Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Texas Cowboy

Glenn Moreland of Texas Cowboy Outfitters is the epitome of a Texas cowboy.  Focused and friendly, his tall, lanky frame is accented by a warm smile and easy way of moving.  Glenn not only knows his way around cattle and wagons but is quite a cowboy musician as well.  Located in historic Fort Davis, Texas, he and his wife Patty are well-known in the wagon community.  From his quality woodwork to traditional blacksmithing, we’re pleased to highlight some of his work in our blog.  Below are a few questions we recently posed to him. 

Can you give us an overview of the primary work you do at Texas Cowboy Outfitters?   
“I’m involved a wide range of work including the complete restoration of horse drawn equipment.  I also repair a fair number of wagon wheels and build new wheels. The most common vehicles I work on are chuck wagons. It’s not unusual for a wagon to be missing some hardware like brake handles and other metal work.  My experience as a blacksmith allows me to reproduce parts in a manner consistent with the original design.”


You’ve been doing this for some time now.  How did you get started?     

“Fresh out of college I had a job as a cattle inspector. I saw a lot of wagons going to ruin so I started collecting them. This was about 1971. I tinkered with them for years and then made it a full time business about 1995.”

During all that time you’ve been involved with a number of vehicle projects.  Which ones do you consider to be the most significant?

“I guess the most significant accomplishments I’ve had the privilege of being a part of are the restorations for different museums. Last year, I restored a Newton brand wagon into an 1880’s trail wagon with all the items needed to go up the trail. This was for the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in Cuero Texas. I did a chuck wagon and a Chihuahua two-wheeled freight cart for the Museum of the Big Bend, Alpine Texas. Another interesting project was a Prairie schooner scene for the Harrison County Museum in Marshall, Texas.”  

What's the most memorable vehicle that you've been involved with?

“Most projects are memorable at the time. The Chihuahua cart was a challenge. I actually felled the cottonwood trees and hand-hewed the parts to fit.  Another interesting set of wheels was a chuck wagon that went to Australia. It had roller bearings in wooden hubs.  All of the wood had to be new for it to clear customs in Australia.”

What are some of the things you’re working on now?
“I'm restoring a Springfield wagon right now.  I also have an assortment of wheels I’m repairing and other blacksmithing jobs, including one where I’m making the chain for an old drag shoe. When I’m finished with the Springfield, it will have new rear wheels as well as a new bed, seat, chuck box, and oven boot. Next in line is a Weber brand wagon that will also be made into a chuck wagon.”  
Of all the old makers, is there one brand that you tend to gravitate toward? 

“My favorite wagon is an Owensboro since I've had one for 42 years.  It was originally a Texas Edition Cotton wagon.  I’m also partial to Peter Schuttler wagons.”

Just one more question and we’ll let you get back to work…  What is it that you enjoy most about the work you do?               

“You meet a lot of nice people in this business. It’s rewarding seeing something you built being preserved in a museum. I enjoy working with wood and metal.  Working on wagons allows me to do both.  The November 2013 issue of Western Horseman magazine has an article about my work as well.”

Thanks to Glenn and Patty Moreland for their time and assistance with this interview.  You can learn more about their work by visiting their website at  Next week, we’ll take a brief break from the interviews and share a few details related to a rare set of wheels in the Wheels That Won The West® vehicle collection. 

By the way…  If you haven’t signed up to receive this weekly blog via email, just type in your address in the “Follow By Email” section above.  You’ll receive a confirmation email that you’ll need to verify before you’re officially on board.  Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of assistance.  We’re looking forward to your visits each week.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Western Vehicles in South Dakota

When it comes to the restoration, conservation, and re-creation of early western vehicles, Doug Hansen and his team of craftsmen in Letcher, South Dakota are among those often mentioned.  I’ve had the privilege of visiting Doug’s place several times and am always impressed with the diversity of vehicles on site and the quality he turns out.  If you enjoy the heritage of the early American West, Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop gets you up close and personal with some of the most legendary surviving wheels from that era.
In keeping with a series of interviews we’ve been doing for our Wheels That Won The West® Archives, we asked Doug to share some thoughts on his company and the vehicles they work with. 
Can you give us an overview of the primary work you do at Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop?

“We specialize in heavy & western horse-drawn vehicles, and focus on historic replication of these vehicles, along with authentic restoration and conservation work. We also offer wheel repair, as we can build or restore nearly any kind of wooden-spoke wheel. Another key component of our business is the retail side, supplying wagon components, and wheels etc. to enthusiasts around the world.” 

Doug and Holly Hansen of Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop

It’s always interesting to learn how folks got started in any business.  What’s the background to your story?   
“Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop started as a hobby, which grew into a passion, and eventually a full-fledged business. My family was a key element in offering me fertile ground to grow my passion. I gained a lot of my interest in horses and buggies from my mother (a saddle maker), and grandfather (farmer, blacksmith).  My father was helpful as well by providing me access to his work shop & skills. My mother had collected several buggies which she had purchased at auctions & called on me to help with the restoration. My grandfather had worked in his uncle's blacksmith shop and had some great pointers on the art of the wheelwright and blacksmithing. He also was quite a hand with mules and horses and introduced me to driving as well. This proved very helpful in allowing me to fully understand all aspects of the trade. 
Eventually word of mouth spread and, as I continued my research, I became increasingly busy restoring neighbors' and acquaintances' horse-drawn vehicles. I saw this as a way to make a full-time career out of my growing interest in and passion for preserving history through these horse-drawn vehicles. Thus, Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop was started in 1978 in an old Depot building I moved to our location on the west bluffs of the James River just north of Mitchell, South Dakota.  My wife Holly and I have grown our business over the years as we built chuck wagons, hitch wagons, stagecoaches, and restored vehicles of all varieties. I’m often asked how I was trained in the field and my best answer to this is; I was driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Pursuing understanding, I embarked on a self-taught journey, with very limited written resources, searching out tidbits of information along the way. But in reality I studied under the old masters of the trade, not literally in person, but by example: as I have studied, dissected and analyzed their work for over 35 years.”

Replica 1840 linch pin Prairie Schooner

Over that time period, you’ve worked on a lot of different vehicles.  What do you consider your most significant accomplishment in your business?  

“I think that would have to be our ability to embody the authentic and original elements of design, and implementing those elements as we work to restore, replicate and conserve the historic integrity of these unique, wheeled vehicles of the past. Capturing the essence of design, function, and technology held so close by the craftsmen of old has made a profound impact on our success.”

What's the most memorable vehicle that you've been involved with?
“Wow! That’s a tough question as there are so many vehicles steeped in rich history. If I were to say what vehicles I have learned the most from, it is the original concord coaches that we have restored. We have found signatures, dates, details in construction processes, methods, etc.           

I’ve developed a deep respect for the industry of horse drawn vehicle manufacturing. The people behind it were every bit as talented, educated and gifted as any in the present transportation industry. The craftsmen, engineers, designers and marketers developed some of the most intricately handsome, stylish and enduring vehicles that played such a dynamic role in developing our nation.” 

Doug Hansen driving Jim Patrick's Peter Schuttler chuck wagon during
 a buffalo hunt reenactment 

Your shop always seems to be full of interesting projects.  What are some of the things you’re working on now? 

“Current and upcoming shop projects include: restoration of a 2-seat mountain spring wagon, conservation of a historic Henderson mud wagon from Santa Barbara, California, restoration of an original Yosemite coach, a Schooner for the California Trail Museum, a replica Banning Concord Coach, one of 3 made by the Wilmington wagon factory. 

We just recently completed a newly constructed 5th wheel covered wagon. Currently we are working on restoring both an oil & a water wagon. We have several buggies and light wagons in for repairs, along with a few chuck wagons. Most notably we have five stagecoaches on our schedule in the next year for new construction or restoration work.” 

Doug Hansen driving his restored mud wagon during a historical reenactment

There are a number of similarities between the marketing and advertising of vehicle companies in the 1800’s and those of today.  Not the least of which are the efforts to create and strengthen brand loyalty.  With that said, I’m always curious as to whether a person has a favorite early vehicle brand?

“Sorry but I do not have just one… Peter Schuttler for their design and quality which continued throughout the wagon making era, Abbot-Downing for their famous Concord Coaches, and MP Henderson for their great western vehicles.”
Replica of M.P. Henderson mud wagon circa 1870

Interesting; Just one more question before we let you go back to the shop… What is it that you enjoy most about the work you do?        

“I feel like I am an explorer discovering the lost world, kind of like the Indiana Jones of wagon archeologists. Really, not a day goes by without making some discovery. My passion to fully understand this lost art & era is nourished by the new knowledge I recover daily. Another great aspect is the relationships that have developed from this quest. I’ve met so many great people on this journey and enjoy sharing this interest.” 

Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop Team

Special thanks to Doug and the entire crew at Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop for sharing some the behind-the-scenes details of their business.
Finally, for those waiting on an answer for our October 9th blog post, “Name That Vehicle,” the set of wheels we highlighted was built by Studebaker and called an “Arizona buckboard.”  We chose that image to illustrate the point that vehicles often had numerous variations made to their designs, sometimes making them a bit more challenging to immediately identify.  Congratulations to Doug Hansen as he emailed with the correct answer.  Reviewing these pieces makes for interesting discussions as well as opportunities to learn more about America's early western vehicle industry.  As a result, we’ll make it a point to share a few others from time to time. 

By the way…  If you haven’t signed up to receive this weekly blog via email, just type in your address in the “Follow By Email” section above.  You’ll receive a confirmation email that you’ll need to verify before you’re officially on board.  Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of assistance.  We’re looking forward to your visits each week.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lost a Schuttler - Gained a Friend

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know quite a few folks with similar interests in early western vehicles.  Just as we’re often asked about the Wheels That Won The West® story, many others also have intriguing backgrounds to share.  In this first of several brief interviews, we thought we’d highlight a few more folks that regularly work to keep this part of America’s past alive and well.

The first time I met Kathy Christensen of Midwest Buggy (Lockney, Texas), was at an auction in Arkansas.  We were locked in a mini bidding war, vying for the privilege of owning an old, dusty, and paint-less Peter Schuttler wagon.  As the bidding wore on, I wondered, ‘Who is this lady and why doesn’t she stop bidding?’  Ha!  She ended up with the wagon and I’m glad she did.  It gave me a chance to find out just who that Texan was and what she was up to. 
Kathy and I quickly become friends and I never cease to be amazed at the good wagons she finds and brings back to life.  Her commitment to the American Chuck Wagon Association goes far beyond the wagon and cooking competitions as she’s worked tirelessly behind the scenes of the organization for years.  With that as a brief backdrop, we asked Kathy a few questions about her business and vehicle interests below. 

Kathy, can you give us a little insight into the primary focus of your business?
My business is more of a hobby, because I love what I do.  I enjoy restoring wagons and making some into chuck wagons.  It’s a good feeling to see the finished product.

How did you get started?
I started into the business with my interest in buggies.  I started collecting and working on buggies many years ago.  When I moved to Texas, I was introduced to the chuck wagon…I was hooked. 

What do you consider your most significant accomplishment with this hobby/business?
If I’ve accomplished anything, it’s been saving wagons.  I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to introduce youth to wagons and chuck wagon cooking.

What's the most memorable vehicle (or part) that you've found or worked on?
The most memorable vehicle was a Rhodes wagon.  With the help of David Sneed, he identified the make and history of this wagon for me. 

What are some of the projects you currently have in your shop?
I’m currently making a great Newton wagon into a chuck wagon.  I’ve cleaned and colored a New Stoughton wagon which will be the next chuck wagon.  Scheduled, is a chuck wagon to color and detail.  If I get caught up, I hope to return to the restoration of an old sheepherder wagon.  (Editor’s Note:  I’ve seen part of her initial work on this sheep camp wagon and can’t wait to see it finished!)

What's your favorite early vehicle brand and why?
My favorite wagon is a Bain, probably because it was my first chuck wagon and I still own it.  I haven’t competed in chuck wagon cooking competitions for several years with the Bain.  I will be using it in 2014.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
The best part of working on wagons for me has been meeting great people and making wonderful, long lasting friendships.

I’m thankful to Kathy and the others we’re interviewing for sharing part of their story.  Ultimately, these enthusiasts are among a great group of folks continually promoting one of the most historical parts of the American West.  Their commitment to rescuing and sharing history will be felt for generations to come.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Name That Vehicle

Whether we’re talkin’ broughams, cabriolets, phaetons, buggies, driving wagons, or any number of carriage styles, the subject of horse drawn vehicles can become easily muddied with the sheer diversity of descriptive labels.  In similar fashion, the names of wagons and western vehicles can also be a bit perplexing from time to time.  As proof of that statement, consider the fact that the term ‘Concord’ was used to promote both heavy and lighter stage coach designs.  A ‘Mountain wagon’ can relate to two totally different types of conveyances, each used in the West.  A Dearborn and Jersey wagon share numerous similarities.  And while a ‘Road wagon’ can refer to a mid-sized, dead-axle freight wagon, it can also accurately describe a light buggy set on springs.  Individually and collectively, it all can add up to a passel of confusion.

Further emphasizing the challenges with names, some vehicle monikers are regional in nature and others carry titles applied predominantly by the maker.  One of the places that can help clear up some of the confusion is the original literature, itself.  With that in mind, we thought we’d share an illustration from the Wheels That Won The West® archives.  Take a look at the image above.  Can you name this style of vehicle?  I’ll give a couple of hints.  It’s a plate from a major maker and the vehicle name was aligned with the southwest region of the U.S.   Drop us a line if you believe you have the answer.  We’ll give credit to any correct answers received prior to next week’s blog post.  Good luck.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mountain View Chuck Wagons

I had the privilege of attending another ACWA Chuck Wagon competition this past weekend.  With the beautiful Ozark Mountains and changing fall colors as the backdrop, there was a strong public turnout for this event in Mountain View, Arkansas.  Legendary wagon brands like John Deere, Newton, Mandt, Weber, and Peter Schuttler were set up with crews feeding hundreds of enthusiastic attendees.

Donnie & Jo Daniels, Running D Wagon
Not only was it a great opportunity to showcase America’s unique western heritage but, anytime there’s a gathering of vintage wagons, it’s also a good chance to learn about these vehicles.  Whether we’re evaluating a vehicle’s competitive strengths or simply talking to the owners about the history of a specific wagon, there’s always plenty to explore on these unique wheels.
Jerry Maxwell, Cow Camp Wagon
The wagon crews were judged on a variety of fronts including their Dutch oven preparation of bread, beans, meat, potatoes, and dessert, as well as separate evaluations of the wagons.  Competitors came from as far away as Iowa and Georgia as well as an equally strong contingent of wagons from Arkansas.
Tom Elliott with Cheryle, Jamie, and Cody, Bar-E Wagon
When it comes to top honors, the Running D camp, headed up by Donnie and Jo Daniels of Harrison, Arkansas, took home first place for their meat as well as beans.  The Prairie Mills crew, from Iowa, took the top position for potatoes and bread.  The winning dessert was awarded to Ozark Bull Whackers of Beebe, Arkansas while Tom Elliott and the Bar-E crew from Clinton, Arkansas earned top honors with their wagon.  The overall award went to Ozark Bull Whackers.

Arlin Sigmon, Prairie Mills Wagon
We had a good time with the participants and would like to congratulate all of the competitors and winners.