Larry & Lee Ann's Journey travel blog

Arriving at the museum...

Rick Kaan walking between his two wagons...

The sheepherder wagon...

Larry's gonna give you a tour!

Looking straight ahead to the bed along the rear wall...

A closer shot of the rear of the wagon, note the window...

The stove with cooking accessories...

A few essentials on the opposing table/wall...

Outside the wagon Larry chats with a spinner...

Peggy with their awesome chuck wagon...

Enjoying the 'real good music'!

Provided by Bonnie & Brad Exton...

Nice pic...

The Ramblin' Rangers & Trevine doing a bit of the coyote song...Cute!

A pretty pronghorn on our way home this afternoon, we had a...


Last Saturday we attended Pioneer Days at the museum in Hot Springs, SD. Our friends Rick & Peggy Kaan had both their chuckwagon & their sheepherder's wagon on display. You might remember seeing their chuckwagon in the Friends of Teddy Roosevelt post a few weeks back. Well that day they were actually feeding the large crowd but today they were just enjoying visiting with folks. Both of the wagon's are great but the sheepherder's wagon is amazing! I guess you could call it one of the 'first' RV's, a neat home on wheels.

Invented in the 1880's, all sheep wagons had the same basic design. They all featured a bed, stove, table, benches, cabinet, dutch door and a window in the back over the bed. Each had it's own personality & no two were created the same as each had its own personality based on the sheepherder or rancher that lived in it. Rick & Peggy's wagon has involved many hours of work & it shows. The furnishings include old 'essentials' acquired over the years & brought back lots of memories. I'd love to spend a night or two in it, assuming it wasn't the dead of winter! Of course, there is a nice stove on board if you happen to be carrying coal or wood or what was wryly called "Hoover coal." During the depression years luckless President Hoover was bearing the blame for a great many minor hardships and economies. "Hoover coal" was the euphemism for dried cow manure and, if you could get them, the paper-dry pies were carefully gathered and hoarded in a sack tied on the rear corner of the wagon strictly for emergency use. I read that Hoover coal made a quick hot fire but that not everyone appreciated the pungent fragrance! Probably not, lol...

In the Kaan's wagon, like most other's, the bed is across the rear of the wagon. It is raised from the floor with drawers fitted under each end. A wooden table slides in and out under the center, and below is a large storage space for boots, bed-rolls or anything else that wouldn't fit elsewhere. In the rear wall of the wagon, just above the bed, is a window. This provides light in addition to the square window in the front door. The rear window is hinged on one side so that you can have fresh air at night and cross-ventilation in warm weather. It would have also been an ideal port-hole from which to take a pot shot at a marauding coyote and maybe knock over an unsuspecting rabbit or sage hen. If the herder was single the window was bare glass, but if he had a wife there usually would be a dainty little film of ruffled curtain at both the front and rear windows.

I read this in an artice entitled 'Life in a Sheepherder Wagon' :

"The secret of sheep wagon living can be easily summed up: Order and spic-and-span cleanliness. There were herders who turned their wagons into rat-holes and lived in a mess a hog would shun. The good herders kept everything tidy and ship-shape, eliminated non-essentials and followed Thoreau's dictum to "Simplify! Simplify!" With bed neatly made, floors, benches and oil-cloth inner wall scrubbed and spotless there was always room and a welcome for company.

Occasionally, neighboring couples could leave the dogs in charge for a spell and ride their saddle horses over for cake and coffee, music and a game of Hearts or Old Maid. Before radio, every herder had some kind of instrument . . . A fiddle, banjo, guitar, flute or mouth-harp . . . And, though most of them played by ear, it all sounded like music to us."

Well today we were blessed with 'real good music' provided by our buddies the Ramblin' Rangers. Took a few good pics of them by the wagon afterward, a few that included their grandson & of course, their dog Trevine. And, by the way, these wagons are still in use in some parts of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana, and no doubt modern plans are available from the western state agricultural colleges. I read that anyone with a minimum of tools, imagination and skill can build one. I don't know about that particular statement!The old horse-drawn running gear is now sometimes replaced by a rubber-tired farm wagon. But hardware supply houses in the west still stock the compact sheepwagon stoves and the bent hickory bows that hold the canvas, and tent and awning companies still have the patterns and skill to sew the coverings. If we lived under the right circumstances it would see wayyy cool to build, own & use own of these marvelous machines!



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