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Sheep Camps – A Home on Wheels

Shirley Kelly
Glade Park, Colo.

Back before ranch hands drove out in pickup trucks to check their livestock, sheepherders stayed with the animals they tended.

For months at a time, they called home an 11-by-6-foot covered sheep wagon. Inside, the sheepherder could find a bunk to sleep on, a basin to wash in and a stove for brewing a hot cup of coffee and a meal at the end of a long weary day. This sheep camp was a necessity for survival.

That is not the case today. Driven by nostalgia, they are used in cow camps, sheep camps and also on dude ranches for tourists, who love to stay a night in an original shepherd’s wagon. They are also used for hunters in the fall and winter and sometimes, just a place for the grandkids to camp in for a day of fishing.

In comes Gary Kroft who restores these classics, as well as his latest venture, chuck wagons, which he restores in a workshop behind his house. “I really enjoy taking something that’s actually junk and building it into something really nice,” says Gary, who works alongside his wife Marilyn.

The former Nebraska farm boy got his first sheep wagon in 1966. His family raised sheep on their farm and took trips to Wyoming to buy feeder lambs. On one of those trips a solitary shepherd made a lasting impression that lay dormant for years.

The couple shared a love of antiques and began buying old carriages and sleighs that Gary restored, including a horseless carriage. Very soon after, that seed planted long ago in Wyoming began to blossom. Gary’s first sheep wagon restoration was a decayed ruin which he rescued from a camp in Wyoming.

“When we first saw these wrecks, I thought it simply could not be done,” says Marilyn. They had been out in the weather for years. With Marilyn’s help, Gary set about putting flesh on old bones. The first restoration took 100 hours.

Now Gary puts in about 70 hours to build the new sheep camps from axles up and about 125 for restoring the old ones. His latest passion has been restoring chuck wagons or building them new. In both cases, the wheels are made or restored as wooden wheels or rubber tires, but now regular truck tires are put on the more modern sheep wagons, as they are easier to haul into camps and along highways. Wooden wheels in this day and age would not tolerate the highways and roads of modern times.

The more modern sheep wagons are adapted with air conditioning, solar heat, refrigerator and gas burning stove and even a flat screen TV. If you want the original or a modern version Gary can build it. Marilyn decorates the inside with older nostalgic sheep wagon items, and some basic groceries that were used in sheep camps many years ago, such as coffee, flour, canned milk, beans and sugar.

Gary and Marilyn entered their first hard top sheep wagon contest in 2007 in Hotchiss, Colo., and won first place in the antique sheep wagon contest and also got the peoples choice award. Since then they have won many awards for their sheep camps and chuck wagons. Maybe in your imagination you can go back a hundred years or more and see yourself in one of those cozy sheep camps or even being on a cattle drive with the chuck wagon as the main source of living on the trails for several months.

Back before ranch hands drove out in pickup trucks to check their livestock, sheepherders stayed with the animals they tended.

For months at a time, they called home an 11-by-6-foot covered sheep wagon. Inside, the sheepherder could find a bunk to sleep on, a basin to wash in and a stove for brewing a hot cup of coffee and a meal at the end of a long weary day. This sheep camp was a necessity for survival.

That is not the case today. Driven by nostalgia, they are used in cow camps, sheep camps and also on dude ranches for tourists, who love to stay a night in an original shepherd’s wagon. They are also used for hunters in the fall and winter and sometimes, just a place for the grandkids to camp in for a day of fishing.

In comes Gary Kroft who restores these classics, as well as his latest venture, chuck wagons, which he restores in a workshop behind his house. “I really enjoy taking something that’s actually junk and building it into something really nice,” says Gary, who works alongside his wife Marilyn.

The former Nebraska farm boy got his first sheep wagon in 1966. His family raised sheep on their farm and took trips to Wyoming to buy feeder lambs. On one of those trips a solitary shepherd made a lasting impression that lay dormant for years.

The couple shared a love of antiques and began buying old carriages and sleighs that Gary restored, including a horseless carriage. Very soon after, that seed planted long ago in Wyoming began to blossom. Gary’s first sheep wagon restoration was a decayed ruin which he rescued from a camp in Wyoming.

“When we first saw these wrecks, I thought it simply could not be done,” says Marilyn. They had been out in the weather for years. With Marilyn’s help, Gary set about putting flesh on old bones. The first restoration took 100 hours.

Now Gary puts in about 70 hours to build the new sheep camps from axles up and about 125 for restoring the old ones. His latest passion has been restoring chuck wagons or building them new. In both cases, the wheels are made or restored as wooden wheels or rubber tires, but now regular truck tires are put on the more modern sheep wagons, as they are easier to haul into camps and along highways. Wooden wheels in this day and age would not tolerate the highways and roads of modern times.

The more modern sheep wagons are adapted with air conditioning, solar heat, refrigerator and gas burning stove and even a flat screen TV. If you want the original or a modern version Gary can build it. Marilyn decorates the inside with older nostalgic sheep wagon items, and some basic groceries that were used in sheep camps many years ago, such as coffee, flour, canned milk, beans and sugar.

Gary and Marilyn entered their first hard top sheep wagon contest in 2007 in Hotchiss, Colo., and won first place in the antique sheep wagon contest and also got the peoples choice award. Since then they have won many awards for their sheep camps and chuck wagons. Maybe in your imagination you can go back a hundred years or more and see yourself in one of those cozy sheep camps or even being on a cattle drive with the chuck wagon as the main source of living on the trails for several months.

Back before ranch hands drove out in pickup trucks to check their livestock, sheepherders stayed with the animals they tended.

For months at a time, they called home an 11-by-6-foot covered sheep wagon. Inside, the sheepherder could find a bunk to sleep on, a basin to wash in and a stove for brewing a hot cup of coffee and a meal at the end of a long weary day. This sheep camp was a necessity for survival.

That is not the case today. Driven by nostalgia, they are used in cow camps, sheep camps and also on dude ranches for tourists, who love to stay a night in an original shepherd’s wagon. They are also used for hunters in the fall and winter and sometimes, just a place for the grandkids to camp in for a day of fishing.

In comes Gary Kroft who restores these classics, as well as his latest venture, chuck wagons, which he restores in a workshop behind his house. “I really enjoy taking something that’s actually junk and building it into something really nice,” says Gary, who works alongside his wife Marilyn.

The former Nebraska farm boy got his first sheep wagon in 1966. His family raised sheep on their farm and took trips to Wyoming to buy feeder lambs. On one of those trips a solitary shepherd made a lasting impression that lay dormant for years.

The couple shared a love of antiques and began buying old carriages and sleighs that Gary restored, including a horseless carriage. Very soon after, that seed planted long ago in Wyoming began to blossom. Gary’s first sheep wagon restoration was a decayed ruin which he rescued from a camp in Wyoming.

“When we first saw these wrecks, I thought it simply could not be done,” says Marilyn. They had been out in the weather for years. With Marilyn’s help, Gary set about putting flesh on old bones. The first restoration took 100 hours.

Now Gary puts in about 70 hours to build the new sheep camps from axles up and about 125 for restoring the old ones. His latest passion has been restoring chuck wagons or building them new. In both cases, the wheels are made or restored as wooden wheels or rubber tires, but now regular truck tires are put on the more modern sheep wagons, as they are easier to haul into camps and along highways. Wooden wheels in this day and age would not tolerate the highways and roads of modern times.

The more modern sheep wagons are adapted with air conditioning, solar heat, refrigerator and gas burning stove and even a flat screen TV. If you want the original or a modern version Gary can build it. Marilyn decorates the inside with older nostalgic sheep wagon items, and some basic groceries that were used in sheep camps many years ago, such as coffee, flour, canned milk, beans and sugar.

Gary and Marilyn entered their first hard top sheep wagon contest in 2007 in Hotchiss, Colo., and won first place in the antique sheep wagon contest and also got the peoples choice award. Since then they have won many awards for their sheep camps and chuck wagons. Maybe in your imagination you can go back a hundred years or more and see yourself in one of those cozy sheep camps or even being on a cattle drive with the chuck wagon as the main source of living on the trails for several months.

Back before ranch hands drove out in pickup trucks to check their livestock, sheepherders stayed with the animals they tended.

For months at a time, they called home an 11-by-6-foot covered sheep wagon. Inside, the sheepherder could find a bunk to sleep on, a basin to wash in and a stove for brewing a hot cup of coffee and a meal at the end of a long weary day. This sheep camp was a necessity for survival.

That is not the case today. Driven by nostalgia, they are used in cow camps, sheep camps and also on dude ranches for tourists, who love to stay a night in an original shepherd’s wagon. They are also used for hunters in the fall and winter and sometimes, just a place for the grandkids to camp in for a day of fishing.

In comes Gary Kroft who restores these classics, as well as his latest venture, chuck wagons, which he restores in a workshop behind his house. “I really enjoy taking something that’s actually junk and building it into something really nice,” says Gary, who works alongside his wife Marilyn.

The former Nebraska farm boy got his first sheep wagon in 1966. His family raised sheep on their farm and took trips to Wyoming to buy feeder lambs. On one of those trips a solitary shepherd made a lasting impression that lay dormant for years.

The couple shared a love of antiques and began buying old carriages and sleighs that Gary restored, including a horseless carriage. Very soon after, that seed planted long ago in Wyoming began to blossom. Gary’s first sheep wagon restoration was a decayed ruin which he rescued from a camp in Wyoming.

“When we first saw these wrecks, I thought it simply could not be done,” says Marilyn. They had been out in the weather for years. With Marilyn’s help, Gary set about putting flesh on old bones. The first restoration took 100 hours.

Now Gary puts in about 70 hours to build the new sheep camps from axles up and about 125 for restoring the old ones. His latest passion has been restoring chuck wagons or building them new. In both cases, the wheels are made or restored as wooden wheels or rubber tires, but now regular truck tires are put on the more modern sheep wagons, as they are easier to haul into camps and along highways. Wooden wheels in this day and age would not tolerate the highways and roads of modern times.

The more modern sheep wagons are adapted with air conditioning, solar heat, refrigerator and gas burning stove and even a flat screen TV. If you want the original or a modern version Gary can build it. Marilyn decorates the inside with older nostalgic sheep wagon items, and some basic groceries that were used in sheep camps many years ago, such as coffee, flour, canned milk, beans and sugar.

Gary and Marilyn entered their first hard top sheep wagon contest in 2007 in Hotchiss, Colo., and won first place in the antique sheep wagon contest and also got the peoples choice award. Since then they have won many awards for their sheep camps and chuck wagons. Maybe in your imagination you can go back a hundred years or more and see yourself in one of those cozy sheep camps or even being on a cattle drive with the chuck wagon as the main source of living on the trails for several months.


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