Textures are revealed within the grain of the 80+ year old weathered wood. The Old Buck wagon is holding a place of honor (in his mind) a mile out from our homestead in our “boneyard”. It shares residence there with a host of other ranch utilitarian items deemed too important a resource to bury. The custom of the early days of pioneering in this country was typically to toss broken / un-fixable things into a nearby gully and call it good. Cracked cast iron with a mix of glass bottles in the mix. Some of the latter I do find intact from a known 1930’s homestead long since gone.
I’ve found abandoned two track roads leading to collapsed dug out houses in this country. Many have come before us in this high harsh ridge line environment. Life is easier down in the river valleys. Land was relatively free far from the electric grid and telephone in this remote high ground in the backcountry of Wyotana. Wagons as this were a critical technology that provided a lifeline to civilization. Providing ultimately all the products broken and discarded into the aforementioned nearby gully.
These wheels turned until they didn’t. Existing parked here a decade of decades. Now cattle rub against it, eventually breaking each and every piece of this historic relic. Living on a ranch in a semi-arid “steppe” environment preserves wood. Living with cattle on the ranch, destroys wood. The steel fittings last on. Wood to dust, steel to rust is the way of things.
Oh the stories this old Buck Wagon would tell if it could only communicate. This ranch settled in 1906, apparently everyone stayed in tents for the first 3 years. So goes the lore. I wonder how many trips to “town” carrying freight this old truck of the day made.
History tells us settlers purchased sugar more often than any other single product. Sugar used in cooking and baking certainly, but large quantities of it were necessary for preserving fresh seasonal produce in the days before refrigeration. Salt too. Canned goods were certainly purchased in some quantity. Women who used canned goods were often looked down upon . Judged by those 90 percent of the others that did their own canning at home. Other complained cans gave the food a “tinny” taste. Salt, feed for the stock, fabrics for the gals and blue jeans for the men were all passengers on these worn wheels.
I understand that this particular region far away from the next closest “big town” That would be Gillette Wyoming. In 1891, Gillette was founded. The coming of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was the start.. Called “Donkey City” or “RockPile” at the time, Gillette I’m sure was quite a place. Population of the 70 mile distant town in 1910 was 511 souls. A trip 70 miles by open wagon would take a few days with overnights on the trail. Meanwhile up in Wyotana, 2 “General” stores were located right at 15 miles distant. Facilitating the trip with a team of horses the rancher did. All strapped to the front of this old buck wagon. Certainly it would be a long day trip on the open wagon.
I went to Gillette two weeks ago (now as this posts) to deliver ammunition to a local gun store. (as I build such under Federal License) Heading back from ONLY the gun store and a fast food joint….. Any how I had a stash of McDonalds Double Cheese burgers (perfect for freezer implantation for later) in the back seat under a coat. (Somethings you don’t want to go through a global pandemic without ). All warm and snug there there were .
.So I had the bright Idea of taking a backroad loop I had never been on before on the way home. It’s was a 50+ mile addition to my 70 mile trip home (burgers were fine). They were still pretty warm as the down coat was effective as an insulator. That and the back seat heat vent driving with the windows open lolol. I digress….
So I’m driving along in undiscovered country with ranch names I’ve heard of but never seen before. Most roads in this country parallel drainage. Certainly crossing small creeks presented engineers with various problems. I was going 45 (which is the gravel road speed limit). Driving past the small groups of Pronghorn and mule deer . I didn’t see any White Tail or Elk on this drive. Moving along to actually cover a lot of ground. Saw this…I tried to lock up all 4 wheels but the antilock breaks got in the way again. I’m a purist and really enjoy simple cars with real feedback but that’s another narrative…..
Anyway, this scene stood out like a diamond in a very late brown season rough. The old roadway paralleled the existing road for hundreds of feed only to cross at this point. SOMEONE was the last personal to drive a vehicle over that thing. A student of water flow and drainage, I imagine , how many spring floods or flash floods from a summer thunderstorm this old infrastructure project has stood up to. Still here!
Routing: Random… Basically, drive 30 miles north of Gillette. Turn right at Weston… drive 30 miles out of my way, turn left 30 miles, turn left 30 miles…. (Basically my itinerary for this trip) lolol.
Location: Heald Road, Campbell County Wyoming. 30 miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana)