Green River Drift Chuckwagon
compiled by Jonita Sommers
The Upper Green River Cattle and Horse Growers Association,
known today as the Upper Green River Cattle Association, acquired this
Peter-Shutler Chuckwagon some time after 1916 and before 1926. This
wagon was like new when Joe Murdock rode fore the Association in 1926 but
was a different chuckwagon than the one used in 1916.
A cart was used used to pull the stove behind the chuckwagon starting
in 1928. After 1930, Rex Wardell always had a shelf under the cart
to carry the branding irons. A team of Olson's mules and a team of
horses named Peaches and Cream, which were purchased from May McAlister
Sommers by the Association, were used to pull the chuckwagon and cart.
The cowboys branded the chuckwagon and salt cabin in Fish Creek Park where
they were camped after they finished branding the calves in 1932.
Many of the cowboys who rode for the Association carved their initials
into the hard wood on the chuckwagon. The carvings and brands can
be seen on the underside of this chuckwagon. Rubber tires were put
o the cart in 1940.
Green River Drift Chuckwagon displayed at GRVM
Starting in 1938, different horses were used to pull the
chuckwagon. L.H.Hennick and Arnold Olson donated one horse each while
Nels Jorgensen donated two horses. The team in 1939 was two horses
f rom George Jorgensen and one from Arnold Olson and Olaf Polson.
James Jorgensen supplied two horses for the team in 1940 while R.L. Miller
and Olaf Polson each supplied one horse. James and George Jorgensen
donated the horses to pull the chuckwagon from 1944 through 1946.
In 1946, Olson's jeep was used along with the chuckwagon
to move the camp. The chuckwagon was not used in 1947 to move the
camp for the cowboys. Rex Wardell used an Army truck which was driven
by Max Orgill because he was the only one who could drive a behicle.
In 1948, rubber tires were put on the running gears of the chuckwagon,
and it was pulled by Rex Wardell's jeep from 1948 through 1955.
A chuckwagon was used to haul the food or grub
for the cowboys, their bedding and any other equipment needed for everyday
use in cow camp. The big portions of the food, cooking utensils,
bedding and equipment were hauled in the wagon box. The cupboard
was just that. It had the plaes, utensils, spices and anything that
was used for every meal. It was the cook's kitchen.
The chuckwagon was retired in 1956 and motorized
vehicles were used exclusively. Frank Steele sold the running gears
to Carl Jorgensen for $20. The box of the wagon set by the coral
at the Bend cow camp, and the mess box or cupboard hung on the wall of
the cow camp cabin at the Bend. During the fall of 1975, Joe Murdock
gathered up all of the pieces of the old chuckwagon and restored it.
He entered it in the Fourth of July Chuckwagon Days Bicentennial Parade
in 1976. Joe Card, one of the Association's foremen, drove it while
Pete Olson, Bud and Jonita Sommers rode in the parade with it.
Chuckwagon on the desert in the 1930's with Rex Wardell and Joe
Courtesy of Roy Steele
Green River Drift
compiled by Jonita and Albert Sommers
The Upper Green River Cattle Association is the largest
of its kind in the United States. In the spring of 2002, there
were 7598 head of cattle being run by 14 ranchers on 168,000+ acres pf
BLM land, which included portions of the Little Colorado Desert, the Mesa,
the Soapholes, and areas north of the Cora Y. The cattle are moved
to the Upper Green River Cattle Allotment, which is 127,000 acres on the
Bridger Teton Nation Forest. The entire trip takes at least three
weeks to complete with the cows traveling up to 75 miles to reach their
summer range. Twenty-four miles of this trip is in the Cora Stock
Driveway, which varies in width from 100 feet to about one mile.
The cattle are put into one of the four deferred or rest-rotation pasture
systems with a cowboy camped in each system. In the fall, the cattle
drift south when the first snow hits. The cattle must be sorted from
all the neighbors' cattle, and this process takes nearly a month.
Eight upper end ranchers sort their cattle at the drift fence near the
Cora Y. The rest of the cattle, which belong to five lower end ranchers,
travel another 22 miles to another cut ground near the Big Piney cutoff
The orgin of the Green River Drift probably began with
the "equalizer winter" of 1889-1890, when 90% of the cattle in the Green
River Valley winter-killed. From that time on, ranchers realized
the necessity of harvesting hay for winter use. The process of developing
hay lands required ranchers to graze cattle away from their home ranches,
so the Big Piney Roundup Association was formed. Wagons consisting
of a cook, crew and foreman were developed for different geographical regions
to handle the increase in cattle numbers in the area. The wagons
in the Upper Green River went by the names of Big Piney-Green River Roundup
Wagon, Black Butte Horse and Cattle Association, the Four Hundred Cow Association,
Green River Wagon Association, Four Hundred Club, and Big Four-Little Four
Association. There were two to four different wagons taking care
of the cattle in the area until 1916 when the Upper Green River Cattle
and Horse Growers Association was formed. The name was changed to
the Upper Green River Cattle Association in 1925.
Driving Cattle to the mountains near Black Buttes in the early
courtesy of Verla Sommers
1905 was the beginning of the end of the open range
era in the Green River Valley. That year, President Theodore Roosevelt
signed a bill which put the Department of Agriculture in charge of administering
the forest and formed the Forest Service. Byu 1906, the Forest Service
was issuing livestock grazing permits and setting grazing fees. The
initial fee was 10 cents for the first 100 head and 20 cents for each additional
hundred head. In 1914, the Forest Service requested wagons using
various geographical areas form associations for the purpose of improving
grazing management. The following year, the Grazing Section Law was
passed, which gave federal recognition to the various grazing allotments.
Governmental control over the rest of the federal land in the low country
came with the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, and permits were issued for this
land starting in 1936. In 1945, the Bureau of Land Management was
created within the Department of Interior to control this land. The
Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act was passed in 1960, which directed that
the federal lands were to be used for many different purposes. More
allotment management was brought about with the Forest and Rangeland Renewable
Resources Planning Act in 1974.
Each decade the Association has seen a change or development
which has affected the ranching industry. In the 1890's the settlers
began to fence their land and put up hay. The 1900's saw an increase
in the number of ranchers and cattle on the range. Wagons and associations
were formed throughout the valley in the 1910's, while in the 1920's these
The growing number of people in the area in the 1930's
changed the way cattle were managed. Driveways were built so the
cattle could be moved around private land. Dutch ovens were no longer
the long means for cooking food. The cook now pulled a wood stove
along with the chuckwagon. Motor vehicles were used to move the cow
camp instead of the horse-drawn wagon in the 1940's. By the 1950's,
the fencing of allotment pastures was taking place. The 1960's was
a time when water development o the range was a priority.
The era of the wagon came to an end in the 1970's,
and individual cow camps were built in each pasture system. This
meant there was no longer a cavy of horses for all the cowboys. Each
individual cowboy took care of his or her own horses and did his or her
own cooking. There was no a cook to feed all of the cowboys.
The ranchers stopped branding their calves on the open range completely.
Instead it was done on the home ranch.
The 1980's was a time when the range was divided into
different management systems, and these systems were used exclusively.
Scientific range monitoring was done in the 1990's, so the Association
could become proactive in managing the range resources. The Endangered
Species Act became a big part of the rancher's life. During the 2000's
, the Endangered Species Act is still very important when running cattle
on federal lands. Environmental analysis has to be done to update
the allotment management plans.
The chuckwagon system of managing cattle lasted for
60+ years. In 1917, a total of 13,490 head of cattle grazed the Upper
Green, and in 1920, the Association had 31 members, the most in its history.
There have been 122 members in the Association over the 86 year period.
There were 305 cowboys and 19 cooks. Zelma Wardell was the cook for
the longest time when she cook for her husband for 36 years. Rex
Wardell was the foreman for 44 years. There have only been 13 foremen
for the Association.
The conscientious effort made by the Upper Green River
Cattle Association ranchers of today and their forebearers, to maintain
and develop the range so that it is protected and productive is one of
the reasons there is a lasting legacy with a one hundred-year history of