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Sheep Wagon is Wyoming’s “Home on the Range”

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For more than 125 years, the sheep wagon, sometimes called a “Home on the Range” or more poetically, “The Ship of the Desert,” housed the men who tended the vast herds of sheep in Wyoming.

A sheep wagon is a model of combining a living quarters with a cook house. It was customarily covered with two canvases separated by ribs to affect an insulating dead air space and tacked over bows extending from side to side.

The back end of the wagon is likewise insulated and carries a window either sliding or hinged for ventilation and light. The window is in a frame which is an integral part of the wagon. The door is in the front end and is of two parts, quite similar to a Dutch door, the lower part which is closed when moving. Windows are in the upper part of the door.

Upon entering an authentic sheep wagon, the combination heating and cooking stove is on the right side with the stovepipe extending through the canvas roof.

Suitable cupboards are in the back of the stove for cooking utensils and food. The kerosene lamp hangs from a bow. A bench extends from the cupboards to the bed which is above the wagon box and crosswise of the wagon. The bed is usually of full size with a boxed in mattress and springs. 

Under the bed is the “cellar” where the greater part of the food is carried. A swing door offers access. A sliding table pulls out from under the bed.

A second bench on the left side extends from the bed to the front end, sometimes with other cupboards close to the door. The water bucket is usually placed there.

On the outside of the wagon and between the front and rear wheels are wooden “jockey boxes” often metal lined to carry flour, sugar, coffee and other supplies. A grain box to provide feed for the horses extends between and beyond the rear wheels and is metal lined to keep out rodents and water.

The sheep wagon has been described as snug and warm when Wyoming blizzards howl. It’s truly a home for the herder and camp mover and is a welcome sight for the traveler who is far from home and knows there is sure to be a hot pot of black coffee and a kettle of beans on the stove to provide Western hospitality.

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