and recipes to boot.

      Bev Davis
      Fort Worth, Texas