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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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saddle Up - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Photo courtesy  Sharon Keller Rollins, Red River Ranch

Listed as Tennessee's top twenty best tourist events, Pigeon Forge "Saddle-Up Buckaroo Round Up" rope's in huge crowds during the four day Cowboy celebration.  Old Glory flew proudly under the blue sky in the heart of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. The chuckwagons rolled in from across the nation for the 12th annual "Saddle Up" that featured western music, cowboy poetry and some exquisite cowboy cooking.  Named after the Iron Forge invented by Isaac Love around 1820, the community rest along the Little Pigeon River so named after the once massive amounts of Passenger Pigeons that frequented the banks at the time of the first Euro-American settlers. 

Kent Rollins, of Red River Ranch perform acts of Cowboy poetry and also fired up his griddles for some sizzling steak dinners during  performances at Mama's Farmhouse Restaurant which featured Montana singer/songwriter Stephanie Davis. An additional show held at Partridge and Pear restaurant with a four course family dinner featured performances by newest member of the Western Music Association Hall of Fame, R.W. Hampton. Other performances during the four day event included the Saddle Cats, Cowboy Celtic, Ray Doyle, Andy Nelson, Chuck Pyle and youth performance by Cal Farley. 

The Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association sponsored the competing chuckwagon's selling lunch tickets for $10 raising money for local area charities during the Saturday event held at Clabough’s Campground. The chuckwagon cooks competed for the bragging rights as "Best wagon."  Awards are given for each food category; Meats, Beans, Potatoes, Bread, Corn bread and Desserts. Strict guidelines require cooks to prepare these meals just as they did over 130 years ago as the Cowboys moves cattle north to market and the chuckwagon was home on the range. 

Photo by Bart Saucier
Bart Saucier from Chapel Hill, Tennessee, wanted to witness first hand this authentic set up provided by each chuckwagon team.  Bart is also restoring his own personal Chuckwagon where this hands on experience, aloud for him to take note of the many particular details of each wagon while he watched the ole cowboy cooks work using their huge cast iron dutch ovens as they prepared the wholesome lunch.

Each chuckwagon is a traveling museum ranging in price averaging over $20,000 once fully outfitted.   Historical items include an array of cooking gear from late 19th century. Items like a mounted Parker Coffee grinder to heavy bone saws and meat cleavers decorate the side of chuck boxes. Giant 14 to 16 inch cast iron dutch ovens rest over coals as large coffee kettle and bean pots hang from the fire spit. The displays also includes a variety of cowboy personal gear, saddles, bedrolls, tent, farrier equipment, tools, hames and harness. Every item needed to complete a trail drive is carried on the wagon including extra wood stored underneath in a draped hide or canvas called the possum belly. Proud of their displays, each owner enjoys sharing the heritage as they answer questions about their wagon and the history of a majestic past.

Troy and Cindy Reddick
Skillet and Spurs is owned and operated by Troy and Cindy Reddick of Vidalia, Georgia. Troy started camp cooking using cast iron dutch ovens over 25 years ago during hunting, fishing and camping excursions during his college days at Georgia Southern University. Cindy is a professional home decorator and retail shop owner of  "Accessorize it". Four years ago, the couple added the chuckwagon to their professional catering business.  The Pigeon Forge Cook-Off was their first competition where their seasoned cooking experience paid off. "We are just now starting to meet other 'cookies. So far, its been an amazing experience and we can't wait to meet some of the folks out west," stated Troy.  For information about Chuckwagon catering in the Georgia area, check out their web site

Lexie Dean Ramblin'Rose
Ramblin’ Rose Chuck Wagon operated by Lexie Dean and his wife Kathy are season competitors from Greenville, North Carolina.  Dressed in his fashionable top hat with a feather, Lexie takes the rugged look of the camp cook on the cattle drive. His wagon, is a family heirloom first used as a farm wagon built by Fish Brothers Wagon Company of Racine, Wisconsin in 1868.  Fish brothers bought out Daniel Bull interest in the former Fish and Bull business, changing the name to FISH Brothers just two years before Lexies wagon was built. He added the additional items to convert the wagon into a functional chuckwagon.  While mesquite is the popular wood for Texas, Lexie uses hickory because it's easy to monitor and control temperature. Burning down a third cord of wood before even beginning his baking, Lexie ensures he has plenty of coals to cover the dozen "Dutch ovens" he'll use making the competitive meal able to provide 50 servings in each category.

The Buckaroo Roundup also included a mechanical bull to test your rodeo skills, lasso lessons and branding demonstrations.  Kent Rollins of the Red River Ranch, provided chuckwagon samplings during the four day event along with his storytelling. Kent, who has been filmed by the Food Network Television show "Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Chicken Fried Steak." was named the Official Chuck Wagon Cook of Oklahoma, by its Governor. He also has won the Lubbock, Texas Chuck Wagon Cook Off and the Will Rogers Award for Chuck Wagon of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists and not part of the competition of the event. Kent recently authored his cook-book titled, "On the Trail and In the Kitchen" available on line at his web site  His stories were the gilt-edge of the cattle drives keeping the audience well entertained. 

Other chuckwagon teams participating in the competitive event were Double X Ranch, Fairplay Cattle Company from Winston, Georgia and Grumpy's Grub.  The five teams rounded out samplings for the judges as they served up the savory Chicken friend steak, sawmill gravy, bread, potatoes, beans, cornbread,  and desserts.  

MEAT: 1st Skillet and Spurs, 2nd Grumpy's Grub, 3rd Ramblin' Rose
BEANS: 1st Grumpy's Grub, 2nd Double X, 3rd Ramblin' Rose
BREAD: 1st Ramblin' Rose, 2nd Grumpy's Grub, 3rd Fairplay Cattle Co.
POTATOES: 1st Ramblin' Rose, 2nd Grumpy's Grub, 3rd Fairplay
DESSERT: 1st Ramblin' Rose, 2nd Skillet & Spurs, 3rd Grumpy's Grub
CORNBREAD: 1st Ramblin' Rose, 2nd Fairplay, 3rd Double X
WAGON: 1st Grumpy's Grub, 2nd Ramblin' Rose, 3rd Fairplay
OVERALL: 1st Ramblin' Rose, 2nd Grumpy's Grub
Photo courtesy Sister's on the Fly
New to the Saddle-Up event this year was a display of over 30 interesting camper trailers that are part of  the "Cowgirl Caravan." The group is a national women's organization called  Sister's on the Fly and travel through many areas of the United States with their array of travel trailers. Ranging in sizes from 12 to 24 feet long, many trailers are decorated in a Cowgirl theme.  Some campers are newer models but many reflect the nostalgic airstream  traveling of the 1950 styles.   
As the sun set over the chuckwagon camp fires, the attention was turn towards the stage for country music and a night of dancing the Dosey Doe, swing steps and line dancing. Sunday concluded the Saddle Up event with a hearty cowboy breakfast  followed by Cowboy Church services before the cowboys rode off into the sunset.    For more information about Pigeon Forge, Tennessee


For more information about other Chuck Wagon Competitions, check out the 

Chuck Wagon photo courtesy Bart Saucier
Double X Ranch Chuck Wagon, Photo Courtesy Sharon Keller Rollins

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Special thank you to Bart Saucier, Sharon Keller Rollins, My Pigeon Forge, Troy and Cindy Reddick, Lexie Dean and those who volunteered or sponsor Saddle Up.  Additionally, the American Chuck Wagon Association which helps preserve the western heritage and the chuck wagon.     


  1. This is a wonderful article! I didn't know there was an American Chuck Wagon Association - it should be Intergalactic. Who wouldn't like chuck wagon cooking? It's all good!

  2. Yeah me too! Wow! it is really amazing!

  3. Pretty neat stuff. I found this page because I found an envelope from the fish brothers wagon company that was mailed to Virgina city Montana in 1900. I like the logo because I collect fishing stuff. The envelope was sealed with wax which had their logo impressed in it. Fortuenately the recipeants opened from the end and didn't destroy the wax seal. What an intersting an exciting time to have been alive it must have been.

    1. I agree that the times must have been very interesting. Although, many things today we take for granted. The chuckwagon was more than just a mobile kitchen as it supplied everything the cowboy needed on the trail. Old homesteads might have had a sink, but the water was taken from a well or near by creek. Toilets where built in as outhouses and grass,dried corn cobs or pages from the Sears Catalog used for toilet paper. I agree life would have been interesting but so many of us have become depended on electricity, running water, television and yes, even the computer. Would love to see that envelope seal if you ever take a photo of it, please email us a copy and thank you for all your comments too.