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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  The Longbranch (Moderators: Marshal Halloway, Silver Creek Slim, Camille Eonich)  |  Topic: Chuck Wagon Question 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Chuck Wagon Question  (Read 35305 times)
dwight55
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« on: January 29, 2015, 08:01:21 am »


Now, I know this is silly to those of you who know the answer, . . . but I don't, . . . so I gotta ask.

When you watch any of the Westerns, . . . the grizzled old bearded cook is in his chuck wagon, . . . dutifully slogging along with the trail boss and the herd.

Later he is feeding them cowpokes, . . . beans, biscuits, stew, meat, pie, . . . and he did not stop at the Giant Eagle deli and pick it up.

So how did he do his cooking on the move, . . . or did he cook at night and warm up the next day???

(We've been cooking on our wood stove, . . . using cast iron, . . . having lots of fun, . . . enjoying some good meals too)

Thanks for all your help, . . . may God bless,
Dwight
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Forty Rod
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2015, 09:14:28 am »

The chuck wagon usually went on ahead to where they planned to spend the night.  It moved considerably faster that the herd.

There was sometimes a helper assigned to go along and help Cookie get it all going and he was afforded "first service privileges".

Everyone was expected to clean up after himself and help get things repped up for the night.
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dwight55
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2015, 12:59:54 pm »

Thanks, Forty Rod, . . .

Having worked all three shifts, I could see where the baking could have been done in the evening, . . . maybe even the main course started, . . . then finished early in the AM, . . . and heated up at meal time.

Now did the riders take their "lunch" with them and eat in the saddle? 

I've always been curious about their life, . . . knowing I would probably have washed out on my first drive.

May God bless,
Dwight
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Shotgun Franklin
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2015, 01:01:56 pm »

Either Cookie or the helper walked, part of the job was to pick up any wood that was lying along, sometimes a Cowboy would rope a limb or some other piece and drag it to camp. So many herds followed the same route that wood got to be in short supply.
While a wagon ain't fast, you wanted the herd to move but not so fast as to walk what little fat there was on'm off. It wasn't to hard to stay out in front.
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Shotgun Franklin
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2015, 01:06:01 pm »

About that eat time, they rotated shifts and not everyone ate at exactly the same time, this also let Cookie cook a meal over time, if you have say 2 Cowboys coming in every 20 minutes or so, you can be putting out food as it gets done, especially stuff like fried meat or eggs and such.
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Blair
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2015, 02:15:25 pm »

A "Nooner" for the drovers was perhaps a biscuit or two with some lard on it.
Providing the Cook made enough the night before.
Eggs don't tend to travel well. Perhaps hard boiled and pickled, but these would not have lasted very long on the trail.
Water and fire wood (especially hard woods for cooking) were always a major issue for the cook.
Canned goods took up storage space and were heavy. Dried grains and beans could be stored in large quantities for long periods.
Meats were another issue. Drying and or preservation in salt was the most common preservation methods. Some of this may take time.
I don't think it would be uncommon for the Chuck wagons to be a day or two ahead of the drive.
Just some of my thoughts on this subject.
My best,
 Blair
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2015, 05:17:38 pm »

Baking, well most was a quick bread aka biscuits or pan de campo (fancy name for a big damn biscuit)  and any cook who can't whip them up in a 1/2 hour or so ought to be whipped.   A thicker bannock (Canuck name for a big damn biscuit)  may take 45 minutes.   

Meals were simple, they didn't dawdle looking up recipes on pintrest and looking for the measuring cups, they just cooked it.

Pies were made on occasion, most often of dried fruit or if the got lucky, found some fresh wild fruit someone had time to pick.   So all you fancy bakers who make pies, tell me how the did it with out ice water and keeping the whole crust cool  or cold till baked like everyone thinks they have to do today? Grin  Yes I know.
   
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Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

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Dan Gerous
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2015, 05:46:51 pm »

Dwight, Here's my two cents (adjusted for inflation of course). Drawing on too many years of experience at rendezvous and re-enactments I'd say Breakfast was merely last night's leftovers. Beans and bacon are easy and travel well. The beans could soak all day and be boiled up at night. beef would come from any critter that looked like he wasn't going to last the trip and the chuck wagon could carry a good supply of canned vegetables which were fairly common at the time. You'd want to lay in a supply of bulk goods that would travel well and provide a good meal. That means staples like flour, coffee, sugar, and of course beans in big sacks which are easier to pack than boxes. I've read of eggs being shipped in sawdust, but I doubt very much if they carried any. Just as a side note, the old voyageur's most common meal was salt pork and pea soup. The cook would make a big kettle of soup (remember the old child's rhyme "pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold"?) and let it simmer all night. In the morning, the kettle would be loaded in the canoe and at Noon the "cool" porridge was served out. If you couldn't stand a paddle up in it, it was too thin!
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nagantino
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Oh yeah.......


« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2015, 07:00:49 pm »

While on holiday a few years ago I met Roscoe Lee Brown in New York. He played the chuck wagon cook in "The Cowboys" starring John Wayne and Bruce Dern. He was a fascinating man, full of stories and knowledge. He recited WB Yeats to my wife and I all evening and dedicated a written poem to my brother who collects autographs from western characters. I should have asked him what he made on the trail during that cattle drive. Seriously..... I've always wondered also how the cook made so many meals for so many Cowboys from such a small wagon. As another contributor said repetition must have played its part. A ship from a while ago would be comparable ; beans boiled up wth a lump of pork, boiled peas also. Oatmeal put into the pan after frying a lump of bacon to soak up the fat. It could not have been varied though I've never  read of scurvy breaking out on a trail drive, but very common at sea. A steer if butchered would provide a lot of meat but just how many potatoes can a wagon carry?  Maybe some have read the novels of Patrick O'Brian , he wrote novels on seafaring during the Napoleonic and American/British wars. He describes the food getting worse and worse the further the ship travelled out to sea with all the good things going first...fresh bread, cheese, greens and that's just for the officers. There's a TV cookery programme here somewhere. Grin
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Delmonico
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2015, 08:05:44 pm »

Wouldn't be that hard considering the simple meals, you only have a dozen or so to cook for.   I handle 3 meals a day for 20 or so all the time, much fancier food, but then I don't have to move a wagon.   



Ya only want supper I can handle about 70 with our with out a helper, but I'm adding larger ovens so by summer it could be 100.   






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Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
dusty texian
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« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2015, 08:33:03 pm »

Dang Dell. nobody can call you a belly cheater!  Sounds like you got that down patt!!!! DT
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Delmonico
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« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2015, 08:47:42 pm »

Dang Dell. nobody can call you a belly cheater!  Sounds like you got that down patt!!!! DT

Been doing it close to 30 years.   And it ain't just beans and biscuits either.   Have even done pizza for people that ask nice.    Grin




First rule of cooking, doubling the amount of people your are feeding in no way even comes close to doubling the amount of work.   
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Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
Delmonico
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« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2015, 08:50:44 pm »

2 inches of rain in the night can be worked past.

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Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
dwight55
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« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2015, 09:05:04 pm »

Whoa, . . . I didn't expect to see all that, . . .

As THE rocker would say, Thank yuh, . .  . thank yuh, . . . thank yuh vurry much.

AND, . . . now I gotta go and get me another Dutch oven (or 3...........)

Seriously, . . . thank you very much to all who responded.

May God bless,
Dwight
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Delmonico
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« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2015, 09:20:57 pm »

Breakfast for about 20 at the Grand Army of the Frontier Muster last June, near Sargent Nebraska, 20 inch oven with 4 pounds of sausage and a bunch of milk in the gravy, 14" shallow of biscuits done and a 16" about ready to pull.

Anyone wants to learn the down and dirty of cooking for a bunch in dutch ovens, the Barracks has the dates, free camping and meals for anyone wants to learn, wood cooking only, none of them Kingsford things the yuppies use on their patios.   

 


Looking for a place to do weekend teaching for larger groups by next summer, but for those there will be a fee, the folks at the Muster cover my expenses for that trip.
 
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Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
Shotgun Franklin
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« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2015, 07:21:43 pm »

If I had lived along a Cattle Trail I'd have cooked and kept stuff to sell to'm as they passed. I'm betting there were those that did this.
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Delmonico
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« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2015, 08:17:05 pm »

If I had lived along a Cattle Trail I'd have cooked and kept stuff to sell to'm as they passed. I'm betting there were those that did this.

You better read your history, there were very few who lived along the cattle trails, they had to keep moving them further west because people settled on the land and that caused many problems, but that is a whole 'nuther story. 
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Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
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« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2015, 08:34:40 pm »

Also, the herds couldn't all go up the same exact trail, because there wouldn't be enough grass to feed them all.
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Delmonico
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« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2015, 08:42:18 pm »

If it wasn't that way they'd have kept running them into Sediala Missouri and saved a lot of miles.   

 
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Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

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River City John
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« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2015, 11:29:55 am »

If I had lived along a Cattle Trail I'd have cooked and kept stuff to sell to'm as they passed. I'm betting there were those that did this.

Read up on the Road Ranches along the Oregon Trail, the Nebraska Cut-off trail, etc.
Also Sutlers and Merchants at various posts along those trails. St. Louis was a huge outfitter base for wagon trains moving west.

But, Road Ranches set up to accommodate homesteaders and pioneers moving westward (or those gone busted moving back eastward . . .) would be the closest in concept of what you're talking about.


RCJ
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« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2015, 11:49:51 am »

Delmonico,
when does the book you've written on 19th Century Cosie Cooking go to press?

It should be about ready.

RCJ
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« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2015, 12:15:34 pm »

Delmonico,
when does the book you've written on 19th Century Cosie Cooking go to press?

It should be about ready.

RCJ

Plan is by next Christmas, I need some more pictures also.
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Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
Delmonico
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« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2015, 12:16:41 pm »

Read up on the Road Ranches along the Oregon Trail, the Nebraska Cut-off trail, etc.
Also Sutlers and Merchants at various posts along those trails. St. Louis was a huge outfitter base for wagon trains moving west.

But, Road Ranches set up to accommodate homesteaders and pioneers moving westward (or those gone busted moving back eastward . . .) would be the closest in concept of what you're talking about.


RCJ

Yeah, whole different deal there, on the cattle trails there wasn't much between Doan's Store and the RR.
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Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

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« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2015, 01:24:46 pm »

Del said; "If it wasn't that way they'd have kept running them into Sediala Missouri and saved a lot of miles."

One of the reasons that the cattle trails changed was that Texas cattle became very unpopular with local farmers due to disease. Local bans were one of the reasons that the cattle drovers had to do a left flanking on the sodbusters to reach a rail-head.

Lots of articles show up on google, but here is one;

http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/T/TE022.html

Feed along the trail was very important. Historically, the Camino Real in Spain was meant to be a conduit for livestock to be driven to market, but became virtually a desert.

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« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2015, 02:29:24 pm »

Also, If you are Homesteading, Farm or Ranch, you didn't want range cattle feeding on the graze and or croups you might need to put up for your own stock, especially during the winter months.
Many of the trail herds had to skirt the paths of previous herd by several miles just to find enough graze for their cattle.
My best,
 Blair 
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