A rolling history lesson… for the ‘whippersnappers’

Dassel couple travels, teaches with chuckwagon


Joyce Schumacher and John Hallson, of Dassel, are reliving and telling the history of the “chuckwagon”. John built his own chuckwagon and with the help of Joyce, travels to many states and serves food from their wagon. Photo contributed.


He’s not Gabby Hayes, who ran the chuckwagons for Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, John Wayne and Gene Autry, and he doesn’t utter phrases such as “Consarn it,” “young whippersnapper,” or “daggummit,” that Hayes made famous. But John Hallson, of Dassel, is reliving the history of the chuckwagon as he and Joyce Schumacher take their chuckwagon to events across the country. John has been doing this for 20 years, and Joyce has helped the past 10 years. For years, John did chuckwagon runs with friends at old west events, starting with mountain man wagons.

Their annual excursion begins in June and ends the second week in October. The furthest they have taken their chuckwagon was to Oklahoma in 2010. This was their favorite trip to a wilderness ranch in the Arbuckle Mountains where they did a cook off. “Beautiful area, wonderful people . . . plus a concert by the Dave Alexander Texas Swing Band,” said Joyce.

John did Buffalo Hunter’s Camp setups at old west events, eventually incorporating wagons into his camp. About 20 years ago he created his first small chuckwagon, and he named it “The Pretty Little Lady.” Her wheels are built for a small ranch wagon, and she is tiny and sweet, according to Joyce. They took this one to events and cook-offs in a four-state area.

Six years ago he built his new wagon from an old Webber wagon. The new Webber is called “The Mountain Man.” It has tall wheels built for hilly terrain and is just plain big and beautiful.

John restored both wagons with help from a few friends. A company called Hansen Wagon, from South Dakota, helped him rebuild the wheels. Together, John and Joyce have gathered the historically accurate accoutrements.

History of the chuckwagon


 Charles Goodnight rebuilt an army surplus Studebaker wagon to create his chuckwagon. Contributed photo


John and Joyce, with their wagons, are committed to presenting school children with a historically accurate presentation of the trail drive era. They teach about the trail drives from Texas to Kansas during the years between 1865 and 1885. The chuckwagon was drawn by oxen or mules. The wagon usually carried food, eating utensils, a water barrel, as well as tools and bed rolls, all tucked away in drawers and shelves and covered by a canvas covering. A hinged counter that folded out was used for chopping and preparing the food.

Since early 17th century England, individuals involved in the meat business referred to a lower- priced part of the beef carcass as the “chuck.”

Charles Goodnight invented the chuckwagon, a cowboy’s portable kitchen wagon used on cattle trails, in 1866. Goodnight, a former Texas Ranger, owned the first cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle, called the JA Ranch, located in the Palo Duro Canyon. Goodnight helped create one of the major cattle trails, the Goodnight-Loving Trail, which was a cattle drive route from Texas that led into eastern New Mexico and Colorado.

2016 Chuckwagon plans


Joyce and John are looking forward to their trips in 2016. Photo contributed.


This year John and Joyce plan to go back to Fort Sisseton, S.D., where they have won first place two years in a row at the Historical Festival cook-off. They also will be at Winsted for the Rendezvous, a fundraiser for the Truhaven Rescue Ranch. The Truhaven event is called the Wild West Days. Other trips will be to Barnum, a school days week in Bloomington at the River Rendezvous and a school week in Albert Lea at the Big Island Rendezvous. Their schedule is fluid and subject to additions and changes. They camp on site with authentic tents and gear.

“Yer durn tootin,” John runs a leather and bag business from home. He creates cowboy stuff from leather and other bags from canvas and dome material from the Metrodome. Joyce works part time at Ecumen Oaks and Pines in Hutchinson and also writes and works on web sites.

John and Joyce take great pride in re-enacting the days when chuckwagons were an important part in the development of this great nation. They have taken big steps to bring the dust and dirt of old cattle drives into the modern era, daggummit.

#Chuckwagon #JohnHallson #JoyceSchumacher

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