Sheep Wagon Days feature country’s first travel trailers |

Sheep Wagon Days feature country’s first travel trailers

Dan Olsen

— Illena Updike slowly cranked the handle on the butter churn in front of the East Elementary School children visiting Sheep Wagon Days at the Wyman Museum.

“This churn is 50 years old, and my mother in law used it to make butter,” Updike said. “You dump the mixture into a pan, and then pour off the buttermilk. What’s left is butter.”

Updike not only made butter the old fashioned way many years ago, but she also started the process by first milking a cow back then.

A cream separator is used before the churning process, and fancy butter molds can shape the butter for formal dining, she said.

This display, and several others found at the Ninth Annual Sheep Wagon Days, are educational and entertaining for visiting children and adults.

Anyone who has spent a night camping in the woods can appreciate the wagons or “sheep camps” found at this weekend’s event.

A late 1930s “Home on the Range” wagon built by Ahlander Manufacturing Company in Provo, Utah went for $455 when new.

The all-original wagon contains four windows with spring lifts for easy opening and screens to keep out mosquitoes.

Insulated metal storage bins kept food cool in summer and prevented freezing in winter.

The wagon came with a gun-rack near the bed and saddle holding racks on the outside.

Comforts included a medicine cabinet and soap dish, along with glass and toothbrush holders.

The company produced 3,000 of the wagons from the 1920s until 1976.

Compared with a nearby 2006 Wilson Camp Wagon, the shape and layout are similar, but the modern age arrived with the Wilson model.

Built in Midway, Utah, the handmade wagon sports solar panel powered lights and an AM/FM radio and Compact Disc player.

The refrigerator and stove are propane or AC powered and a hand pump brings water to the sink. A wood stove provides heat and a cooking surface and power outlets are available for accessories.

The wagon sleeps four, and is owned by Steve and Sharon Andrew of Craig.

Gene Updike remembers seeing dozens of the wagons growing up in Moffat County.

“We were surrounded by sheep men,” he said. “I used to get the bum lambs from the herders and raise them.”

Raising about 30 lambs a year, Gene Updike supplemented his income by taking the abandoned lambs the herders didn’t have time to deal with.

He has seen many sheep wagons, and the changes in them throughout the years.

“I’ve seen them come and go,” he said. “They were all canvas tops back then, and with high wooden wagon wheels.”

Gene Updike recalls the big names in local sheep ranching. Raftopoulos and Peroulis, Nottingham and the Winn brothers, all of which are still in the business.

The wagons were always lined up during winters at the Two-Bar Ranch in Brown’s Park, he said.

Many wagons towed a trap wagon behind to hold supplies and feed for the horses.

A number of them had trunks mounted on the rear for carrying extra gear.

The history of the sheep industry is ingrained in Moffat County and should be taught to all school children, event organizer Melody Villard said.

The message was not lost on the children.

“It’s very exciting and different,” said 7-year-old Madison Reed from Ms. Georgiou’s second-grade class. “It was fun looking at the sheep and making butter. It’s all pretty new to me.”

Gene Updike can be found this weekend at the antique tractor-pulling contest at Sheep Wagon Days. He’s got three tractors to bring, “If I can get them going,” he said.

His wife, Illena, will be making butter and showing the youngsters how it was done in the past.

When you’re a second-grader on a field trip learning about history when wool was king of Moffat County, the day can be summed up in one word.

“It’s fun,” Reed said shaking her personal butter churn cup. “Just being out here is fun.”

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